My Interview With a College Admissions Officer

Last week, I had an opportunity to sit down with an admissions officer from Boston University. We had a great discussion about some of our Sanborn students who have expressed interest in the school, but more importantly, we talked about what BU is looking for these days in college applications. I'd like to share some of what I learned in that meeting with all of you.

First, I asked her if there were any specific courses (above and beyond the obvious 4 years of English, 4 years of math, 4 years of science, and 4 years of Social Studies) that BU likes to see on the high school transcripts of applicants. She indicated that precalculus and physics were very helpful because they were one way to show a student challenged themselves. For the same reason, she said BU also likes to see at least one or two courses at the AP (Advanced Placement) or PRS (Project Running Start) level in high school. When I asked her about foreign languages, she indicated that 2-4 years in the same language was beneficial.

Next, I asked her about extra-curricular activities. I wanted to know if certain clubs or activities would be more favorable than others - and where she saw a part-time job fitting into the overall picture. I found out the BU looks to see that applicants did "something" after school that enriched them beyond the school day, but it didn't so much matter what the activity was. BU didn't seem to favor any particular club or activity over a part time job. The important thing to note, again, is that the applicant did "something."

Lastly, I asked her if there was anything else about the application process that was important to BU and important that I stress to Sanborn students who may apply. She told me that BU looks favorably on students who they believe are serious about enrolling at BU if they are accepted. There are two ways for them to measure this level of seriousness: First, they have a supplemental essay on the application where they ask applicants why they want to go to BU. Second, they keep track of which applicants take the time to visit the college and the admissions office. They have done studies to show that applicants who visit the school have a much higher probability of going to BU if they are accepted, so the admissions office accepts a higher percentage of students who have taken this important step. For them, they have to reach a target matriculation rate in order to meet budget and staffing goals for the year, so this kind of data is very valuable to them in the admissions office.

So, in closing, here is my advice to parents and students who are just beginning the college application process: Take the time to get to know the schools you plan to apply to and find out if there are any "tips" the school can give you on what they are looking for in their applicants. Every school is looking for something different. What BU wants may not be what BC or Northeastern wants.

Best of luck in the college search process!


  1. Thank you, it is information like this that is very helpful in demystifying the whole college entrance experience.


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