Visiting Boston University

Located in Boston Massachusetts, just a few subway stops from the historic North End, and across the river from MIT, Boston University is well positioned for an involved urban experience. Boston University is a large, private, teaching and research university. Admission to BU is highly sought after by students from all over the nation, and application is simple with the common app, so their admission rate hovers around 20%.


Academics:

Boston University does its best to have a flexible approach to academics. Students who apply undecided into one of BU’s ten schools will have two years to declare a major. BU focuses on hands on learning, with 40% of their student body studying abroad at some point and many more students taking part in internships and completing research during their time at BU. BU has a program which they describe as “our take on the liberal arts” in which students can pick from over 1000 classes to build what the university sees as six life skills. Outside of those classes and classes for their major, students are free to fill their electives however they choose.

BU does a decent job of getting students to graduation with 80-85% of students completing their degree in four years. BU has a 10:1 student to faculty ration and their average class size is about 27 students.

Campus Life:

Like most city colleges, BU lacks the charm of the traditional green quad and wide open spaces. It is a fairly compact campus that often appears to be just part of the neighborhood around it. This would appeal to students who want to live in a major city and still be on a college campus. The campus has a mix of historic and modern buildings which makes for an interesting campus feel. Students are required to live on campus for only their freshman year and many take the opportunity to move into the surrounding neighborhoods with friends once their first year is over.  There is a decent amount of Greek Life on campus with 20% of students taking part in Fraternities and Sororities, but students say there are plenty of social opportunities outside of the Greek system.

Admission:

Applying to BU is fairly simple because BU uses the common app. While there are later deadlines for regular admission, admissions counselors at BU stress that students should have their applications done by December 1st for merit scholarship consideration. BU is test optional for at least one more year, so if you feel that your test scores do not reflect you, you can apply without them. In addition, BU will superscore any tests that you do submit. The best piece of advice given by the admissions officers is this “be specific when answering the essay question ‘why BU’”. Take your time on that supplemental essay. Don’t give a generic answer, don’t apply just for the relative prestige BU can offer. Have a good and specific reason why you want to be at BU in the fall.

Let us know if we can help you with that essay or with any part of your college application process- good luck!

Michal Strawn

Kenyon College

Historic Campus

The oldest private college in Ohio, Kenyon looks the part. The main campus breaths history and the buildings feel like they would be at home in any of the historic campuses of New England. The dining hall at Kenyon is awe inspiring and reminiscent of the Great Hall of Harry Potter fame. Students who appreciate a small town, historic, classic college experience will fall in love with Kenyon and will enjoy living on campus for all four years of their time there. At most colleges the newer dorms are in high demand, but upperclassmen at Kenyon hope for a good enough housing lottery number to score a room in the historic dormitories right at the heart of campus.

Modern Appeal

The college has modern conveniences in addition to historic buildings. Thanks to a generous donation, an entire new quad is being erected. The first building, a new library, is already completed and, while the exterior fits the historic aesthetic of the college, the interior offers every amenity for the modern student. New class buildings will be completed in the next few years and Kenyon looks forward to a bright academic future.

Great Education

Kenyon is best known for its English department. In fact, Kenyon has long been known as the writer’s college. Their graduating classes for years have been filled with illustrious names that you see on bookshelves and on bestseller lists. While Kenyon maintains its excellence in the written word, they are also strengthening their STEM offerings. Students who attend Kenyon for STEM degrees have wonderful research opportunities as there are no graduate students with whom to compete for grant funding. The modern science and tech buildings bring Kenyon into the future.

Strong Candidates

Students wanting to attend Kenyon need to be strong candidates. While the school is currently test optional and has hinted that it may stay that way, the average candidate who submits test scores tends to hover in the 29-33 range on the ACT. Kenyon has only a 34 percent acceptance rate and cannot easily increase class size since all students must live on campus. The admissions office stresses the importance of good quality letters of recommendation to improve admission chances.

If you’re looking for a good writing degree, earned on a charming campus and would like to experience the closeness of a small community, the drive to Kenyon is more than worth it.

Denison University: Close Community, Great Education

I had the pleasure of visiting Denison University during their finals week in December of 2021. My tour guide was a wonderful young lady named Daisy who showed me around campus and answered my endless questions about the University and the students there. Based on my conversations with Daisy and the information session prior to my tour, I feel that students who are high achieving go-getters looking for a tight community would be very comfortable at Denison.

Academics:

Denison splits its academic requirements into thirds. One third of a student’s classes will be in liberal arts instruction. One third will be in their major. The final third are electives. This allows Denison’s students to create highly personalized curriculum. Each student takes a different path to graduation and can focus on what interests them the most. This is part of Denison’s commitment to focus on the individual student, not the aggregate. Students are encouraged to take control of their education and focus as much on experiential learning as on book work.

Campus and Community:

The campus has a strong community. All of the students live on campus for four years, making Denison quite close knit. The campus is nestled in the small town of Granville, Ohio, so students who want to escape the hustle and bustle of cities and suburbs will find it to be a pleasant retreat. Granville is only 30 minutes from downtown Columbus, and students are allowed to have cars on campus all four years, so should a student want to leave campus for food, shopping, or entertainment, they absolutely can. Mostly, though, the campus and Granville are self-contained, which strengthens the community feeling.  

In addition, Granville encourages students to find mentorship and promotes diversity. Most students on campus find a mentor in their time at Denison and participate in international experiences. These both bolster the in-class education received at Denison and contribute to the community feel.

The campus itself is very beautiful. Located on “the hill” the University owns far more land than it could ever use: somewhere in the area of 850 acres. A small portion of the campus holds the buildings and sports fields that I toured and that around 3,000 students call home. The rest is a nature preserve with walking paths and scientific research stations. Given that the campus is on a hill, students will get lots of exercise walking up and down the copious hilly sidewalks and abundant staircases that connect all the buildings.

Applying:

Those students interested in Denison will want to make sure their application is in tip top shape. Denison only accepts around thirty percent of students who apply. The school is test optional and only about half of the students who are accepted submit test scores. The average ACT score of those students is around 30. Once accepted, the university does meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for their students, meaning Denison can be an affordable option. Applying students should get in touch with the financial aid office to discuss the particulars of their situation.

-Michal Strawn

College Consultant

Test Optional Colleges—Questions Answered

What does Test Optional mean?

A college that is “test optional” will still consider SAT and ACT test scores as part of your application, but does not require that you submit them.  Schools that call themselves test optional still require many students to submit scores.  Check with the school to see if you may actually need test scores for these situations:

  • Scholarship consideration
  • Transfer students
  • International students
  • In-state tuition
  • Homeschooled students
  • Athletes
  • High school with unconventional grading

The easiest way to find these details is to call the admissions office directly.  There are only a handful of colleges that are “test blind,” meaning they do not review test scores at all.

Given the hardships with Covid-19, what other things may be optional with college admissions in 2020?

About the only uniformly required application component for 2020 is a high school transcript.  Many components that are typically required are optional for 2020.  The specifics vary by school, but here are some commonly waived requirements:

  • Grades for your classes, particularly if your school did not grade in the Spring of 2020.
  • Letters of recommendation
  • College essays
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Additional test scores (AP, IB, SAT Subject tests)
  • College visits and interviews
  • TOEFL for international applicants
  • Portfolios and other supplemental work

Since so many colleges are flexible with their admissions requirements, will it be easier to get in this year? 

No.  In my phone calls with college representatives across the country, university officials anticipate that admissions will be just as competitive if not more competitive than in past years.  The overall trend, particularly among selective schools, is to keep lowering the acceptance rate.  In 2006, for top ten schools, the acceptance rate was 16.0%.  Just 12 years later in 2018, the acceptance rate among top 10 schools was only 6.4%.[1]

Given how competitive admissions and scholarships have become, it is imperative that you provide as much information as possible about your academic and extracurricular qualifications in your application. The more competitive the school, the less likely something that is considered “optional” actually will be so.

Which students should submit test scores to test optional schools and which students should not bother?

  • If your ACT or SAT test scores are at least at the 25th percentile for admitted students, go ahead and submit them.

Approximately 80% of students who apply to test optional schools still submit their scores[2].  Colleges want as much information as they can have about your academic preparedness, so include your scores if they meet this threshold.

  • If your ACT or SAT scores are less than the 25th percentile for admitted students, do not submit them unless you need them for a scholarship or other requirement.
  • If you have not been able to take an ACT or SAT because of health and safety concerns related to Covid-19, then do not worry about submitting your scores. Be prepared to elaborate on why you were unable to take the ACT or SAT in your application.

The bottom line—even though many schools are test optional, to have the most competitive application, solid test scores are a major plus.

[1] https://www.businessstudent.com/topics/college-acceptance-rates-over-time/

[2] https://blog.collegeboard.org/what-is-a-test-optional-college#:~:text=In%20a%20recent%20survey%2C%20representatives,%2C%20the%20ACT%2C%20or%20both.