Overview of BYU
Brigham Young University is a private university located in Provo, Utah that is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was founded in 1875 and offers a wide variety of academic programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral.
BYU is known for several things. Most of its students are members of the LDS church and follow an honor code that includes standards related to dress and grooming, academic honesty, and drugs and alcohol. It is consistently ranked as the best college in the nation for being worth the cost. Also, in part because of the LDS church’s heavy emphasis on missionary service, BYU is often ranked among the top universities for foreign language degrees.
BYU Facts & Figures (2023)
- Total # of Undergraduate Students: 31,389
- Total # of Graduate Students: 3,001
Demographics + Ethnicity
- % Female: 51%
- # of International Students: 1,241
- Married: 23%
- 102 Countries and 50 States
- Top 3 Nations Represented: Canada, Mexico, South Korea
- Caucasian: 81%
- Hispanic or Latino: 8%
- 2 or More Races: 4.5%
- Asian: 3%
- Pacific Islander: 1%
- Black: 1%
- American Indian: < 1%
- Middle 50% GPA: 3.86-4.00
- Middle 50% ACT: 27-32
- Middle 50% SAT: 1290-1440
- # of Undergraduate Majors: 195
- # of Undergraduate Minors: 112
- Acceptance Rate (Freshman Applicants): 69.7%
- Members of the LDS Church: $6,304/year (2 semesters)
- Non-Members: $12,608/year
- Room and Board: $8,560
- Books/Educational Supplies: $960
- Personal Expenses: $2,592
- Transportation: $2,704
- Loan Fees: $60
- LDS Total Estimate Per Year: $21,180
- Non-LDS Estimate Per Year: $27,484
Deadlines (Fall 2024)
- Applications Open: August 30, 2023
- Priority: November 1, 2023
- Regular Decision: December 15, 2023
- Decisions Released: February 19, 2024
Upon submission of the application, only the unofficial high school transcript is required. If the applicant is admitted, they will then be required to submit an official one. Class registration will be unavailable until it has been received and verified.
BYU uses an unweighted GPA, but still takes into account the difficulty level of courses.
Letters of Recommendation
The different types of recommendations include a Seminary Recommendation, High School Teacher Recommendation, and another Recommendation. The recommender will be sent an email with a link to a form that they will need to complete. The form asks the recommenders to rate the student based on a variety of factors like:
- Demonstrates integrity, trustworthy, and fulfills commitments
- Makes it safe for fellow students to participate in class and share observations
- Problem-solving ability and sound thinking
- Sets and achieves challenging goals
The second part is a brief section for open-ended responses to provided prompts, such as “What evidence do you see of the applicant challenging themselves academically?” BYU doesn’t accept recommendations outside of the specific form in the application. Make sure that your recommenders understand that so they don’t try to submit a separate letter.
All applicants, whether they are members of the LDS church or not, are required to submit an ecclesiastical endorsement. This includes agreeing to abide by the BYU Honor Code and the Dress and Grooming Standards, and meeting with two religious leaders in order to verify that you understand the standards and are capable of committing to them
The essays are one of the most important aspects of the application. Freshmen applicants are required to write essays on five topics which are as follows:
- Describe a topic, idea, or experience that you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. What have you done to learn more or engage further in the topic, idea or experience? What resources do you use to learn more? (1500 characters)
- Have you become aware of significant needs in your family, school, and/or community? Please explain how you have worked toward meeting those needs. (1500 characters)
- (Two-Part Essay) Briefly describe a time that your efforts have fallen short, a goal was not accomplished, or an aspiration was not achieved. (500 characters) + What steps did you take to recover from this defeat? What resources did you use? How and why are you different today? (1500 characters)
- We strive to create a rich and varied educational environment through admitting students with a wide range of: goals, interests, skills and talents, life experiences, perspectives, and cultures. Tell us your story. What will you contribute to our university community? Be specific. (1500 characters)
- A BYU education will be spiritually strengthening. BYU students have a unique opportunity to seek learning by study and by faith. Describe how you would explain to a friend or family member the reasons you want to learn in an environment like this. (1500 characters)
You will also be asked to write about two additional activities in order to help the AdCom get to know who are as a person. You'll have 300 characters to describe the activity and then 1500 characters to explain why you chose to participate in it and how you benefitted from it.
On its site, BYU offers some advice specifically for essays. First, understand the principles of AIMS and use them in your application. Second, generally, more recent experiences are preferred over older-dated ones. Third, avoid repetition. For example, none of your essays should be a rehashing of your resume. Use them instead as an opportunity to show even more of yourself and your experiences. Fourth, remember that the only way BYU will know things about you is for you to explicitly tell them. The admissions committee cannot read your mind; the picture they’ll see is the one you put right in front of them. Fifth, the words and ideas of your essays must be your own work. You can have people help you and review them, but they must be your own. Lastly, be genuine.
What GPA Do You Need to Get Into BYU?
The middle 50% GPA of admitted students is 3.86-4.00, meaning that most students have straight As or are close to straight As. As far as admission statistics go, this means BYU is extremely competitive in this area. As one of the most academically rigorous private religious universities in the country, BYU is only becoming more competitive. Though BYU reviews applications through a holistic lens, having a higher GPA will increase your chances of admission. Aim for a 4.0, and if you fall short try and get to a minimum of 3.86. If you have a lower GPA, compensate by doing better on the SAT/ACT. Also, taking AP-level classes will raise your weighted GPA and show preparedness for college-level courses.
Sample Essays from Admits
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BYU Application Tips
1. Paint the picture of a BYU student
On its website, BYU says that there is “no secret formula for admission.” They consider all parts of the applicant holistically and are looking for the AIMS of BYU Education. The entire application revolves around these AIMS so make sure that the characteristics that accompany them can be clearly seen in every part of your application.
- Spiritually Strengthening – They recommend applicants graduate from LDS seminary and are spiritually prepared before coming to BYU. The goal of the school is to provide a spiritually uplifting environment in which to gain an education.
- Intellectually Enlarging – BYU tells its applicants to take academically rigorous courses in high school in order to prepare. Also, stay involved in passions inside and outside of school.
- Character Building – Applicants should be just as strong morally as they are mentally; they should have a solid work ethic, be resilient, and be honest.
- Lifelong Learning and Service – One unofficial motto of BYU is, “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” Service is a major component of the LDS church and the school, and applicants should have a love of and commitment to serving others.
For a selection of talks on the BYU AIMS, see here.
From this, it’s easy to see what BYU is looking for. In your essays and other parts of the application, show BYU that you are a good fit for the school by weaving in these traits. Demonstrate that you are academically ready, have a strong religious foundation (for LDS applicants), are a hard worker, and will commit to the tenets of the school. BYU is looking for students that will be a good “fit,” meaning they will commit to the honor code, take school seriously, and be spiritually uplifted. Present the candidate that the school wants to see, while also remaining true to yourself.
Preparing for the BYU application starts years before the deadlines. Here are several things to start doing in your underclassman high school years:
- Join clubs and take leadership positions
- Participate in service projects and organizations
- Take AP classes and do well in them (PS: Read What AP Test Scores Do Colleges Accept?)
- Pursue extracurricular activities
- Cultivate good relationships with teachers, school counselors, and church leaders (bishop, stake president, etc.)
2. Participate in extracurriculars that you are actually interested in, and develop your talents in them
Don’t pursue activities that you think BYU “wants” to see in its applicants. Instead, find what brings you joy, and develop your talents in those areas, which may include but are not limited to:
BYU doesn’t care about what you spend your time on (to a certain extent), but rather how you spend your time. Are you becoming a better person? Developing new skills? Contributing to the community? Taking on leadership positions? On its website, BYU says, “Plan to provide specific examples of how you have contributed to your community in meaningful ways as you write your application essays.” Don’t take this advice lightly.
3. Take either the ACT or SAT, but choose the one that is best suited to your skillset
BYU holds no preference for either the ACT or SAT; so, take time to decide which one is best for you. The two exams are testing similar overall areas, but include some fairly drastic differences. Furthermore, while the average GPA is very high, the average ACT/SAT scores are slightly less competitive. In other words, this is an area where applicants can really differentiate themselves. Every year, the average ACT of admits increases so aim for a higher-than-average score.
We recommend taking both an ACT and SAT practice test and looking at which one you did better on. Then, create a study plan that focuses on improving your areas of weakness. Don’t study and take it last-minute. Preparing for standardized tests is a months-long process of practicing tests, studying, taking the tests, re-taking the tests, etc. Don’t cut it short.
4. Graduate from seminary
Historically, LDS applicants pretty much had to have graduated from seminary in order to be considered for admission, and it remains an important factor. Not only does it show the BYU AIMS tenet of “Spiritually Strengthening,” but it also demonstrates to the school that you are spiritually prepared for the environment of BYU. Also, seminary teachers are potential recommenders, and can also play the role of mentor and advocate.
5. Don’t skimp on the essays
The BYU admissions committee has a specific formula that weighs different parts of the application. Supposedly, one of the most important factors, if not the most important, is the essays. A phenomenal essay can compensate for low test scores or GPA and highlight other areas of your candidacy that may otherwise have been overlooked.
Make the story you tell in your essays a cohesive one. It should remain on-topic and build up to a point. Answer the question. As you write your responses, reflect consistently on whether you're directly addressing the prompt. Also, your essays should be specific to you. If someone else could have written the exact same essay, you probably have some editing to do.
6. Cultivate leadership positions–BYU wants to develop “future leaders”
Having extracurricular activities on your resume is important; however, having those activities and showing that you’ve risen to leadership positions within them raises your chances of admission. Also, taking a leadership role demonstrates investment in the activity, communication and personal interaction skills, as well as high-achieving potential.
7. Develop relationships with the school and admissions office
All colleges aspire to admit students that actually want to go to their school. By showing genuine interest in the university’s specific programs, the AdCom will see that getting in means more than checking a box. There are many different ways to do this, but here are a few ideas:
- Take campus tours
- Attend on-campus events (BYU Education Week, seminars, weekly forums, sporting events, sports camps, FSY, plays/musicals, etc.)
- Reach out to the BYU admissions counselors; ask for guidance and inquire about trends they’ve seen in the admissions process
8. Bonus: Take foreign language courses
While not a formal recommendation for admissions, the BYU AdCom weighs classes differently based on certain factors. For example, Honors and AP classes are weighted more heavily than base-level classes. Also, BYU is rumored to pay extra attention to foreign language classes. Another unofficial motto of the school is, “The world is our campus” and the curriculum and standards emphasize the importance of a global education. The BYU Study Abroad Programs are very strong, and over 60% of the student body speaks multiple languages. Taking foreign language classes shows the school that you are capable of contributing to this global perspective.
Where Can I Start?
We hope you found these tips helpful. Applying to college can be a daunting endeavor, but the right coaches and resources can bring confidence, clarity, and expertise to the process. We have many different undergrad coaches that can help you with any part of the application process. Below are some of our top undergrad admissions coaches; see all of those with BYU experience here.
Also, here are several other resources to help you navigate through your applications:
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