BYU-Idaho and Graduate School

After serving an LDS mission to Germany, I graduated from Ricks College with an associates degree in German in 1997. At the time, as most of you know, Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho (“BYU-I”) did not offer four year degrees, so I transferred to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah to complete my undergraduate degree, which I did in 1999. From there, of course, I attended several graduate schools.

As I journeyed through graduate school, I was impressed with the comparatively large representation of students at the various institutions with undergraduate degrees from BYU. My anecdotal evidence tells me that BYU graduates generally do very well obtaining admission to top graduate schools in various fields around the United States and in the world (and see also John’s opinion regarding BYU). My conclusion is that BYU graduates who wish to attend graduate school will probably be able to. I wonder if the same can be said for those who receive bachelor’s degrees at BYU-I?

During my first year of graduate school, the LDS Church announced that Ricks College was going to be a four year school with the name of BYU-I, and in 2004 BYU-I received accreditation at the baccalaureate level by the Northwest Association on Colleges and Universities. April 2003 marked “the first time during BYU-Idaho commencement exercises that a senior class has been awarded bachelor’s degrees since the school became a four-year institution, although several bachelor’s degree were presented in April 2002.”

Now that it has been nearly 5 years since the first BYU-I bachelor’s degrees were bestowed, I wonder how BYU-I graduates have fared with getting into graduate school. Does anyone have any insights about this? Any BYU-I alumni reading out there care to share any anecdotal evidence?

[UPDATE: I e-mailed the head of BYU-I’s Career and Advising Center to ask if they have gathered any such statistics. I’ll be interested to see what he says.


I wish I could give you some firm statistics, but the university is currently figuring out just how to track that information with any kind of validity. What I can share with you is the anecdotal evidence I have seen as I have worked with students planning on going to graduate school. What I have observed is that our students are being quite successful in getting into graduate programs and we actually have quite a few students who go on to do graduate work. As I have talked with graduate programs they typically state that they don’t see much of a difference in the level of preparedness between BYU-Idaho and BYU in Provo students and that they love to have them both because of their standards and work ethic. The reports that I hear are that our students are doing quite well as they pursue their graduate education and in some cases have been at the top of their class. As for the type of programs our student go to, this is all across the board. We have had students accepted to graduate programs at Harvard Medical and Dental Schools, U of Washington Medical School (#1 in the nation), Yale Law School, etc. The majority of our students, however, fit very nicely in well respected state schools.

Now, all this being said, it is important to make a clear distinction between BYU-Idaho and many other Undergraduate programs. The primary purpose of BYU-Idaho is to prepare students for the work force. What this means is that we don’t pretend to be the best school in preparing students for some of the graduate programs that a student could apply for. We are primarily a teaching institution and not a research institution, so for some graduate programs that are research intense, another undergraduate university might serve some students better. For many graduate programs our students are very well prepared at BYU-Idaho, but not all due to our primary focus. It would be important for a prospective student to talk with the faculty at BYU-Idaho to determine if we can help them achieve their goals.

The bottom line is that a student needs to understand that it is rarely the University they attend that gets them into graduate school, it is their level of personal commitment. For many graduate programs a dedicated student can find exactly what they need at BYU-Idaho to make them a prime candidate for graduate school.

I agree with what he said about the “level of personal commitment” being one of the deciding factors for students to get into graduate school, and that “a dedicated student can find exactly what they need at BYU-Idaho to make them a prime candidate for graduate school.” Still, based on what he said, my guess is that BYU-Idaho would probably best prepare students for professional graduate schools, such as business school, law school or medical school (to the extent it’s considered a “professional school.”)

I think it would be an interesting project for someone to gather and maintain hard data on this for both BYU and BYU-I. ]

28 Responses to BYU-Idaho and Graduate School

  1. a spectator says:

    Another anecdote:
    My brother is a medical student and part of a team of students who interview prospective students for the admissions board. He went to BYU in Provo and is therefore not asked to interview undergraduates from there. Apparently he is also not assigned to interview BYU I or H students because whoever makes the assignments has not distinguished between them.

    I live in NY and our state school campuses (SUNY) have very different reputations within the state, but I wonder if those reputations are preceived outside the state? That said, the UC schools have cultivated different reputations and identities for themselves.

  2. Jordan F. says:

    Well, having spent several years in the University of Michigan system, I know that there is a HUGE perceived difference between the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor (the flagship) and, say, University of Michigan-Flint.

    I’m not sure if people outside the LDS church actually make a distinction between BYU and BYU-I, though. It seems like they would, but I had not even considered that maybe they don’t.

    • scott says:

      This is true I was recently at a final job interview with many universities including BYU and BYU-I. Those from BYU and BYU-I were actually just grouped into the same school as we did activities. FYI

  3. Sam B. says:

    I’m not sure that people outside of the Church are even aware of BYU-I or BYU-H. Neither has a big football or basketball presence, grad schools of any sort, or other things that would generally raise public awareness. I assume grad school admissions boards have more knowledge than the average person on the street, but, while I’m sure some portion of people living in my building in New York have heard of BYU (though likely not all), I’d wager that only my family and the other LDS family in the building have heard of the other two.

    Of course, I’ve barely heard of tons of small liberal arts colleges here in the Northeast (or, for that matter, in California, in the South, in the Midwest, etc.).

  4. Jordan F. says:


    That seems then to support the conclusion reached by the BYU-I person who e-mailed me, that “it is rarely the University they attend that gets them into graduate school, it is their level of personal commitment.”

    Have you found that to be the case in your academic/professional career?

  5. Joel says:

    As a BYU-Idaho graduate now working on a PhD in History at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I think I have a unique perspective on the way that BYU-I prepares students for graduate school. First, I would probably say that the top students from BYU-I can compete with the top undergraduate students from almost anywhere as far as ability and learning potential, but I think this is the case with almost any university in the country. The extremely small class sizes in combination with the exceptional student support services do permit more students to receive individual attention that would be impossible at larger institutions like BYU. I felt like I had personal relationships with all of my professors and that they were personally interested in my development both spiritual and academic. Also, many of these professors are master teachers–a skill highly lacking among any University professors in the academy. The BYU-I activity programs allow more students to be involved in campus life and invested in the university than probably anywhere else.

    There are, however, some real disadvantages with the school as a springboard to graduate programs–at least in the humanities and social sciences which I know best. Because BYU-I is not a research-heavy school, it does not espouse the German-originated system of academic rank. Instead, it focuses on teaching. Thus, the professors are not as up-to-date on the current literature in their fields, haven’t published as much as some of their colleagues at other universities, and do not maintain as wide a circle of connections as other faculties would. This isn’t to say that they don’t have top-notch faculty, they just teach so much that they have less time for professional development. Because BYU-I lacks graduate programs, many of the professors have a limited understanding of the bureaucracy involved with the graduate admissions process. Although they were quite supportive of my efforts to enter graduate school, they didn’t understand exactly how to work the admissions game in the most effective manner. I have had to figure much of this out on my own through trial and error. Also, my friends in the sciences have told me that the lack of undergraduate research opportunities often hurt BYU-I students applying in the hard sciences.

    I have heard from friends that BYU-I graduates have been quite successful in entering professional schools and that their extra-curricular participation often sets them apart from cookie-cutter BYU graduates. My sister-in-law and brother recently moved to St. Louis for him to start chiropractic school. He is at the top of his class–above many BYU graduates–and she was able to find an excellent media design job because her workplace had previously hired a BYU-I graduated and loved his work. She was promoted several months later. I have friends from BYU-I in medical, dental, law, and business schools all over country. I think Kim Clark’s Harvard connections have probably helped with networking as well.

    Professors at UIUC sometimes vaguely remember that I graduated from a BYU, but they have no idea that BYU-I is any different from the larger institution. If anything, this hurt me in the application process. Outside of Mormon and Western history, along with a few outstanding professors, BYU is hardly known in the history world. Historians often tends to be suspicious of this LDS-controlled institution if they know anything about it at all. But that is probably the subject of another post. Overall, I think BYU-I prepares students well by teaching them how to learn, how to interact with faculty, and by providing them with significant mentorship. Nevertheless, its learning model is not tailored to produce potential graduate students and seems to create more successful admissions to professional schools than academic graduate programs.

  6. Jordan F. says:


    Thanks for the helpful comments- I really appreciated them.

    It also reminds me that I, once, was admitted to a Ph.D. program (German) at UIUC, and even flew out to visit the campus. It was really nice there- but ultimately I chose Michigan.

  7. Paul says:

    I’m a BYU-Idaho graduate with a BS in Communication. I went on to graduate school at Utah State University in the College of Education. There I recived a MS in Instructional Technology and now I’m an Instructional Designer at the University of Houston.

    I definately think that BYU-Idaho gave me opportunities that I may not have had at other schools. I don’t think I would be where I am now if it wern’t for BYU-Idaho.

    Just thought I’d chime in.

  8. chessfriend says:

    Stumbled upon this post on accident . . . glad I did – very interesting reading. I graduated from BYU-I with a BS in Business Management and placed very within my graduating class. I echo the comments above about the excellence of professors and opportunity for extra curricular additions to the average resume.

    I’ve not yet begun to look for Masters opportunities, but as I have had successful interviews with Wal-Mart Headquarters (Marketing & Finance departments) as well as Royal Dutch Shell (Category Management) I’ve learned that very few business professionals in the position to hire make any distinction between the two BYU campuses.

    Interestingly enough – when I did point out some of the key advantages that BYU-I has over BYU (particularly in the Business Department), being a BYU-I graduate became a great boost to success in the hiring process.

  9. Snotty BYU Student says:

    To sum this discussion up . . .

    BYU-I defi-nate-ly doesn’t teach their students how to spell “definitely”.

    (See above posting by Paul)

    Sorry. I just couldn’t resist.

  10. Won says:

    (I randomly found this article, and here is some of my comment)
    As BYU-I graduate (I graduated with Math degree) it was hard for me to get in top graduate schools in Statistics. I graduated with Magna Cum Laude, but I did not get in any top tier schools. Since there was lack of research opportunity, it was hard for me to pursue a higher degree with no research experience.I got in some 2nd tier schools with funding, but i chose to do my master’s in BYU-Provo and head out for my phd. I agree that BYU-I can prepare student well for professional school, but not so much for research. I still think BYU-I is a great place to be.

  11. Chris says:

    I strongly disagree with the comment that BYU-I has any advantage over the Marriott School in terms of undergraduate recruiting. The Marriott School is the #1 ranked undergraduate business job-feeder in the nation(by business week’s poll of corporate recruiters, ahead of Wharton, Virginia, and Notre Dame). Only companies with ignorant HR people, or not actively recruiting top students would not differentiate BYUi and BYU.

  12. Adam says:

    I am a current student at BYU-I and I’m planning on attending law school. I am very optimistic of my chances of getting into a first tier school after I graduate. In the Mormon community I think that BYU-I is still very much considered a “second rate” school. Chris is 100 percent correct that the BYUI business program does not hold a candle to BYU’s school of business (The Marriot School is consistently ranked one of the best in the nation) and of course BYUI does not have the kind of research opportunities that BYUP has.
    That being said, I think BYUI is a great school that is growing much more rapidly than BYUP. When I returned to school after my mission I noticed a huge change in the level of competition in the school after just two years. The median GPA for incoming freshmen a couple of years ago was 3.2 now it’s 3.45. That is still a lot less than Provo (3.8) but is the quality of the education really that different? Very few employers outside of Utah differentiate between the two universities and Forbes ranked BYUI #116 on its list of best colleges of 08 while Prove landed at #249. I don’t fully agree with all the rankings on their list but it just goes to show that BYUI is improving and stealing away some of the bright students that might have gone to BYUP 5 or 10 years ago. Personally, I still think Provo beats out Idaho in most things but, I truly believe in the next 10 years BYUI will continue to grow and become a major competitor of the traditional BYU.

  13. Mike says:

    I am about to graduate from BYU-I, and I was easily accepted into my preferred school to pursue a PharmD. I was in the 94th percentile on my PCAT, and that includes everyone who took it from any school. I agree that BYU still has an advantage when it comes to research, but when it comes to getting into professional programs, that is rarely the biggest factor in one’s acceptance. BYU-I definitely produces grad school candidates of equal or better quality, compared to those from BYU, because the relationships they have with their professors, (who actually are more connected in their respective fields than you might think), are more beneficial that any amount of research could ever be. If you talk to anyone on the faculty of a professional program that does a lot of research, they won’t hesitate to tell you that the more research intensive a school is, the lower the quality of teaching is, and consequently, the students in that program won’t perform as well as those who have quality teachers at their disposal. I think too much emphasis is placed on research, and it is not an indicator of quality in the least.

  14. 2003 BYUI Grad says:

    I am a BYU-Idaho graduate and I completed my Masters degree at the University of Oxford in 2007. I personally know of others who graduated with me that have attended graduate programs at Harvard, Thunderbird, and University of Chicago. I am sure there are many others.

    When I was at Oxford, there were students there from BYU, University of Utah, Utah State, University of Wisconsin, Southern Virginia, University of Arizona, etc. What school you did or did not attend probably has much less to do with your future success than what you did with your opportunities both within and after school.

  15. Timothy says:

    Wonderful discussion,

    I am currently, and recently declared, double major student at Byu-I.

    I’ve talked to internships specialists that have worked with the Big 4 Accounting Firms and they noticed how some companies take the BYU interns and the BYUI interns and put them together as a group, labeled, “BYU interns.” Note: these are the big 4 accounting firms, not a little known firm with a delinquent HR department.

    I have several friends that have been accepted to both or all three BYU’s (hawaii included) and have chosen to come to Rexburg.

    BYU has the national reputation, they have the sports, they have the history and thus, the entrenched tradition within LDS circles of being the flagship school of BYU. That is certain, however, I feel BYUI is quickly becoming more of a “sister” school, rather than the “little brother” school.

    The “sorry you didn’t get in” mentality is quickly fading from campus, maybe even faded. I think BYUI alums should take a trip here and see the expansion going on, it is really great to see.

  16. Jordan F. says:

    Timothy – thank you for your comment! It is great to hear how BYU-I is coming along!

  17. Jordan Smith says:

    Great to see posts like this, it is amazing to see how BYU-I is coming along. A side-note to consider is that the CIT and CS programs up here are at minimal equal to if not superior then either of the other BYU’s

  18. Krystyna, degree in business…

    […]BYU-Idaho and Graduate School « ABEV: a bird’s eye view[…]…

  19. Jorge says:

    I want to share with many people all over the globe how happy I am because I have been admitted to this wonderful and so reputed university that is BYU- Idaho.
    I am peruvian and i will study at BYU-I online from my home, BYU-I is even better than the first ranked university of Peru and Latin America. I will study Business Management. 🙂

  20. Jordan says:

    Fantastic, Jorge! Best of luck to you!

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  25. Linc says:

    It’s very exciting to read this post and the many responses. I am a BYU-I alumni, Computer Engineering Program, 2007. My experience as a student enabled me to successfully transfer classroom skills into a professional Hardware Design Engineer career. I feel very blessed to be pursuing my MSEE degree and provide for our family. It’s a small sacrifice for a greater purpose………..a lesson well taught and learned at BYU-I.

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