TUFTS UNIVERSITY (visited 4/10/14)
Tufts’s traditional campus, located in Medford, Mass, has an open, well-used with brick buildings that are attractive and well-maintained. Several areas overlook the Boston skyline. This is a residential community with most people living on campus.
With 5000 undergrads (making them a bit of an outlier in the NESCAC conference with arguably the strongest DIII conference in the country), they can keep classes small with an average of 15-18 students. Even in the bigger Intro classes, professors go out of their way to make it personable. One professor tells the class that if he doesn’t learn their names by the end of the first week, he buys pizza for the whole class. The school also gives students incentives for getting to know their professors; for example, if they bring a professor to the Tower Café, both drink for free. Some professors hold office hours there just to get the coffee.
Interdisciplinary work is valued at Tufts. The Experimental College has some of the more unique programs. Usually, these are taught by Juniors and Seniors who propose a class to the Board based on what they’re interested in (Lobstering or Deconstructing Rap, for example). EC classes are graded as P/F so it won’t affect GPA. Some professors, often one in the trade or from another university, will also teach these classes. One of them used to be the GM of the Boston Celtics and he teaches a class about the legal issues of owning/running a professional sports franchise. The admissions rep doing the info session majored in Community Health in which he combined biology, math, and politics. Don’t even get him started on Greek Yogurt, which he say is horrible for the environment! Yes, we asked why: for 4 ounces of milk used, only 1 ounce ends up as yogurt. The other 3 ounces is poison whey (not to us but to the environment). They’re doing work with enzymes to break this down so it won’t be harmful anymore.
Another example of interdisciplinary work includes the two 5-year dual degree programs that Tufts students can earn either with the New England Conservatory or the Museum of Fine Arts. Students spend half their time at each institution and will earn both n BA and a BFA at the end. Students do need to be accepted to both institutions. The rep said, “A lot of electives get cut out if you choose to do this: you still have to fulfill a major and do the distribution requirements for both degrees.”
When applying to Tufts, students choose to apply Arts & Sciences OR Engineering but it’s possible to transfer from one to the other once they’re enrolled. The engineering students’ classes are a little more tracked with 38 required credits in the major and at least 6 classes in the Humanities, but they are exempt from the language requirement. A&S students take ten core distribution requirements including 6 semesters of Language and Culture if they don’t have a strong language background.
During the admissions process, they look at 3 things in depth:
1) Numbers (GPA, test scores)
- Students must submit the SAT and 2 subject tests OR the ACT with writing. They even superscore the ACT. Students applying to the engineering department should submit Math 2 and Physics or Chem subject tests.
- 80% of the 17,000 applicants were qualified to do the work; 50% were “overly qualified. However, they have a 20% acceptance rate. They narrow down the qualified applicants by looking at the 2 sections other than numbers.
2) Extra-curricular profile
3) Applicant’s voice (the essay and the recommendations).
- Why Tufts? Don’t make it about Boston. Boston has 54 universities!
- Let Your Light Speak: Make it about you! College apps are different from other essay – you can start with “I think” or “I believe.” They want to know who you are, where you stand, what you’ve done, what you want to do.
- They give students the option to send a YouTube video or a link to artwork.
- What makes you happy? Pick one or two things and explain why; don’t just give a list.
The students I spoke to on campus were friendly and wanted to brag about their school. I asked them what they were surprised about when they got on campus. One said, “the willingness of students to get into discussions with others. There’s so much to learn here, and people want to know more. A couple weeks ago, there was a big presentation about Palestine, and it was full.” I asked if he felt that issues were balance here and if they heard multiple sides to issues – like in this case, were there both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine sides? “Absolutely. People are still talking about it, and they’re willing to learn about the other side of the issue.”
The other student said he loved that there was so much going on both on and off campus. “We’re close enough to downtown to take advantage of the city, but we don’t have to do there to have fun. The activities board also runs trips to destinations further away. They actually own a lodge in NH, and students can take trips up there for $5 which covers all costs: transportation, lodging, etc. Once they’re there, they can hike, kayak, climb Mount Washington, etc. Trips aren’t even limited to the US – several students took a mountain-climbing trip to Kyrgyzstan; they got to name the mountain because they were the first to summit it.