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NOV 18, 2018
Tufts Supplemental Essays
Do you want to sled down a giant hill on a snowy Medford day on a subway tray? If yes, Tufts might be for you! Tufts is a private research university with great academic departments like engineering and biomedical sciences, a ton of funding for great programs and on-campus resources, and a lot of Jumbo pride. Sold? Let’s talk about how to write the supplements in a way that will boost your chances of landing a spot at this wonderful institution.
What excites you about Tufts' intellectually playful community? In short, "Why Tufts?" (200-250 words)
There are two key parts to this. 1) You need to show that you have done your research on Tufts and are making a convincing argument about what excites you about Tufts. 2) You need to demonstrate intellectual playfulness.
First, you need to identify what sets you apart from others. Next, you need to look into what specifically about Tufts will help nourish that unique characteristic or skill.
Is art your jam? If so, look into the connection between Tufts and the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Music? Check out the partnership with New England Conservatory (NEC). Frisbee? Check out Tufts' highly ranked ultimate team. Go onto the Tufts website and watch a bunch of videos, read a bunch of articles and, if you can, email a Tufts student or a professor or go visit yourself! If you already have a clear picture of what you look for in a college, look for those things at Tufts. If not, look around their webpage to see what does interest you or attract you to Tufts. Look for things that seem intellectually playful to you and write about them. This might be a good place to start with some examples.
Keep in mind - DO NOT write generic things about school ranking or speak in platitudes or generalities about how light blue is your favorite color, you want a suburban town experience close to a big city. Ask yourself - is this something that could be said about multiple other institutions? If yes, then pick something else to talk about.
While the "Why Tufts?" essay begs the obvious question of what about the school attracts you, this essay is still also about YOU! It is crucial to show how your talents or interests are best served at Tufts as compared to other institutions. You can't ignore that Tufts asked about their intellectually playful community.
How are you going to show that you're intellectually playful? Write your essay in a way that gives the admissions officer a lens into your thought processes. What kind of questions do you like to ask? What are your quirks? What topics do you ponder late at night? What combination of interests makes you unique and how do those interact inside you? Students have even written poems that have gotten them in!
Check out this example excerpt from their website:
I never imagined I would be talking to Jumbos about everything from ethics in politics to squid in bibimbap, but my conversations with students during my visit confirmed everything I love about the school.... I can study anything from genetics to psychology, and pursue anything from the Entrepreneurship to the Culinary Society. As a metal guitarist who enjoys woodworking and reading up on human behavior, I've never felt like I fit neatly into one category. At Tufts, I won't have to.
Not only does the writer name specific clubs that show a wide variety of interests, the first and last two sentences show playfulness and an isolation of what Tufts loves about itself. They pride themselves on category-defying and putting things like politics and bibimbap in the same sentence. Make fun comparisons, show that you and Tufts are good fits for each other.
Now we'd like to know a little more about you. Please respond to one of the following two questions. (200-250 words)
A. Whether you've built blanket forts or circuit boards, created slam poetry or mixed media installations, tell us: What have you invented, engineered, produced, or designed? Or what do you hope to?
B. Our Experimental College encourages current students to develop and teach a class for the Tufts community. Previous classes have included those based on personal interests, current events, and more. What would you teach and why?
The key to these essays is sincerity. Like most college essays, you want to use these essays as opportunities to give admissions officers a window into your brain and your heart. Flowery language aside, what that actually means is writing about something that makes you tick and picking specific moments that SHOW that it makes you tick and don't just say it.
Essay choice A:
If you've made something that you're proud of in your time before Tufts this could be a good opportunity to talk about it. But beware, talking about it like an accomplishment or achievement will be an immediate turnoff for admissions officers. Any slight whiff of self-congratulation or hubris could severely hurt your application.
So how do you talk about something you've done in a way that doesn't focus on having done it? Focus on the process NOT the product. A product doesn't represent you but the process you went through to create it, the thoughts and feelings you had while making it, the struggles along the way: THESE are the things that show them who you are as a person. Tell them what you were thinking at the moment that you started. Did you find a flow-like state while you were making it?
If you're talking about what you hope to do, you need to articulate similar things: what PROCESSES make you lose track of time? What fascinates you about the process of making something? What experiences have you had that informed it? Maybe you've enjoyed the process of helping others write songs and you want to write your own. Maybe you made dishes with your mom or dad growing up and you want to learn how to create your own versions of those family recipes.
Essay Choice B:
The prompt behind this is similar to choice A: find something that makes you tick. This time: a THINKING or LEARNING PROCESS that makes you lose track of time. What have you spent your time endlessly googling? What is a skill or set of knowledge you have that is unique to you? This is NOT about being impressive - it's about being fascinated.
Talk a bit about how you would teach the class, but talk mostly about why.
Here's an example:
When I was 10, I squirmed on my piano teacher's piano bench as she told me not to improvise on the Bach piece I was learning. I would sit down to practice piano and get immediately frustrated with the process of learning someone else's music. My dad saw my frustration, and he taught me the blues scale on guitar and piano. We would sit down together at the piano for hours, endlessly improvising over the same chord progression using that C minor blues scale. The feeling of expression that I got from actually picking my own notes to play and creating my own musical phrases felt like talking instead of reciting.
I became obsessed with the process of learning how to improvise, playing the things I heard in my head, and learning music by ear. Two years later I learned that this was something I could study formally with a teacher and never looked back.
My class would be called Music: Hearing and Speaking. While most music lessons start with the names of notes and the musical staff, I would start by giving a set of notes to play on the piano and asking students to have musical dialogues and try and imitate each others' playing. Just like we learn to speak through imitation before we learn to read, I would structure the class around the process of language acquisition: speaking musical phrases, hearing and imitating phrases, and understanding their theoretical context.
That's it! We wish you the best of luck on your Tufts supplements! Last things to remember: