Tufts university asks students for two essays on top of the personal statement. Most students will answer a “Why Tufts” essay, and then have a choice of three prompts meant to give admissions officers deeper insight into the student. Students applying to the BFA program have separate essay questions.
Both Tufts essays are rather short, with 150 words for the “Why Tufts” essay and up to 250 for the other. We’ll give examples of both essays below, and discuss what Tufts is looking for when they ask the questions.
Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, ‘Why Tufts?’ (100-150 words)
Tufts’ student body is constantly engaged in the process of integrating diverse perspectives. I see myself as an initiator ready to take advantage of this community, and Tufts as the ideal place for me to pursue my passions. I love that CAFE (Conversation Action Faith and Education) is entirely dedicated to opening dialogue up between different approaches to faith. This harmonizes with my conviction that college is a place to exit one’s comfort zone and confront different perspectives.
As an upperclassman, I’ll design and lead student activities for CAFE where my peers and I can collectively explore our heritages and ideologies. I’ll facilitate dialogues among the bevy of religious groups thriving on campus while training community leaders to fight for social justice. Tufts borders of one of the world’s most diverse cities; I want to help my peers see how great that diversity can be.
This is a very short essay, which means you will be able to either touch on a few things very briefly, or dive into a single topic in more depth. The prompt, like most “Why Us” prompts, is quite open ended. They want to know why their school is a good fit for you, and why you are a good fit for it, based on your own knowledge of the school.
In the example above, the author dives deeply into a single aspect of the school which fascinates them, in this case an organization devoted to interfaith dialogue. This gives the author a chance to discuss what they want to get out of college (expanded horizons), and how Tufts specifically will provide that. They also show an eagerness to involve themselves with the Tufts community through the organization, taking on a leadership role and helping get their classmates involved.
This displays the author’s values; a commitment to diversity, dialogue, and exploring other perspectives. Indeed, they believe the joining of new perspectives is the point of college. This is a belief many colleges, especially elite ones, share. In this way, the essay directly speaks to what the school wants to hear, as it lets them know that the author wants to be an active and engaged part of the school community, and has several values in common with the school.
Your own essay does not need to be on this topic, but it should explore why Tufts is right for you, and the corollary of why you are right for Tufts. The essay is short, but demonstrating your values and passions that you will be able to explore at Tufts is the best way to approach it. Show how the school will let you feed your intellectual curiosity, and explore your passions both in and out of the classroom.
Finally, the more specific you can be in the aspects of the school you address, the better. Many schools have good professors or are by large urban areas; the more specific you can be about what sets Tufts apart and makes you want to study there, the more effective your essay will be.
How have the environments or experiences of your upbringing – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – shaped the person you are today?* (200-250 words)
Every Sunday for the past 5 years, I’ve led group discussions at Hindu Class. To bring opaque holy texts back down to Earth, I translate 5000-year-old parables into modern questions. After an hour-long guided mantra meditation, we crack open our Bhagavad Gitas, ready to delve into our religious heritage.
When I entered St Agnes, I decided to take a more comparative approach. People appreciated juxtaposing Hinduism with other traditions because it gave a broader perspective on their own. Our first comparative class contrasted the Catholic emphasis on charitable works as a means to salvation with the Hindu cycle of knowledge, good deeds, and devotion. By the end, we found many similarities between the two despite the evident incompatibility between a single Christian Heaven and Hindu reincarnation.
Immersing myself in the broader tangle of religious traditions forced me to confront the pangs of skepticism I felt when contemplating the irreconcilable differences between Hinduism and other faiths. As I grappled with making the lessons of the Bhagavad Gita palpable and concrete, I felt like a real theologian. I wrestled with paradoxes and pinned aporias down to their consistent concepts.
After 50 classes of in-depth comparative analysis and hundreds of hours of annotating scores of texts, I’m no closer to finding a magic formula for reconciliation. Instead, digging deeply into different traditions and identifying elements that could unify divergent viewpoints gave me confidence in my ability to convincingly articulate how our similarities are greater than our differences.
This essay is trying to find out how your experiences and background have shaped you, in order to find out what insights and perspectives you will be able to contribute to life on campus. Tufts is a cosmopolitan school, and wants to foster a community full of different viewpoints, so their students can learn from each other and expand their perspectives of the world.
The question is very broad beyond that, which means most any community you have been a part of, or background which has shaped you, can be the subject. The key is to show how these particular experiences have shaped you, and how they inform how you approach the world.
In the essay above, the author discusses how they introduced their perspective as a Hindu to interfaith discussions at a Catholic school. Their unique perspective is their faith, one they have spent time exploring academically. They have explored their beliefs and how they impact their interactions with the modern world through discussions with other Hindus, and through ecumenical discussions while attending Catholic school. In this way, the author shows that they have experience discussing differing perspectives and backgrounds in an academic setting, and is comfortable sharing their own views and insights.
The author is further able to show off their desire to explore subjects academically, and search for answers. Academic vitality, a desire to learn for its own sake, is prized by top universities, and the author does a good job of displaying it in this essay. They are clearly passionate about the subject of theology, willing to spend many hours thinking about and discussing it, both in and out of the classroom. This hunger for knowledge is a good thing to display.
You don’t have to discuss a religious or ethnic background in this essay. Instead, focus on how the communities you have been a part of have shaped who you are, and how you approach the world. Maybe music has given you insights, or theater has taught you to see through the eyes of another. Whatever the community is, you should demonstrate what new points of view you will contribute to the broader community at Tufts.