Virtual Impressions: Tufts University (MA)
I was scheduled to visit Tufts University on Patriots Day, April 20. But the chronavirus has forced the university to cancel all visits, including mine.. So I decided to take a virtual look and a data dive into the school. I’ve also collected a few photos on Pinterest for you. Tufts also made a cute admissions video to recruit the current freshman class that you should check out. Daytripper University also offers suggested places to stay and to visit when you get there.
In the past I’ve likened Tufts University to schools like Brown, Princeton and Johns Hopkins. They’re all liberal arts and engineering schools for their undergrads, but also research universities. It’s harder to get impressions of a school that you’ve never visited. But here are some thoughts from my virtual journey.
- With a 15 percent acceptance rate, admissions are pretty tough, and likely to get tougher. Liberal arts majors comprise 80 percent of the undergraduate student body. Tufts should not be misperceived as an “engineering school.” It should definitely not be your safety school if you’re aiming for MIT.
- Tufts stopped requiring the SAT Subject Tests. The admissions office even allows you to self-report your scores. But when an extremely selective school like Tufts makes it easier to apply, the admissions office is likely to get more applications to deny. The number of applications may rise; the number of seats in a freshman class does not.
- I like Tufts’ choices and flexibility with majors and minors. You can study Computer Science within a liberal arts education or an engineering one. You cannot do in the major at many schools. Psychology majors may pursue a more scientific clinical option, or go with a less scientific specialty. Tufts also offers minors in unique engineering fields such as Architectural Engineering, Human Factors Engineering, Engineering Psychology and Music Engineering. These can even be combined with a liberal arts major.
- Tuft’s four-year graduation rate (88%) is higher than Harvard’s (87%) or MIT’s (85%) though it’s the same as Boston College. There’s no reason to call Tufts the “third best school” in the Boston area.
- When it comes to financial aid Tufts is just like an Ivy. All scholarships are need-based gift aid from the university or outside sources. There are no merit scholarships. The average student debt for 2019 grads who needed to borrow was $27,000. That’s the maximum that an undergrad would be allowed to borrow over four years through the Federal Student Loan program. Better news: 70 percent graduated with no debt at all. Tufts meets full need, which really helps.
- I learned from “taking tours” that Tufts is on a hill “looking down on Boston.” There’s architecture that reminded me of photos from Harvard, which I’ve walked through in the past. There’s a nice campus green and academic quad. But I don’t get the same feel of the history of Tufts that I get from a school like Harvard or Penn. If Tufts was a fairly new university, like Brandeis, that wouldn’t bother me. But this university was founded in 1852, before schools like Duke and Stanford. It might be only me, but I like to feel more history at a school with so much history.
- I especially want to get a feel of history when a school has had so many high-profile alumni. Performing artists Jessica Biel and Tracey Chapman went to Tufts. So did Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late former US Senator from New York and US Ambassador to the UN, earned bachelors and masters degrees from Tufts. There’s many more notable alumni, as one would find at an Ivy. But I didn’t get the “it can be you” vibe on virtual tours that I’ve felt when I walked through a school like Penn or Stanford.
- However, students and alumni can make the right connections from Tufts, and land at the same places as their Ivy League peers. Outside of the Boston area, Tufts has over 11,000 alumni registered in LinkedIn.com who work in/around New York City and over 3,300 based in/around San Francisco and Washington DC. Tufts students can also take on credit-bearing internships. You can’t do that at Harvard. They can also apply for summer internship grants if they want to accept an unpaid position with a non-profit—same as Harvard students.
- I’ve never thought of Tufts as a “spirit and sports” school. But the university competes in 29 varsity sports, 27 at the D-3 level. Only the squash and sailing programs are D-1. That’s a lot considering Johns Hopkins, the most similar school that plays mainly in D-3, has 24. In 2016, Tufts’ men’s soccer team was NCAA D-3 National Champions. Tufts’ teams are called the Jumbos, named for the school’s mascot, an elephant donated by showman P.T. Barnum. Jumbo’s life-size memorial is on the campus green. The oral history of Jumbo is interesting. When I get to visit in person, I’ll rub his trunk or pull his tail for good luck!
- Tufts’ athletes compete in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). With over 5,600 undergrads, Tufts is far the largest school in the conference. The other NESCAC schools have 3,000 or less. The NESCAC schools are great liberal arts schools. But I wondered why has Tufts opted out of the University Athletic Association (UAA)? Their members include more similar schools like Carnegie Mellon, Emory and Washington University in St. Louis. If I had gotten into Tufts I might have more rooting satisfaction in seeing the school that I chose beat one that I turned down. But that might just be me. I’ve always been a better spectator than participant.
- If food leaves a strong first impression, Tufts main dining hall should more than satisfy. The facilities looked quite modern, the food on the grill that i saw virtually looked really good. Thrillist ranks Tufts as having one of the 14 best college dining experiences in the country. Niche ranks it 30th, and that’s based on student opinions.
There’s no doubt that Tufts University has bright, creative and interesting students who will find more than enough to do inside and outside of the classroom. I saw quite a few happy current and former students in a virtual setting. Looking for an ultra-selective spirit and sports school where students bond around a successful, high-profile football or basketball team? Tufts won’t be a fit. But there are so many other extracurricular options at Tufts. It appears to be easy to find your group and be yourself. That, the location, and the academics are this university’s strong points.
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