Categories:

How to Write the Tufts University Essays 2020-2021: The Complete Guide

Need help with the Tufts supplemental essays? Enroll in our college application boot camp to get the counseling and advising you need.

Tufts University is an elite, private research institution located near downtown Boston.

The school offers over 70 undergraduate majors and is well-known for its international relations and pre-med programs. Its student body prides itself on active citizenship, public service, and working toward addressing social justice issues.

Tuft’s acceptance rate (14%) and small total undergraduate enrollment (about 5,300) make it a highly selective school and put it in the running against many Ivy League schools. If you’re interested in applying, we’ve got you covered with this guide on how to answer Tuft’s essay questions.

Tufts Supplemental Essay Requirements

Tufts accepts the Common App, so, before you begin these essays,it’s important to finish your main personal statement and activities list.

  • Tuft’s writing supplement consists of two short essay responses
  • The first is limited to 150 words, while the second allows you to pick from three prompts and is limited to 250 words.
  • The essays you need to write depend on the schools to which you are applying, with different essays for each school.

Since the lengths of the essays are not very long, we will break them down below and give detailed advice on how to answer each.

First, let’s start with general advice to keep in mind while writing all three essays.

General Tips for the Tufts Supplemental Essays

In their writing portion, Tuft’s states:

“Think outside the box as you answer the following questions. Take a risk and go somewhere unexpected. Be serious if the moment calls for it but feel comfortable being playful if that suits you, too.”

What does this mean for applicants?

As with many selective universities, Tuft receives many applications from students with the highest qualifications, including competitive GPAs, excellent recommendation letters, and involvement in multiple outstanding extracurricular activities.

This means that they are using their writing supplement to get to know their prospective students and differentiate between applicants. They are seeking a connection to a unique character, voice, or student perspective. In order to capitalize on this, these are some things you should do for all three responses:

  • Skip general introductions and material. This part is especially important given the word limit.
  • Delve into the heart of things right away. Include only relevant concepts that give a sense of your life, self, and character. In short, start and end with specifics. Leave out the general.
  • Focus on one or two angles of your life. Do not overwhelm readers by trying to tell them your whole life story. Choose moments or anecdotes that will present unique facets of your personality.
  • Be yourself. One of the major pitfalls is writing what you think an admission board wants to hear.
  • Do not recap your résumé, activities list, or honors. They are looking to get a feel for you as an individual with your own unique curiosities, motivations, and hopes for the future.

Now that we have outlined the overarching ideas, let’s dive into the specifics of each essay.

Mandatory Supplemental Essay: Why Tufts?

Applicants to the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and 5-Year Tufts/NEC Combined Degree must answer this prompt. This is a common type of prompt which asks,

“What excites you about Tufts’ intellectually playful community? In short, “Why Tufts?” 

250 words is about two paragraphs, so concision and specificity are both key here. To begin with, choose just a handful of aspects about Tufts that draw you to the school. Here are some ideas:

  • Are you interested in a specific program, like engineering, international relations, or history?
  • Is there an element of Tuft’s school culture that you’re particularly drawn to? For example, perhaps you’re drawn to the school’s quirky nature, intellectualism, or socially conscious education.
  • Is there an extracurricular activity, organization, grant, fellowship, class, program, or professor that inspire your interest in Tufts?

Whatever you choose, it is important that you either have an actual, specific experience in mind to write about or a detailed knowledge of the particular aspect of Tufts that you state as your reason.

For example, if you choose “diversity” as your reason, make sure you mention specific student associations or clubs that engage in diversity, equity, inclusion work and why that excites you. Even better, use a real-life situation in your response, if it applies.

Last, tie your reason for choosing Tufts to an essential part of who you are as a person. This can be a value or belief you hold, a hope you have for the future, or a school subject that really excites you. You could write about:

  • Your love of language, math, music, English, or anything else that are you enthused about.
  • The importance of your identity as a sportsman, woman, person of color, or brother of two younger siblings.
  • A specific vision you have for the future or bettering the world.

To answer the “Why Tufts” question in a well-thought-out manner, it’s important to be specific about the school while also letting them get to know more about you as a person. After all, your goal is to connect a specific aspect of Tufts to you or your personality.

Example Essay:

When reading this example, pay attention to how playful the writer is being. The essay is obviously focused on Tufts and why it is a good match, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously:

The undergraduate experience at Tufts is my ideal ice-cream sundae. 

With an emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, I can mesh scoops of political science, community health, and biology, combining disparate perspectives to explore complex healthcare issues. Over this, I will pour indulgent caramel in the form of an internship in Washington, D.C., allowing me to immerse myself in a health policy research project. Next, comes the countless brownie bits of activities, like Tufts’ prestigious Mock Trial Team, the Sarabande Repertory Dance Ensemble, and Hillel. 

No sundae is complete without a cherry on top. When I toured Tufts, I was amazed by my guide’s friendly interactions with every individual he encountered. Surrounded by passionate, supportive, and motivated individuals, I know Tufts is the manifestation of my perfect collaborative environment. This positive atmosphere embodies the maraschino cherry on the already overflowing ice-cream heap, ensuring my undergraduate experience satisfies the sweetest of cravings. 

While some might argue that this essay breaks the rule of only talking about a few ideas about Tufts, it does not. The central theme is how Tufts is like an icecream sundae, and the writer sticks to it throughout, despite fleetingly mentioning many other aspects of Tufts. Even then, the author still spends a large chunk of their time talking about their cherry: the one, standout thing that makes Tufts special to them.

Need college application help? Check out our College Application Boot Camp. Your first session is free.

The Second Tufts Supplemental Essay

Depending on what school you are thinking of applying to, there are a myriad of essay prompts you could get asked, although all of them have 200-250 word limit. Applicants to the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, or the 5-year Combined Degree BA/BS + B Music with New England Conservatory have three options to pick from:

It’s cool to love learning. What excites your intellectual curiosity?

How have the environments or experiences of your upbringing – your family, home, neighbourhood, or community – shaped the person you are today?

Where are you on your journey of engaging with or fighting for social justice?

Applicants to the SMFA BFA in Studio Art or the 5-year Combined Degree BFA + BA/BS at SMFA/School of Arts and Sciences must submit an art portfolio. In addition, Tufts also has the following prompt for the second essay:

  • Art has the power to disrupt our preconceptions, shape public discourse, and imagine new ways of being in the world. What are the ideas you’d like to explore in your work?

Let’s go through each of these options one at a time, including why you might want to pick that particular essay over the others.

Tufts Supplemental Essay 2A: What Excites Your Intellectual Curiosity?

This is a really open-ended prompt. You could write about almost anything you want, so it is a good prompt to pick if you are looking to diversify your application a bit. Keep in mind, Tufts is looking for something unexpected.

Don’t be afraid to choose an item, subject, or idea that seems common: much like a sundae, it isn’t normal to see in a college essay.

Consider this an opportunity to describe how your interests encompass more than just a major.  For example, if you’re not applying to a computer science major, you can discuss a coding project. If your application already indicates a strong interest in STEM subjects, consider writing about something you love, like poetry, theater, or sports. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What thing are people always shocked to learn about you?
  • Look through your Tufts application thus far. What is important to you, yet missing from this application?
  • When was the last time you taught yourself something, only to realize hours had passed while you were unaware?
  • Do you have a dream creation or invention? Why? What inspires you to make it?

In writing about what excites you, make sure to talk about why they, or the process of creating them, is important to you.

  • Do you create because you love the thinking process, or do you prefer having to critically solve problems on the spot?
  • Do you like tweaking and modifying something until it’s perfect, or do you prefer the ideation process? 
  • Or do you love creating because it allows you to show the world a little part of yourself?

Whatever your reason, make it personal and genuine. Irrespective of what makes you curious about the world, make sure it speaks to your application narrative.

You also want to make sure you structure this essay. A good essay outline could look like the following:

  • What makes you excited about learning
  • A brief discussion explaining your motivations and inspiration
  • How this relates to your life, personal themes, challenges, struggles, or character

Above all, keep this related to you.

Example Essay:

One of the reasons I like this essay so much is because, much like the previous essay, it takes a seemly boring idea and makes it interesting:

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I sit in soil pulling crabgrass and borage. I’ve been a farmer since sophomore year. The farm – managed by my school – is a one-acre plot more accurately described as a garden with chickens.

I fall into a rhythm, plucking and setting tomatoes in the container, eating several here and there. I recall the awe of harvesting a giant sunflower and discovering ten potatoes growing in its roots. I think about jalapenos, and how scratches on their skin indicate the spiciness level. The satisfaction of eating a raw green-bean, the first piece of food I grew at the farm, was indescribable. I derive great pleasure from knowing friends and teachers also eat the food I grow; we donate the farm’s produce to our school’s dining hall and sell it at the local weekly farmer’s market.

Although I initially joined the farm because I wanted to try something new, I quickly found that the work offers a balance with the intellectual material I study in the mornings. The farm connects education with experience, applying my classroom learning to a real setting. Being able to see the relevance of what I am studying piques my curiosity. I aspire to maintain this connection between education and experience throughout my life, looking for soil to cultivate, so I can see and understand more of the world around me.

Tufts Supplemental Essay 2B: What Has Shaped Who You Are Today?

This is the second prompt option available to people applying to the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, or the 5-year Combined Degree BA/BS + B Music with New England Conservatory. To review, the prompt is:

How have the environments or experiences of your upbringing – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – shaped the person you are today?

This is a great option for people who have already written an essay about a community for another school, especially if you have a kicker of a story. If you have, don’t hesitate to recycle it, but think about the following questions when you do:

  • How do the word lengths between the two essays compare?  Do I need to remove or add anything? If so, how can I make the essay still flow well?
  • Is there anything in the original essay which made it specific to the other school? If so, how can I change it to relate to Tufts instead?
  • What quality is the essay highlighting about me? Is this a quality Tufts is interested in?

If you haven’t written this essay for another college, this could still be a good choice, especially if you have another college on your application list that you know will ask for it. Whatever your reasons, here are some questions you can ask yourself when you’re brainstorming:

  • If a time-traveling supervillain decided you were a threat to their plans, what one event in your life could they change to completely alter who you are?
  • Is there a person in your life who has dramatically helped forge who you are today?
  • Was, or is, some element of your life unusual compared to your peers?

Whatever you come up with, the most important element needs to be explaining how your experience made you… you. Even if your story includes other people, the focus needs to be your side of the story, no one else’s.

Example Essay:

Here is an example of what a community-based essay might look like:

In Portland, opinions are liberally voiced. It’s similar to my current community in Houston, except rather than an abundance of Lizzie Fletcher stickers it’s “Come and Take It.” When I moved, I was bombarded by a completely foreign culture. By sophomore year, however, I realized that compromising myself to fit in was a mistake. I began vocally expressing my sentiments towards the world, and learned from my friends in turn. While I introduced my friends to thrift-shopping and wrote articles about more environmentally friendly methods of transportation, they took me to my first line-dance and helped me examine the other side of gun-control in `Agora Coffee House.’ 

When I was hurled into Texas, I was miserable. However, I quickly realized that I didn’t have to like Ed Sheeran to enjoy life. Learning to embrace and assess so many dissonant ideas has enabled me to grow into myself. I am more nonpartisan and able to truly listen to the other side. Now, whether it’s Texas or Oregon, Republican or Democrat, my life is a playlist of contradictions. In college, where everyone works on discovering “who they are” or what their place is in the world, I know I can provide not only diversity of thought, but educate people on how crucial it is to maintain an open-minded ideology towards the world.

One of the reasons this is a good essay is because it promotes a value that most colleges are looking for: diversity of thought. While written for Tufts, it is equally applicable to a number of other prompts, saving the writer time on other applications.

Tufts Supplemental Essay 2C: Social Justice Journey

This is the last prompt to choose from when applying to Tuft’s School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, or the 5-year Combined Degree BA/BS + B Music with New England Conservatory. This one reads:

Where are you on your journey of engaging with or fighting for social justice?

This is a great prompt to select if this is one of the areas you’re most passionate about. However, this can also be the most challenging of the three prompts for several reasons. The first is that you should not conflate social justice with volunteering.

  • While they definitely overlap, it’s important to note that not all volunteering falls under the banner of social justice. For instance, volunteering at the local hospital, while admirable, probably doesn’t solve a social justice problem.
  • In the same vein, fighting for social justice doesn’t require you to be a volunteer. If you get a job at a community center tutoring underprivileged children, this could count as fighting for social justice even though it’s paid.  

The next trap to avoid is making yourself sound like the savior of a particular group. While you deserve to be proud of your efforts to champion a cause, it’s important to also stay humble while writing about it. Being too effusive about yourself makes you appear arrogant, which isn’t the right tone, no matter the essay.

Last, don’t write about this topic if the only social justice you’re engaging in is minimal or common. For instance, you may have painted a school as a way to support everyone’s right to an education.

However, if it was a weekend project back in Freshman year, that does a poor job of communicating your commitment to social justice. In the same fashion, many people who apply to college have volunteered at their local food bank.

  • This isn’t to say you can’t write about it, but if you do, remember that many other people are engaging in a similar task, so you need to think of a spin to make your project stand out. 

If you decide to go with this topic, be sure to keep the focus on why you are fighting for a particular cause, what your goals are, and how you are working to achieve them.  Be practical, but also be sure that a reader can tell how passionate you are.

Example Essay:

While this is a rather abstract essay, closer to a poem than prose, keep in mind that Tufts asks for creativity in the essay responses:

There are mornings when I feel like it would be easier to pull my blue and green spotted duvet back over my head and stay in bed all day. 

But I can’t. 

Every day, I know that people, my people, are being unfairly maligned. 

Sometimes it’s subtle. A resume passed over, or maybe just skimmed a little faster. Sometimes it’s not, like when my brother gets pulled over, simply for being a young, black male. 

So, every day I try to take a stand.

I sit in the front of the class, whenever I can. I’m always polite. Yes ma’am, no sir. My homework is pristine, always on time.

At the end of the day, my greatest tool waits for me. A pen, a piece of paper. A voice. As the editor of my school’s newspaper, it is my privilege to speak diversity into my community. But it is also my load. 

There are mornings when I feel like it would be easier to pull my blue and green spotted duvet back over my head and stay in bed all day. 

But I can’t. 

If I’m not using my voice, and helping others find theirs, then how can I claim to be loving those around me? If I am not listening to the silent cries for justice, then how can I claim to care for the oppressed? 

I will always seek out the oppressed, and ask them what they see. I can do no other.

Despite the short ideas and phrases, you can get a sense of the author and what they care about, despite the lack of precise details. Presumably, some of those are fleshed out in places like their activities list or another essay.

Tufts Supplemental Essay 3: Exploring Ideas Through Art

This last prompt is required for students who select that they are applying to the SMFA BFA in Studio Art or the 5-year Combined Degree BFA + BA/BS at SMFA/School of Arts and Sciences. Like the other three, it has a 200-250 word limit:

Art has the power to disrupt our preconceptions, shape public discourse, and imagine new ways of being in the world. What are the ideas you’d like to explore in your work? 

There are two main structures to this essay. Of course, you are not limited to using these approaches, but if you’re stuck they’re here to serve as a jumping-off platform for your brainstorming.

Approach 1:

  1. Explain the work you’d like to explore, either during your undergraduate years or afterward.
  2. How does this work relate to you?
  3. How does this work relate to your journey and personal themes?
  4. What are the methods you’d use to explain your work?

Approach 2:

  1. Explain the work you’d like to explore, either during your undergraduate years or afterward.
  2. How will SMFA at Tufts help you accomplish this exploration?
  3. What are your career ambitions?
  4. What kind of impact do you want to have on your field?

Your idea can be esoteric or concrete, complex, or simple. Just make sure it relates to you.

Last, don’t get caught up in explaining the work itself. Instead, discuss why and how you’d explore it.

Example Essay:

This essay does a great job of explaining the applicant’s relationship with art and how she thinks about it:

A teacher turns around to write an equation on the board and a sun pokes out from the collar of her shirt. A Starbucks barista hands me my drink, her hand adorned by a small music note. Every day, I am on a scavenger hunt to find women with tattoos. I’m intrigued by the quotes, dates, symbols, and abstract shapes. I’ve started to request informal interviews, as an excuse to talk with these diverse women whose individuality continually inspires me. 

There is no school assignment, no teacher to give me a grade, and no deadline. Just me, exploring the art and stories behind the permanent transformations of personal landscapes. An artist educator told me that getting a tattoo “was like claiming a part of yourself and making it more visible and unavoidable.” A psychologist shared how she wishes that she could turn her tattoos “on or off to match different outfits and occasions.” I’ve realized how effectively tattoos showcase the complex relationship between the personal and the public.

This project of mine has taught me so much about the art of storytelling and storytelling through art. I’ve strengthened relationships with people that had conventional roles in my life and also created friendships with unconventional characters. Most importantly, I’ve realized that with a willingness to explore a topic and accept not knowing where it will go, an idea can become a substantive reality.

Conclusion: Tufts Supplemental Essays

Year after year, Tufts upholds its reputation for having applicants write interesting essays.

So don’t be afraid to talk about how you want to affect change in small, specific ways or how the pursuit of knowledge is extremely important to you no matter where you are.

Whatever matters to you, show Tufts that these actions are genuinely important to you and are inspired by internal motivators rather than by wanting to get admitted to a school.

Before you hit submit on your application, reread your material and make sure your responses present you as a well-rounded, multifaceted, and three-dimensional individual. If you need to tweak things to make yourself come alive and give yourself more personality, then do it.

More so than other schools, Tufts like their prospective students to feel fleshed out and relatable on paper.

Get the best college essay help.

Check out our College Application Boot Camp. It features a 100% satisfaction rate.

Learn more ➜