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How to Write the Tufts University Essays: The Complete Guide

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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 – but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this guide on how to answer Tuft’s essay questions.

Tufts College Essay Requirements

Tufts accepts the Common App, so, before you begin these essays, finish your main personal statement.

  • Tuft’s writing supplement consists of two short essay responses – and they are not kidding when they say “short.”
  • Your responses are limited to 250 words.
  • The essays you need to write depend on the schools to which you are applying.

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 that you should keep in mind while writing all three of the essays.

General Tips for the Tufts Essays

Tufts states at the beginning of their writing portion,

“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 sports or extracurricular activities.

This means that they are using their writing supplement as a way to differentiate and get to know prospective students. 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 make sure to do for all three responses:

  1. Skip general introductions and material. This part is especially important given the word limit.
  2. Instead, delve into the heart of things right away. Include only relevant things that give a sense of your life, self, and character. In short, start (and end) with specifics and leave out the general.
  3. Focus on one or two angles of your life narrative. 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.
  4. Be yourself. One of the major pitfalls of an overgeneralized essay is choosing and writing what you think an admission board wants to hear.
  5. In the writing supplement, they are not looking for a recap of your résumé or a list of achievements. They are looking to get a feel for you, as an individual with his or her own unique curiosities, motivations, and hopes for the future.
  6. So, do just that and show them you, as you are, and not as someone who you think they would take interest in.

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

Essay 1: Why Tufts?

Applicants to the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and 5-Year Tufts/NEC Combined Degree must answer this prompt (1 of 2 mandatory essays).

The first response question is a standard one. It asks,

What excites you about Tufts’ intellectually playful community? In short, “Why Tufts?” (200-250 words)

This is the quintessential “Why This College” essay – we have a guide for it here. 250 words is about two paragraphs, so concision and specificity are key here. Here is a checklist you can follow for this prompt that will help you achieve both:

  1. Choose just one or two reasons or aspects of Tufts that draw you to the school.

You could write about a program (engineering, international relations, history, etc.)

A certain aspect of Tuft’s school culture. For example, perhaps you found that the school is quirky and brings all sorts of people together, or you are attracted to how the student body is driven by intellectualism but is also down-to-earth, or you love how Tuft’s education is socially conscious.

  1. Whatever you choose, it is important that you either have an actual, specific experience in mind that you could write about in your response or you have detailed knowledge of the particular curriculum/program/aspect of Tufts that you state as your reason.

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

  • We suggest you stick to extracurricular activities, organizations, grants, fellowships, classes, programs, and professors that inspire your interest in Tufts. These things are all specific to the school.

Maybe you can detail a time where you attended one of these club’s events (or a similar one) and felt solidarity there.

Likewise, if you want to write about how you’re drawn to Tufts because it takes pride in civic duty and responsibility, you could talk about how attending a rally or political talk at the school had galvanized you.

  1. 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, a woman, a person of color, a brother of two younger siblings, etc.
  • A specific vision you have for the future or bettering the world.

Having these three main points ensures that you answer the question (why Tufts) in a well-thought-out manner, while also letting them get to know more as a person.

All in all, your goal is to connect a specific aspect of Tufts to your personality.

Essay 2A: Creativity and Hope

Applicants to the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and 5-Year Tufts/NEC Combined Degree have the option to answer this prompt or prompt 2B (next section).

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?

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 little bit.

  • You can do so by choosing an item, subject, or idea that would completely surprise Tufts by showing an unexpected dimension of yourself.

For example, if your application is skewed toward engineering, you could write about other concepts that you are also excited about or well-versed in.

  • For example, you can discuss how you’ve coded a tutoring or meditation app that helps anxious students relax their minds.

Similarly, if your application is already strong in STEM subjects, you could write about or connect something else you love: poetry, theater, or sports.

  • One day, you’d like to create a new way of using motion capture to render graphics in video games, movies, and television shows. Your goal is to decrease the price of motion-graphics services so ordinary artists can scale it.

You could write about art installations or murals you have created, apps you have developed, a tool or process you invented that made something better or more efficient.

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

  • For example, do you create because you love the thinking process and having to critically solve problems on the spot?
  • Do you like tweaking and modifying something until it reaches its final form, or at least a form you are satisfied with? Or perhaps you love it because, for you, it is a pure form of expression in which you can show the world a little part of yourself?

Whatever your reason, make it personal and genuine.

You could also write what you hope to invent or create. If it is possible, use this as an opportunity to show Tufts a vision you have for the future.

  • Another example: You could talk about social conditions you want to ameliorate (lack of affordable housing in growing cities, pollution, food waste) and the invention you have in mind that can achieve that (portable/mini housing units or a new recycling process.).

Irrespective of what you want to build, make sure it speaks to your application narrative.

You also want to make sure you follow a disciplined structure for this essay. A good essay outline looks like the following:

  • What you created or want to create
  • A brief discussion outlining your motivations and inspirations for having pursued or pursuing this goal
  • How this creation relates to your life, personal themes, challenges, struggles, or character.

Above all, keep this related to you.

Essay 2B: Teaching and Personal Interest

Applicants to the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and 5-Year Tufts/NEC Combined Degree have the option to answer this prompt or prompt 2A (previous section).

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?

In answering this prompt, you should narrow it down and pick one to focus on: personal interests, current events, community happenings, great books you’ve read, or hobbies.

So, which one should you choose?

Since you don’t have much room, get right into it by answering the following questions:

  • About what topic do you want to teach?
  • Why?

When answering the second question, make sure the answer connects to your background, upbringing, talents, or achievements.

For example:

  • Have you grown as a person by participating in community soccer?
  • Perhaps you can teach a class about the importance of civil society in the American social fabric.

Or:

  • Did you learn an instrument despite not being musically inclined?
  • Maybe you can teach a class about the importance of hard work, resilience, and figures in history you have demonstrated these traits.

We strongly suggest that the class you teach chiefly covers a subject that you are or have been well acquainted with. Other topics can include:

  • Poverty and how being poor stymies children’s mental growth.
  • Pollution and its effects on sea turtles, salmon, and sharks

Whatever it is, connect the subject to you.

SMFA at Tufts Essay 1: Why SMFA?

Applicants to the BFA or 5-Year BFA+BA/BS Combined Degree at the SMFA at Tufts will answer the following question (1 of 2 mandatory essays).

Which aspects of the Tufts curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? Why SMFA at Tufts? (200-250 words)

This is another version of the “Why Tufts” essay (Essay 1 in this guide). When writing this essay, we strongly recommend you only discuss aspects about SMFA.

First, you should talk about one or two aspects of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts that appeal to you. These things can include but are not limited to:

  • Professors
  • Classes
  • Curriculum
  • Teaching methods
  • Grants
  • Fellowships
  • Programs
  • Externships
  • Study abroad opportunities

Then, connect these elements to your personal story. That is, what about your high school experiences inside and outside the classroom relate to these elements?

SMFA at Tufts Essay 2: Exploring Ideas

2. Art has the power to disrupt our preconceptions, shape public discourse, and imagine new ways of being in the world. Whether you think of Ai Weiwei’s work reframing the refugee crisis, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s portraits of the Obamas reimagining portrait painting on a national scale, or Yayoi Kusama’s fanciful Infinity Mirrors rekindling our sense of wonder, it is clear that contemporary art is driven by ideas. What are the ideas you’d like to explore in your work? (200-250 words)

Don’t get caught up in the descriptiveness of the prompt. Focus on the task at hand: In the last sentence, Tufts is asking what type of ideas you’d like to explore and learn more about in your work.

“Work” can relate to your undergraduate years or afterward.

We recommend taking one of two approaches to this essay. You are not limited to using these approaches – they’re here to serve as a jumping-off platform for your brainstorming.

Approach 1:

  1. Explain the work you’d like to explore
  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 explore
  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.

Brainstorming the Tufts Essays

Year after year, Tufts upholds its reputation for having applicants write interesting essays. We’ve created this section so you can broaden your thought and perhaps think of new concepts and angles to your stories.

What Is Your Story?

Universities do not like to see pretension in essays, but – make no mistake – they are looking for further reasons or qualifications to decide who to admit.

In deciding what to write about, perhaps try to choose a premise that allows you to:

  • Further detail or explain an accomplishment that you are especially proud of (even if it were briefly outlined in your résumé already).
  • For example, maybe you could write about a fundraising event you had helped your parents put together or taking care of your siblings while your parents worked.
  • Show how you have given back to your environment. How have you helped the people and places around you?
  • This can be anything as simple as helping your parents out during tight financial situations to volunteering to help a certain population of people (elderly, homeless, ESL learners).

Connect the life and growth you’ve experienced because of your environment to the world or community at large.

Talk about how you now want to affect change in small, specific ways for the people around you or how the pursuit of knowledge is extremely important to you no matter where you are.

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

Issues You Care About

Think about the world and your interaction with and interpretation of it.

What issues get you out of bed in the morning? What can you not stop thinking about? Is there a cause or person you want to support? Who or what do you think is misunderstood?

  • Think about a political cause that you developed strong views and feelings toward (gun control, immigration, health care, homelessness, LGBTQ rights) or a person that was affected by an issue.
  • What did you find so moving about it?
  • What particular events, situation, or life circumstances informs your current beliefs about this issue or person?
  • Think about how that moment has affected or changed you as a person and what you now wish to pursue/achieve because of it.
  • This last part is important because it is where you can (indirectly) show Tufts what you bring to the school. 

Sports

How have different sports changed your life? Think about the following:

  • Has a particular sport has affected you or shaped your worldview than about your athleticism or the sport itself?
  • How participating in a sport helped you grow into an “XYZ person” (more confident, assured, collaborative, kind).
  • Is the team your “chosen family” and friends when you were having a difficult home situation?
  • How sports were a way in which you bonded with family or forged significant relationships.

Remember, Tufts is definitely more interested in the internal journey than the external one (getting a big win, being the ace player, etc.) so make sure you think about how sports have changed you.

Happiness

You can also think about what makes you happy.

Think with a clear purpose and intention. Avoid trying to simply charm Tufts with a whimsical concept about your favorite things or activities (like a pet or traveling).

  • Instead, you should always keep the primary goal in mind while writing this and, in their words, the goal is to show “how you will contribute to the Tufts campus as a classmate, roommate, and community member.”

Your subject choice is nearly unlimited. Cooking, a video game, or a vacation spot – as long as it shines a light on you and what you can bring to the school, think about your deeper connections with these topics.

Failure

It’s difficult to produce an ineffective topic when you ponder failure and the lessons you’ve learned from it. Everyone goes through failure – it’s natural, beautiful, and necessary.

So, think about a time you failed. Brainstorm how you had previously dealt with failure.

  1. Talk about what worked and what didn’t work in your process to cope with it.
  2. Discuss your frustrations during that time and the ways they hindered your artistic expression.
  3. Share how you changed your approach to failure and what you learned from it.
  4. Explain how you figured out a way to use your failure as a learning experience and overcome it.

When cycling through this topic, avoid general and vague language in describing how you overcame your difficulty.

For example, “It was an extremely difficult project.”

Instead, it should be thought of in a way that can only be attributed to you and a specific circumstance.

  • “I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted it to look like. So, I controlled every variable. I worked meticulously, piece by piece, pixel by pixel. But the more control I exerted, the further it spun out of control…”

Conclusion: Writing the Tufts Essays

You have carefully written all your responses and are almost finished! Here is a checklist of things to do before you hit submit to ensure everything goes well:

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. Tufts like their prospective students to feel fleshed out and relatable on paper.

Have a trusted teacher, advisor, or grammatically-inclined friend do a final edit and read of your essays.

Double check on all the required formats – font size, document title, page numbers, font type, etc.

If you’re interested in gaining an edge in college admissions, enroll in our college essay boot camp.