Why Tufts?: Students speak on college selection considerations, process

Sitong Zhang / The Tufts Daily

One way or another, we all ended up here — at the Medford-Somerville border, where the light shines upon the hill and the Jumbos roam. 5,541 of us, from a combined 49 states and more than 70 countries, chose to come to this place. Why? Or, in perhaps more familiar phrasing: Why Tufts?

In November, educational research firm EAB conducted a survey of over 4,700 college first-years across the United States entitled “New College Freshmen: Perspectives on College Choice,” and recently released the results. The survey asked questions such as “What sources of information did you rely on most for your college search?” and “When you searched specific colleges’ websites, what information were you most often trying to find?”

Inspired by this nationwide survey, the Daily ran a survey with many of the same questions, coupled with questions on graduation requirements and on the aspects of Tufts that appealed the most to students. Garnering 173 responses from across all class years, the survey produced varied results. Several respondents were asked to elaborate on their responses in follow-up interviews.

Sitong Zhang / The Tufts Daily

On the question “What about Tufts appealed to you the most?” a majority — 58.1 percent — of the respondents chose “feel/vibe.” 12.8 percent responded that they were interested in a particular major or minor program, another 12.8 percent found Tufts’ ranking and reputation most appealing and seven percent responded that they liked the location.

For Sophie Buckingham, a sophomore from Pennsylvania majoring in environmental engineering, it was the combination of location, programs and overall student vibe that drove her to pick Tufts

“I wanted to be near a big city but not in one. I wanted a decently ranked school. I had a little bit of a competitive edge in high school. It’s sort of wearing off, but not really. I just wanted a school where people were really passionate about what they were studying,” she said.

Sophomore Jack Arnheiter, a political science major from Florida, found location and ranking to be Tufts’ primary appeal.

“I came, I visited, I liked the campus and everything, but it was never really like [I chose] Tufts because of the programs or faculty. I [chose]  Tufts because it’s a good school and in an area [that] I liked, and I thought if I used an early decision bid, I could get in,” Arnheiter said.

Erik Britt / The Tufts Daily

Similar to Buckingham, Daniel Chan Lee, a sophomore from Los Angeles majoring in community health, found the people to be his gateway into Tufts itself. Early in Lee‘s senior year of high school, a number of college representatives visited the school to give their pitch.

“You can see what type of personality is expressed from that representative, which is a good view into what the vibe of the school is. I was going to apply to Duke, but the representative from Tufts came the following day. He was very open and … very honest,” he said. “I really liked the honesty. I didn’t get to visit Tufts after I got accepted, so I just had to go from talking to him.”

On the EAB survey, campus visits, college websites and family members were the top three sources for finding information about schools. The results were similar at Tufts: About 54 percent of respondents  chose campus visits as their number one source of information, about 20 percent found Tufts’ website most helpful and about 10 percent — like Lee — found their high school’s guidance departments to be the most useful.

Erik Britt / The Tufts Daily

Buckingham enjoyed campus visits but also loved the pamphlets and information that Tufts mailed to her home address. She notes that JUMBO Magazine in particular stuck out because of its colorful presentation.

“I toured Tufts twice before I applied, but I always got really excited when stuff came in the mail,” Buckingham said. “Tufts always stood out to me, just because of the JUMBO Magazine. It was also really colorful, and I’m easily drawn in by bright colors.”

While well-designed admissions materials help attract many students to Tufts, students are split as to whether specific aspects, like the language requirement for liberal arts students, positively or negatively influenced their decisions to attend.

The Daily’s survey reflected this division: 52.4 percent of respondents found that the language requirement made Tufts a more attractive option, while 47.6 percent felt that the requirement made Tufts a less attractive option, resulting in an almost 50–50 split.

Buckingham expressed positive feelings about the language requirement, as it would encourage her to spend more time learning a language than she otherwise would.

“I liked the idea of a language requirement because I knew it would force me to keep [up] with a language, at least for a little while,” she said.

Lee said the language requirement was beneficial because it provides another way for students to interact with new cultures.

“Even for someone who’s not going into the humanities [or] social sciences, I still think language is important just because it’s another way to get exposed to a culture,” he said.

Despite his enjoyment of the language requirement, Lee, along with 46.4 percent of survey respondents, thought the distribution requirements — which apply to both liberal arts and engineering students — made Tufts less attractive, as the requirements force students to enroll in classes that they aren’t truly interested in.,

“It feels like it just gets in the way,” she said. “It’s more like you just want to get rid of the class, so you don’t get to enjoy the value of the class.”

However, Buckingham disagreed, noting that the distribution requirements force students to expose themselves to course material they may not otherwise have been comfortable with.

“I think it’s good for people to leave their comfort zone and become well-rounded,” she said.

To Buckingham, though, requirements or not, she ultimately chose Tufts because she loved the people. 

“It’s always been about the people here for me. The second time that I came to Tufts and started recognizing where things were and got a feel for the buildings, the people and the lawns, it felt like a nice size,” Buckingham said. “There was just something floating around in the air between the students, and I was like, ‘Alright!’”