Applications to Class of 2026 reach record high, admissions expected to be more competitive

A stuffed Jumbo elephant is pictured on Feb. 8, 2021. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

More than 34,800 students applied to the Tufts undergraduate Class of 2026, marking a record-high number of applicants and a nearly 12% increase from last year, according to a Jan. 18 press release from the university. The applicant pool is also the most diverse in Tufts’ history.

The total number of applications eclipsed last year’s pool by more than 3,600 and represents a roughly 50% increase from two years ago. This year marks the seventh in a row that applications to Tufts hit record highs, mirroring a nationwide trend among selective schools.

This is the second year of Tufts’ three-year test-optional pilot program. This year’s pool is also the second group of applicants to have maneuvered through mostly virtual tours and information sessions.

“It is clear that this is an exceptionally academically talented and intellectually curious pool of students,” JT Duck, dean of admissions, said in an email to the Daily. “We know that most of their secondary school experience has been shaped by the pandemic, and I am impressed with how well they are navigating its impacts.”

Duck explained that he expects admission to the new class to be more selective than in prior years given the growth of the applicant pool. 

Early Decision applications increased by 10% across the two rounds. Acceptances for Early Decision I were released in mid-December.

Tufts declined to release data on the number of students admitted via Early Decision I. Duck said data on the entire admitted Class of 2026 will be released in early April.

Twenty-four QuestBridge Scholars matched with Tufts in the first early decision round and university officials expect more to match in the second early decision and regular decision rounds.

Duck said he is particularly proud of the diversity of this year’s applicant pool. For the second year in a row, students of color make up a majority of U.S. applicants, according to the press release. Applications from Black, Latinx and multiracial students also outpaced the growth of the overall pool. Over the past three years, applications from Black students have increased by 88%, the press release said.

More than 6,500 forthcoming first-generation college students applied to Tufts this year, representing an increase of 23% since last year and 66% since 2020, according to the statement.

Officials attributed the increase partly to a $25 million challenge grant the university received last year from the Schuler Education Foundation, which works to increase the number of undocumented and Pell Grant-eligible students admitted to top universities.

“I’m proud that Tufts is resonating with students from a greater diversity of backgrounds than ever before,” Duck said. “While we are seeing increased interest from students from virtually all demographics, some of the most significant growth in applications in recent years is coming from students who have been traditionally underrepresented at Tufts.” 

Applicants come from all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa, according to the press release. International students account for more than a fifth of the pool and have increased by 76% over two years. Duck said there are 16 countries from which more than 100 applicants hail, a significant increase from years prior.

Among regions in the U.S., the west, south and southwest boasted the highest increases in applications, rising 15%, 9% and 9%, respectively.

Duck attributed the growth in applications to the test-optional policy and virtual tours.

“[They] made it easier than ever before for prospective students to learn about colleges without enduring the often financially prohibitive costs of a ‘college road trip,’” Duck said.

Bella Juhaeri, an applicant from New Jersey who was admitted in December through the Early Decision I round, said she was drawn to Tufts for the intellectual curiosity of the student body and the opportunities to pursue her academic and extracurricular interests.

“I toured the campus and I talked to some students at Tufts, and it just felt like a warm, accepting environment, but also somewhere where I could be academically pushed and challenged,” Juhaeri said.

Noah Novick, a rising first-year from Southern California, said he’s looking forward to joining a diverse and passionate student body.

“From what I’ve heard from other Tufts students I’ve talked to, it’s a very collaborative environment where everyone doesn’t take themselves seriously but takes their work seriously,” Novick, who was accepted Early Decision, said. “That’s something that I very much connect with and would like to be a part of.”


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