We spend weeks getting to know our ED applicants, we’ll spend months for regular decision, and then “Committee” comes and actual decisions must be made. We love our applicants, which is what makes Committee so difficult, and this is my first time hopping into the fray.
In ED, Ben Baum and his New Yorkers go first. He presents his applicants: first essays and recommendations, then academic history, followed by extracurriculars and family information and anything else salient to that applicant. Most of what’s presented is what we wrote when we originally read your application weeks earlier. Ben’s job is to make a case for you, to steer us towards a reaction - admit, defer, or deny. As committee members, we listen and we ask questions. What science did she take in 11? What score did he get on that AP exam? Could her parents’ divorce in 10 explain her grades dipping down? How are his interests represented in his classes and extracurriculars? We would discuss until decided, and then vote.
It’s a lot to learn.
My first vote takes me completely by surprise. Ben presents the student, we talk about him for maybe 30 seconds, and then a vote is put into place. I must have looked like a deer in headlights; Ben assures me it isn’t usually so quick, and he’s right. Some applications we fly through, from students who we worry won’t be academically successful here, to ones who are Jumbos at heart and are destined for our campus.
Others take significantly longer. Will the late-bloomer be able to manage 5 rigorous academic classes when he only took 3 before? What about the Venezuelan girl who has surpassed all expectations and has done absolutely everything right but could still fall short because her high school only sends 15% of their students to college and teachers don’t know what to do with her? What do we do with the student whose mother passed away when he was young and only recently was able to re-focus on academics after years of anger and grief? Do we accept the student with an incredible voice and strength of spirit despite a weaker transcript?
One of our longest Committee discussions was for an applicant from my territory, a guy with a deep love of engineering who wanted nothing more than to be a Jumbo come September. In his application, I met a soulful boy with a sense of nostalgia who appreciates the old while hankering for opportunities to work with the new. One teacher calls him logical yet compassionate, like Admiral Adama (which thrilled the nerd in me), while another says “the world needs more people like him.” I adore him, but when he opened his email on Decision Day, ‘congratulations’ wasn’t there. Nobody doubted his intelligence or his merit or his ability to succeed, but when less than one in five applicants get the letter they’re looking for hard choices have to be made, even if it absolutely breaks your heart. And this one broke mine. I watched an applicant I truly believe in go onto the “RJ” shelf, and I’m not alone. Every admissions officer has a student like that: a person they loved but couldn’t admit. The space in the class is limited.
I still remember sitting in my guidance counselor’s office staring at the “View your decision now!” button in absolute fear. I never would have thought that there was someone up in Bendetson Hall sharing in at least part of my classmates’ excitement and disappointment that day, but there was.
To the students who didn’t receive the letter they were hoping for, to specifically my guy with the love of engineering: I truly believe that you will do great things. Please don’t take your decision as anything other than the result of our most competitive year so far; we loved so many of you but just didn’t have the space. I know you’ll end up somewhere amazing. Keep your head up, keep working, and good luck.
To the students receiving good news, you have successfully joined the most impressive class of Tufts students in history. We love you, and you earned it. Celebrate, enjoy, and be sure to thank all those who helped you get here along the way, they’ll appreciate it.