The third question of the supplement is meant to be fun (as is the entire supplement, really), especially the prompt, “What Makes You Happy?” But it’s also a bit of a Catch 22. This prompt provides the most authentic glimpse into an applicant’s personal life (your quirky hobby, your favorite genre of music, your obsession with goats…) and we welcome full-disclosure, but you also need to keep in mind that you’re applying to college. There is an admissions officer on the other end of your application who is reading your essay and those that are missing a spark-either intellectual, comedic, or emotional- tend to fall the flattest. We are constantly considering how you will contribute to the Tufts campus as a classmate, roommate, and community member. So before you write a beautiful ode to your dog (which we see a lot of), remember that we want to know about YOU. You want to tell us about how your fascination with Christian rap defies stereotypes surrounding Asian women? Awesome. You plan to share the story about the Pokémon volleyball video game you created? Can’t wait. These are both great (and real) examples of essays that combine the perfect blend of silly and scholarly, which reflects the Tufts’ student body as a whole: students who take their work very seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously.
The choices you make in this short essay can also serve as a measure of your interest in Tufts. As my colleague, Meghan Dangremond, has written in previous blog posts, we read thousands of applications and it’s not hard to tell when your heart just isn’t in it. So when we read “What Makes You Happy?” essays that read like “My Favorite Things” lyrics from the Sound of Music, it becomes pretty evident that you didn’t invest too much time and effort into writing your laundry list of guilty pleasures (although, who doesn’t love raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens)? So even though it’s arguably the easiest prompt to answer (and one of my favorites to read), it can also get applicants in trouble if they don’t approach it thoughtfully. That being said, if you don’t feel compelled to write a thoughtful essay, that’s probably a good indicator that Tufts may not be the best fit for you-which is a completely okay feeling to have.
We take away from your supplement what you put into it. The questions are meant to reflect the values and traits of the students that we are trying to recruit. In a lot of ways, it serves as our most accurate measure of fit. So although we’re not exactly mind readers (quick, pick a number between 1 and 3!), we can tell when applicants care and this essay tends to be the biggest give away. With all this in mind, go off, be free, we look forward to reading about what makes you happy.