*Originally Posted on November 1st, 2011
“Vibe” is a really important dimension of any college search. Yes, it sounds like such a New Age, 1970s-era concept but it’s legit: the campus vibe is a critical clue as you search for your future Alma mater.
Last fall the Admissions Office sponsored several focus groups of high school seniors to better understand how students conducted a college search these days (more on that one next week). To my surprise, “vibe” kept emerging as an essential, if slippery, concept for almost every senior. They discussed “vibe” in a matter-of-fact, practical way that belied its abstraction. The moderator probed and the kids responded. Vibe was a feel, a mood, a defining impression. Does the place seem “collegiate” or “urban,” stressed out or laid-back, preppy or quirky? (For what it’s worth, I’m not convinced preppy and quirky are mutually exclusive vibes. Doesn’t “quirky prep” seem as feasible as a “nerdy hipster”?) What’s the campusambiance like? Do people smile and say hello when you pass a stranger on the quad or is there an aura of anonymity in the air? I learned that such things really mattered as prospective applicants canvassed the campus.
My wheels started spinning. I’ll be honest: I hadn’t thought about college recruitment in terms of “vibe” and the idea intrigued me. ”VIBE!” I scribbled in my notebook. And then an ED1 applicant wrote this simple sentence as her “Why Tufts?” response: “I had an overwhelming feeling of being home.” There it was! She had a homey vibe and it validated us. How fascinating.
Naturally, I wondered what Tufts’ vibe might be (besides “homey,” which is always a great vibe). So I did some homework. At a staff meeting I asked the admission officers to write down five words that described the Jumbo vibe (and I paid close attention to which words the three Tufts alumni on the staff chose). My colleagues used lots of adjectives but the themes were eerily consistent: intellectual and friendly, down-to-earth and optimistic, quirky and global. Playful, engaging, tolerant, welcoming and kind of nerdy all rose to the top of the vibe-o-meter. And that rang true. They had described the place where I work. “Quiet excellence,” the dean of arts & sciences said when I asked her to define the university’s vibe. “This is an appealingly humble place.” It is.
I watched for vibe while I read applications last winter. A few caught my eye:
I think that last one really nailed it. I mean, if that’s not vibe what is?
Like the proverbial dog with a bone, I kept at it. We asked current students. We added a free-write question to the Accepted Student Survey for the Class of ’15: “How would you best describe Tufts’ vibe?” And they used most of the same words my colleagues had identified: fun, friendly, quirky, diverse and intellectual were their top five. An authentic consensus had formed. Come to think of it, authenticity is both a vibe as well as a prerequisite for vibe.
So pay attention to vibe because it usually indicates fit. If you like a college’s vibe it’s probably a healthy clue that you found a place you might call home.
And tell me: what do you see as the Tufts vibe?