There’s a section on Tufts’ Common App page that asks to which school you would like to apply for admission, the School of Arts and Sciences or the School of Engineering. That section caused me much grief over the course of the month or two I spent working on my application to Tufts. Which path did I want to follow through my collegiate journey? I could pick the typical liberal arts experience with freedom to do anything I wanted, or the much more structured but specialized engineering experience. Now, for most applicants, the answer is clear. Either you want to do some kind of engineering, or you don’t. However, there are some of us who aren’t sure, some of us who draw free body diagrams in our dreams, and who also consider socratic seminars to be the highlight of our week. For those of us who would thrive in either school, it can be challenging to pick the one that is the most right (because honestly, both schools are incredible and no one would do poorly in either one), which is why I want to walk you through exactly how I chose which school to apply to, and why my decision didn’t end there.
I always knew that I wanted to be a Computer Science major at Tufts, and so I thought my choice would be easy: the School of Engineering. However, I soon learned that Tufts offers Computer Science through both the School of Engineering and the School of Arts and Sciences, and my decision became more complex. I started looking at every angle-- which school looks better on a resume? Which is more challenging? Which do more people do? Is one easier to get into than the other?
Ultimately, I decided on the School of Engineering for these reasons:
The School of Arts and Sciences in NO way looks worse on a resume than the School of Engineering (a degree from Tufts is impressive enough itself), but being in engineering would allow me to explore more STEM related things and possibly open more doors, aside from Computer Science, for STEM related internships and career paths.
I talked to some current Tufts students, and found that many people who know they want to do Computer Science before they get to Tufts apply to the School of Engineering.
It is more difficult to switch into the School of Engineering than to switch out of it.
Applying to the School of Engineering showed Tufts that I was really passionate about STEM and reinforced my narrative about wanting to help young women get involved in engineering, which was a large part of my application.
So, applying to engineering made sense for me, at least in that moment, and I knew that if I ever changed my mind, I could always switch out.
When I got to campus, I began to worry. All of the friends I was making were in Arts and Sciences. I had to pick different classes from everyone else, ones that were harder and more applied than some Arts and Sciences requirements. I got to actually visualize how many humanities classes I’d be able to take during my time at Tufts, which was fewer than I’d expected, and I was a little spooked-- I love English, and I definitely didn’t want to skimp on exploring my literary and analytical side while I was here.
The option of switching into the School of Arts and Sciences began to tempt me. Why not? I wouldn’t have to take Physics anymore (which had really been giving me a run for my money), I could take classes with the rest of my friends, and I could still do Computer Science, my main interest. A few weeks in, I had all but made up my mind to switch, when I spoke with a girl in my Calculus class about potentially making the change.
“Wait, you want to switch out of Engineering? But why? Getting in is such an accomplishment, and… honestly it’s just so great. The community is hard to beat, you get major preference on which classes you want to take, and to be real, it’s so badass that you’re already succeeding in a male-dominated industry. You should be proud of that.”
And I am proud. I love the look on people’s faces when I tell them I’m an engineer. First, they’re shocked, and then, they’re excited. They breathe, “Woah, that’s so cool,” or, “That’s awesome. You’re awesome.” I don’t “fit the mold” of your everyday engineering student, and that’s precisely why it’s so important for me to be one-- there shouldn’t be a mold. The mold should simply be “anyone who wants to be an engineer.”
I’m incredibly grateful to my fellow engineering student who talked some sense into me that day in Calc. It’s awesome that I’m here, and that I’m a little different from everyone in Arts and Sciences. Being in the School of Engineering is seriously broadening my horizons. I’m in an engineering class called “How To Design Stuff That People Use”, which I probably never would have taken if it wasn’t a required course. It’s gotten me interested in Human Factors Engineering, which I could maybe even minor in-- which certainly wouldn’t have happened if I was in the School of Arts and Sciences.
Taking this chance and challenging myself by being in the School of Engineering was the right choice for me; not only am I representing a whole group of aspiring female engineers, but I’m exploring parts of my academic interests I didn’t even know I had. Sure, it’s difficult, but it’s pushing me towards excellence in the exact way that college should-- I’m a little scared, a little tired, but a lot excited and very ready to get going.