No one said decisions were easy, let alone big (shall we say, Jumbo?) decisions. It's okay if you don't know. This month is your time to prioritize yourself and celebrate your options. We asked some current students (who made this decision just a few years ago) and some admissions officers (who think about this stuff all the time) to offer their best, unbiased (okay, maybe a little biased) advice on how to decide where to go to college.
Shaan Merchant '19
Last week, I was sitting in our plant-filled living room with some of my housemates and we were nostalgically remembering making our college decisions. As seniors, this decision felt relevant as ever as we make decisions about our life post-Tufts, and think about the adventures we might go down. It was a decision that led us to where we were; it shaped us through the lifelong friends we made, the academic passions it ignited, the relationships with professors it allowed, the extracurriculars it meant we got involved in.
No pressure, though. While I firmly believe that people will find their communities, and wonderful opportunities no matter where they end up, it is an important decision, that takes a lot of thought. Beyond the hackneyed “listen to yourself” I would suggest learning how to listen to yourself. Before you can hear yourself, you need to know the internal language you speak, and that can be hugely dependent on who you are. When talking to my friends, our methods of making this decision were humorously complimentary to our personalities, our approach to all things. My housemate Sam, for example, made the decision based on facts and numbers. The departments that interested him were strong, the professor-taught classes, important, the proximity to Boston, essential. For Sam there were pros and cons and the decision was made, almost mathematically. My process was very different. It was the flowy dance to Sam’s militant march. I made my decision off of feeling, based on the vibe I picked up on: the chemistry I felt seeing student’s smiling faces, the electricity that seemed to run from the ground through my legs as a walked on campus (no, it wasn’t just exhaustion from the hill). Whether you make decisions like Sam, like me, or any other way, find that decision-making voice, figure out how you internally communicate, and hopefully clarity will come.
Marina Rueda Garcia '21
Before I begin, a big congratulations on getting into college! Your hard work has really paid off, and now you get the chance to choose the place where you want to spend the next four years of your life. It sounds scary, but let me tell you something: it feels like it was yesterday when I was in your position, and I am already halfway through my college experience. If I am being completely honest, I had a really hard time choosing where to go to college. I had visited universities in the United States the summer before my senior year, but when I got into schools, I felt like I had to visit again with a new perspective. I wanted to go to these schools and imagine myself as a student on campus. However, living in Spain and going through the college application back home (which takes place in the spring), I did not have the chance to visit the schools I got into, which made the decision very hard. If you have the chance to visit, please do!
When you’re on campus, talk to students, ask them questions about their experience, try to see yourself in their place, and see if the community is good for you. For my fellow international students or for anyone that does not have the chance to re-visit: reach out to students and even faculty if you are interested in any research or classes specifically, look for student clubs that you may be interested in, look at programs offered or opportunities to develop academically and personally, etc. Listen to yourself and ask if the colleges you are looking into are places you would thrive in. I pictured myself in all these places, but finally, the image of me at Tufts and the vibe of the School of Engineering made me feel like it was the right fit for me. As I arrived on campus for Orientation, I knew I made the right decision, and two years later, I am glad that I chose Tufts.
Hasan Khan '22
As an admit, you have access to the admitted students’ Facebook page, and while other potential peers are introducing themselves, you are guaranteed to find links to join group chats around different identities and interests. From music lovers and athletes to Asian-American and LGBTQ+ themed groups, the transition to college doesn’t have to be a drawn-out wait until orientation, and on move-in day for me, it felt like meeting old friends after a long separation. Before you’ve enrolled though, these groups can be invaluable tools for asking real questions to current students who also join them just to help with the decision. Even if you aren’t one for conversation, be sure to check out each school’s Instagram page, both the admissions and university version. There you will always find short, yet impactful moments and stills of what campus could mean to you for the next four years. If you visited or browsed online enough to find a student group you connect with, chances are they have a Facebook page or Instagram where you can direct message the group about important factors like size and commitment level. Lastly, if you’re really stuck and in need of new information about schools to gorge on, find them on Google Maps and explore the campus yourself, on street view or jumping around different points in the area. How close are classes and dorms? How accessible are local cities? Remember, Tufts is on a hill! Know the ground you’ll be treading before you arrive.
Desmond Fonseca '20
In making a big decision, I like to look at the little things, the details, the “marrow of life,” in the words of Henry David Thoreau (my high school AP Lit teacher would be proud of that reference). Choosing where I would spend the next four years of my life, where I would sleep, eat, and study, was the biggest decision I had ever made. In the beginning of my search, I, like many others, tended to focus on the big things — the quantifiable things — such as rankings, class sizes, student-faculty ratios, majors, and other stuff you can find on any admissions website. It wasn’t until I looked inward at those little things; the WMFO station, the Africana Center, specific pre-orientation programs, and all those dope little shops and stops in Davis Square, that my mental image of what Tufts was and is became more clear. These were details specific to me and my own interests — know yourself and your own. At the same time, these details, these little things, were not necessarily immediate decision makers, but crucial tie breakers between tough choices. My biggest advice would be to go find your own tiebreakers.
Jason Rathman '17, Admissions Counselor
We understand that the weight of deciding where to go to college can feel monumental, but chances are that there is more than one college where you can find success in your own definition of the word. I advise students to take a two-step approach to making the decision after receiving acceptance letters: essentials and intangibles. The essentials are the foundation of your undergraduate experience, but it’s the intangibles--the people and community--that will see you through your growth.
First, it’s important to make a list of the essentials: things you need to have at your college to set you up for a successful undergraduate career. Perhaps you had them on a list when you were first touring schools. Essentials can be size, location, cost/affordability, research or internship opportunities, a specific major, co-curriculars or resources. Make an essentials list that is uniquely yours, then cross-reference it with your list of acceptances.
Once you’re narrowed down your list to (hopefully) a few schools, it’s time to look at some of the intangibles: the things you won’t find under the statistics page on an admissions website. It’s the time to ask yourself, “is this the community I want to be a part of?” “Who can I become here?” Finding answers to these questions can feel difficult, but talking to current students and alumni, or attending an admitted student day, is a great place to start.
Beky Stiles '12, Associate Director of Admissions
Yay! You got into college! Take a victory lap, treat yourself to your favorite thing (a new book, marathon-ing Stranger Things with your friends, testing out that new Arduino…you do you!), and breathe. As you start to think about where you can see yourself in college, remember that a college isn’t just a random assortment of buildings with a big name that your great aunt in Enid, Oklahoma, will recognize; a college is a community of people (please excuse me for stating the obvious). My point is, you should think about what community you want to impact over the next few years, and what type of people you want impacting your own view of the world. So if you get to visit the campuses as you’re making your decision, talk to current students! Chat with your future classmates! I promise it’s not weird to sit down with a random group of people in the dining hall. And if you can’t make it to campus, your admissions officer can put you in contact with a student who has similar interests to you. We want to help you find your home and your people.
Evelyn Ocampo '17, Admissions Counselor
There were two key things I did when I was making my final decision; make lists and picture myself as a sophomore in college (a bit strange... I know, but stay with me). I made pros and cons list for each school. Now that I had the practical reasons for each school written down, I went on to thinking about how I would feel as a sophomore in college. Would I feel accepted a year into my college experience? Would I have the time to explore new interests? Is the campus community one that I vibed with? At the end of the day, this will be your home for the next 4 years so you want to make sure that it is the right fit for you. Don't let others opinions dictate where you decide to go! Ultimately, go with your gut and go with a place that you'd be happy to call home.
Trenton Manns '19, Admissions Counselor
First of all, congratulations! You are now in the phase where you decide which college to attend. When it came time for me to make this decision, I made sure to think about the ways in which I wanted to grow and the goals I wanted to achieve. I remember searching the internet to learn more about the resources at each school on my list, as well as making sure that the communities at those schools reflected goals and values that I hold. In my research on Tufts, I found a vibrant community of Professors and students who supported and encouraged people to challenge themselves in new and exciting ways. I also found clubs and organizations that were fun AND academically stimulating. I made sure that my Journey to Tufts was charted with foresight of what I would be getting myself into and I encourage you all to do the same! Last but not least, trust in your ability to make the most of where you go to college. Best of luck!