The personal statements that high schoolers send us in their college applications are an incredible way of getting to know something unique, impactful, or otherwise important about them. We understand why you spend so much time writing these, especially since nearly every college requires, at the bare minimum, a personal statement in order to apply. And we here at Tufts certainly care a lot about your personal statements, don’t get us wrong! But our supplemental short-answer questions play a major role in the application reading process on our end in terms of getting to know you as a person better. Most schools have supplements that are designed to get to know you in a more nuanced way through a series of short questions that help to determine if you are a fit for their school community.
At Tufts, we ask two questions: “Why Tufts?”, and one other that is your choice from three prompts (which you can read here). These are your chance to show us that you have done your research on who we are as an institution beyond a cursory Google search, and to illuminate something else about your experiences or the way you see the world. Tufts students are kind, collaborative, and intellectually curious. The best way to stand out in this section is to show us how you embody various aspects of these broad traits.
Don’t worry, I’ve got some examples below to help you better understand what I mean.
I could sit here for an hour and list off the reasons why you should apply to Tufts. To be fair, it’s my job, but still! I sometimes see students asking around on internet forums or after information sessions, “well, why wouldn’t I want to go to Tufts University?” To be honest, you could ask that about nearly any institution for higher learning. Highly selective colleges and universities will all offer you a great education, access to resources and professors, many student organizations, and be located in a rural, urban, or suburban environment. I know that all sounds basic, but if I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve read a “Why Tufts?” essay that lists those exact reasons as why they want to come to Tufts, I could take a year off of work. This question is the space for you to really dive into what makes Tufts unique for you. Don’t just repeat basic facts you can find on our landing page or Wikipedia article. Yes, we have over 300 student organizations and you can easily make your own— but what’s one that really speaks to you? Is it our Leonard Carmichael Society and its focus on service? Or maybe our Eco Arts Club which brings a socially engaged, environmentally conscious, art practice to community activism? Sure, we have a 10 to 1 student/faculty ratio. But do a deeper dive into an academic interest of yours and find a course, department, or professor’s research group that stands out to you and let us know why it engages your intellectual curiosity. The best way to stand out here is to be specific, show us that extra research you did and help us see how you will fit into the Tufts community.
A second supplemental question might feel daunting—didn’t you just show us what you knew about Tufts? What more could we need from you? The answer to that question is 200-250 words on your choice of three prompts (unless you’re applying to the SMFA at Tufts, but the advice here still holds for that question as well). This second question is designed for you to provide your application readers with another way of understanding who you are. Your personal statement is likely about some moment that is unique to you and shaped who you are as a human being (a boating trip with your grandfather, your path through a high stakes sports competition, a special project you started with friends or family). But that essay is a way for us to get to know you broadly. Remember, Tufts students are kind, collaborative, and intellectually curious. Will your personal statement be specifically designed to showcase that? Probably not! It may illuminate one aspect, but we would never expect it to perfectly outline how you would be a Tufts community member. Use this second supplemental essay to do exactly that. Highlight a new experience, a different way you look at the world. Just make sure it is something different from your personal statement, so that we get that fully nuanced view of you and learn something beyond what is in your personal statement. A copy and pasted personal statement, or even a supplemental essay that is about the same topic as your personal statement, won’t help your application stand out.
Phew! That is a lot of information about two little essays you’ll be writing for your application to Tufts (well, three if we include all the discussion about personal statements). In short, the best way to look at your essays for your college applications is as a set designed for us to get to know you. Use each one strategically to highlight some aspect of your personality, your academic interests, and who you are as a member of your communities. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting to the final essay and seeing recycled content from elsewhere in the application, so make those spaces count. Feel free to reach out to your regional representative if you have any questions—we’re here to help! Have faith in yourself and in your writing. You’ve got this!