The personal statements that high schoolers write for 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 also play a role in the application reading process in terms of us getting to know more facets of your personality.
At Tufts, we require two responses: The first is to complete, in 100 words, the following sentence: “I am applying to Tufts because…”, 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 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.
1. Why Tufts? Why not Tufts?
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! Sometimes students approach me after information sessions and ask, “well, why wouldn’t I want to go to Tufts University?” You could honestly ask this question about nearly any highly selective college or university. They will all offer you a great education, access to resources and professors, copious student organizations, and will be located in a rural, urban, or suburban environment. I know that all of that sounds basic, but every day during reading season I see multiple responses that list those exact reasons as why they want to come to Tufts. This response is a 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 on a Wikipedia article. Yes, we have over 350 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 into how what Tufts offers is right for you specifically.
2. Wait There’s More? (Yes—For Tufts, at Least)
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 a 200-250 word response on your choice of three prompts (unless you’re applying to the SMFA at Tufts in which case there is just one question, but the advice here still holds). 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, etc.). But that essay is a way for us to get to know you broadly. Remember, Tufts students are kind, collaborative, and intellectually playful, civically engaged, and globally minded. Will your personal statement be specifically designed to showcase all of that? Probably not! It may illuminate one or two aspects of your personality that align with those values, but we would never expect it to perfectly outline how you would be an ideal Tufts community member. Use this second supplemental short answer response to provide insight into how you embody a different one of these values. Just make sure it is something unique from your personal statement, so that we get that fully nuanced view of who you are. 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 short answer responses that you will be writing for your application to Tufts. In short, the best way to look at the writing that you provide for your college applications is as a set of responses 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 community member. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting to the final essay and seeing recycled content from elsewhere in the application. Feel free to reach out to your regional representative if you have any questions—we’re here to help! And always have faith in yourself and in your writing. You’ve got this!