For this series, we asked three admissions officers to revisit the supplemental essays of three current Tufts freshmen. What in these essays worked, and what could have been done better? We hope this look inside our reading process will help you as you write your own supplemental essays!
Let me start by saying that I loved Ainsley’s supplement when I first read it as her territory manager last year. Now that I know her better, I can confidently say that her supplement is a true reflection of her personality...which is exactly what it should be. When these supplement answers are read one after another, they paint a complete picture of both a community member and student, as they each dive into a different aspect of her personality. Hopefully, through my critique, you can start to learn to think like an admissions officer!
1. Why Tufts?
Appreciating difference and embracing difference are two different things. To appreciate is to boast statistics showing a diverse student population. To embrace is to devote an entire section of the university, the ExCollege, to subjects that don’t fit into traditional disciplines, or to create six distinct centers for diversity so that each student has a place on campus. Tufts embraces difference in every sense. I want to be part of a community where varying languages, hobbies, and majors don’t drive students apart, but bring them together out of a shared respect for experiences separate from their own.
Jaime: Ainsley applied Early Decision to Tufts, which meant that it was confidently her first choice. There were (probably) a lot of things that she loved about Tufts, but she made the smart decision to focus on just one of them— the fact that we are a community that embraces differences. Because she focused on the part of Tufts that she most connected to, she could dive into that topic and give us some detail and concrete examples. The answer to the first supplement question is short, but because Ainsley focused on one specific aspect of our community (rather than listing a lot things like a major, our location, and the awesome food), she packed a lot in. Each bit of writing you give us should tell us something about you, and even though Ainsley is telling me why she wants to attend Tufts, I am also learning something about her in the process.
2. Describe the environment in which you were raised.
At age six I was enrolled in a single-sex school where I would spend nine years with 42 girls by my side. I didn’t see it as a careless 6th grader, but this environment afforded me privileges that have profoundly impacted my beliefs today. Surrounded by my classmates in Physical Education I threw myself into my favorite silly games. I focused on Castle Ball or Gold Rush instead of fixating on what my body looked like under too-tight gym clothes. In my favorite class, French, I could raise my hand as many times as I wanted without worrying that my voice occupied too much space in the room, that my enthusiasm made me seem too outspoken or too opinionated. My interest in women’s rights and feminism came from never being told that I could not, or should not, do something because of my gender. My self confidence was cultivated by an environment that treated me as a person and a learner, not just a girl. However, I understand that not everyone has this privilege. Across the world women are being denied education and basic rights. Even at home friends and classmates keep their hands glued to their sides in class for fear of judgement. Knowing how crucial this empowering environment has been to my self development, I want to work towards a world in which no person feels like their gender identity masks their abilities and aspirations.
Jaime: As part of her Common Application, Ainsley lists Sociology, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and American Studies as her academic interests. This essay does a great job of bringing those passions to light. If I were to help Ainsley revise this essay, I would want her to get to these intellectual passions (or, as we call it in our office, academic punch) earlier in the essay. She begins to dive in when she starts, “Across the world…” but I think she could have started earlier in the essay (and condensed the part about attending a single-sex school). This would have given her more space to really expand on her interests. In general, the LYLS question is an opportunity for you to tell us something important about where you come from, but also how this has shaped you into who you are now. Don't be afraid to elaborate on yourself—your passions and values—even as you describe the environment in which you were raised.
3. Prompt selection E. Celebrate the role of sports in your life.
I may be a sturdy 5’9,” but I cannot sprint or catch a ball to save my life. I used to be extremely self-conscious of this, idolizing female athletes in movies, like Bend it like Beckham’s Jess Paxton, and longing to understand discussions of the Warriors’ best hope for the 2016 Championship. Wanting to be involved, I spent several years sailing, and even played volleyball freshman year. I enjoyed this athletic jaunt but after several unfulfilling years I wanted to be involved in something I was truly passionate about: theater. Auditioning for school plays I finally found myself amongst other people who got out of breath going up a flight of stairs; I could jump right into conversations about Elle Woods’s impeccable vocal range without feeling as though I was hearing gibberish. Since the moment I stopped fixating on becoming an athlete, theater has become one of the most important and constant parts of my life. I love exploring a new world with each character I play: worlds without water, like Soupy Sue’s in Urinetown, or worlds of chocolate factories and gluttonous sons like Mrs. Gloop’s in Willy Wonka. Being around people who share my interests makes me excited to learn more and determined to continue improving. There’s a conception that one should be good at everything. Trying sports, and learning they weren’t a fit, showed me that this isn’t true. The one thing I love is much more meaningful than anything I feel obligated to do.
Jaime: Ainsley uses this opportunity to delve more deeply into her love of theater, and her passion comes through in each of her examples. She starts off strong and gets my attention right away with some well-placed humor. About halfway through the response, I found myself skimming a little bit. I think this is because Ainsley's sentence structure is very similar throughout: long, winding sentences, as she tries to pack in as much information as possible. Some shorter, punchier statements could have a really large impact on the overall piece, giving the reader a chance to pause and digest the information Ainsley is conveying about herself. Though it may be awkward, reading your essays out loud can be helpful to ensure that each sentence has the greatest impact possible.