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!
Hasan: On that rainy October day, one thing about Tufts caught my attention. Outside the library in the cold, a huddled group was chanting "Save the cheetahs! Buy a brownie!" I left the tour group and bought some brownies out of pure empathy, recalling many times I had to put myself out there to fundraise. For UNICEF, for local pantries, for cheetahs: I was pleasantly reminded of myself, seeing like-minded teenagers try to push the world forward, one dollar and one brownie at a time. Of course, the shared dedication to homemade baked goods was a pleasantly delicious treat as well.
Beky: Oh, Hasan. I remember reading your application like it was yesterday! Hasan’s “Why Tufts” stands out for his focus on one small moment from when he visited campus. All too often, I read a “Why Tufts” essay from a well-intentioned and very eager student who tries to wedge in ten really big, really disparate ideas into a very limited word count. And when a student does that, the “Why Tufts” often reads as a Google-able list that lacks any personal connection to our community. Hasan’s “Why Tufts” reads as anything but Google-able. I get a quick, bite-size (brownie pun intended) glimpse of how Hasan will engage in the broader Tufts community. Hasan also does a nice job of weaving in how this particular experience of buying a brownie resonates with his values, all while writing in an honest and authentic tone (and you can never go wrong buying a baked good on a rainy day!).
Prompt selection D. Whether you’ve built blanket forts or circuit boards, produced community theater or mixed media art installations, tell us: what have you invented, engineered, created, or designed? Or what do you hope to?
Hasan: I only ever tried banana bread in the first place because Drew asked. And even in 7th grade, I loved Drew. See, my first exposure to chemistry was a pH kit I got for my 12th birthday, and one day that same year, my classmate Drew really wanted banana bread for the class breakfast. That is, "PERFECT banana bread, Hasan." So I found a base for pumpkin bread and went to the drawing/baking board. Mashing the fruit, sifting the spices, and crushing the nuts, it smelled fine, but I had to be sure. I ended up using my pH kit and ran an experiment: what's the optimal banana bread pH? About 18 loaves later, I had my answer: 5.8! Now, the correlation isn't exactly concrete, but nevertheless, Drew devoured the entire loaf.... That's just how it happened. He just inhaled it. I even got a hug because of how much he liked it? Since then, I've made it for his birthday every year, and it's just that attachment to the people who eat my goods that drives me to bake. People always ask, "Isn't it a lot of work to bake stuff yourself?" Of course, but is it work if I love it? Is it work if it's my original recipe? Born out of my love for acids and bases? I don't exactly consider myself a chemical engineer, but my pursuit for chemistry led me to the operating room, where the balance of acids and bases is just as important.
Beky: My gut reaction to students choosing to write about events that occurred in middle school or elementary school (or preschool…) is to say don’t do it. We are looking to admit the 17-year-old you, and I want to learn about your 17-year-old self when reading your application (and who really remembers anything from when they were 3-years-old? and how much did that time falling off of the swing in third grade really impact your life trajectory?).
Now. Maybe you are one of those students who does have an event that happened earlier on in life that you really, truly, one hundred percent want to share with us. My advice: tread thoughtfully and purposefully and learn from Hasan. First off, he’s specific in his writing! I can fiercely imagine a middle school Hasan whipping up 18 loaves of bread and doing a victory lap when he finally discovers the magical properties of pH 5.8. His tone is fun and smart (I literally snort-laughed at “He just inhaled it”), and more importantly, Hasan connects this experience to who he is as a senior in high school: a fun-loving baking fiend who has a soft spot for all things chemistry and for making those around him happy.