When I applied to college as a senior in high school, I really didn’t know what on earth I was doing. If you’re reading this as a high school student (in any year), kudos to you because you are by far a better applicant than I was. The closest I got to researching schools was frantically reviewing their website to make my essays sound less generic. Sincerely, congratulations for that. I decided which schools I applied to by using naviance, acceptance rate, and the color of the buildings on campus (if it was too gray, count me out).
Applying to college is a mass bombardment of information that all seems to be important but not important at the same time. I was confused about all of it. I briefly considered the important aspects like academics and student body, but I didn’t care enough to remember which fact belonged to which school. To counteract that, I just applied to as many schools (~19) as I could. Unfortunately, that strategy left me with only 2 options by the time May came around. The rejections and waitlists hurt, but there was only one school I cared enough about to apply to again the following year as a transfer (hint: it was Tufts!) I attended freshman year at a school that I didn’t care about, and the little things I should’ve considered left me feeling lost and upset.
I briefly talked about my transfer story, and what exactly drove my decision to transfer. But a drive wasn’t enough. It was the little things that kept egging me on; they pushed me just over the edge to transfer. A note to remember is that these are personal to me. They aren’t necessarily going to be important to you, but the point is to think about what makes you happy, and the little things in your life that strongly influence your experience and well-being. Here are some things that actually made a big difference to me.
1. Big windows in the library.
At my previous school, the one library on campus rarely had open seats, and the windows were equivalent to a slim rectangle. By the end of the year, I was afraid to go to the library because of the many dark hours I spent there. Tufts has two libraries on campus, offering a lot of opportunity to find seats (although finals week situations are always up in the air). The windows in Tisch (plus the amazing rooftop garden) show you that are you not trapped in a prison. They tell you not to fall down the rabbit hole of stress. They remind you that there is a world outside the paper you’re currently writing, and that makes all the difference when you hit hour 6 in the library.
2. The library cubicle and bathroom messages (aka the student mentality).
The Tufts student is typically described as happy, low-key ambitious, and independent. Collaborative, not competitive. I can’t say that’s the case for every student because that’s just impossible. However, evidence of this persona is visual in all aspects on campus. It really hit me when I read the writing on the library bathroom stall. Usually these scrawls are discouraging and depressing, but reading the words “you are beautiful,” “you are enough, and “you are strong and amazing,” was pretty heartwarming. When I saw these messages, I had no doubt that transferring was the right choice.
3. The school pride.
After spending a year around people who just wanted to graduate and leave, I felt so discouraged about simply being at school. Tufts students are proud to be here, but they don’t brag. They happily wear their Tufts gear and joke about Jumbo. They rave about the professor who taught their elective class. They run around from club to club, constantly busy working on their next passion project. They have blogs like this one, just for pure fun. Sometimes school pride isn’t rah-rah obvious, but that’s usually the best, most sincere kind.
4. The color green.
This was a personal preference, but environment is a huge deal for me. You are moving out of your home to a new home, and the surrounding area can really influence your well-being. I was in a city, and although it wasn’t my ideal situation, I figured I could deal with it and find a way to enjoy it. While it was nice to be so close to so many exciting events, everything around me was gray and concrete. I missed the green, and I had nowhere to go to get it. When my high school friends talked about hanging out on their quads at school, I genuinely felt like I was missing out something. All I wanted was to read a book under a big tree (which I have officially done in the glorious New England autumn).
5. The presence.
Often times college students are in a bubble outside of reality, especially those outside of an urban area. Tufts can be guilty of that at some points, but Tufts students aren’t oblivious to the world’s problems. They not only acknowledge how it affects them, but also how to tackle these problems. I mean presence in two ways. One is the insightful conversations about world problems I wouldn’t have given much thought to elsewhere. Everyone likes to talk about the intellectual conversations at college, and I always thought only either the brilliant people would have them or the annoying people bragged about it. I didn’t even realize I started having these conversations when I came here simply because they came up organically. Unlike my previous school experience, students aren’t just wrapped up in their own problems and future anxieties; they are present as active citizens in the world. The other is the presence Tufts has in the world. Tufts is a really great school. Name shouldn’t be a driving force, but it is a cherry-on-top situation. Tufts students have gone on to do great things, from running Time Inc. to starring as Dwight on The Office. Watching the 30 Rock episode with the running joke “No, not Tufts…” when referring to Harvard is that much funnier now that I attend the school. It’s not obvious like big name schools, but it’s presence in the world is satisfyingly quiet and strong. It’s how I’d like to be as person.
I often think about the sacrifices I made to transfer here, because nothing is ever a perfect decision. There are benefits and drawbacks to every option, but keeping these 5 thoughts in my mind keep me happy. Whatever stage you are at, be it preparing for your decisions in May or just starting the college search, just think of your five things. The decision will be much easier, and it might just be Tufts.