Making the transition from high school to college can be challenging, and if you identify as first-generation or low-income, it can be even more difficult to figure out who your support systems are, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar environment. How do you take advantage of new resources when you’ve never been exposed to them before? How do you ask for help when you’re not sure what (or who) to ask? If you’re thinking about majoring in engineering, the BEST program can help answer those questions.
My name is Campbell Halligan, and I work in the Center for STEM Diversity. My main responsibility is running the Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts (BEST) program. Founded in 2010, BEST starts off as a six-week summer bridge program for incoming engineering students. If you apply to Tufts and you meet the criteria for BEST, you are automatically considered for the program, which means no additional application! The majority of BEST scholars identify as first-generation and low-income, and we are committed to supporting students impacted by undocumented status. All BESTies are considered underrepresented in engineering, which means that they might have come from underresourced high schools or meet markers for low representation in STEM fields (including women, African Americans, Native and Indigenous populations, the LGBTQ community, and those who identify as Hispanic and/or Latinx).
BEST is designed to give selected students an opportunity to take two Tufts courses for credit (Calculus I and General Physics), while participating in academic, social, and resource-based workshops that help first years successfully transition and adapt to college life at Tufts. The summer is jam-packed with classes, labs, engineering workshops, resource lunches, and weekend field trips—we fit as much as possible into six weeks! This means that we focus not only on academic achievement, but also social growth and networking. Throughout the summer, each new BEST cohort works hard to complete problem sets and lab reports, but they also play hard by exploring their new community through tours, adventures, and community service. Sounds fun, right?
The BEST part? It’s free! We cover tuition, housing, a meal plan, textbooks, Jumbo cash, and travel expenses (if living outside of New England). Additionally, each BESTie will receive a $1000 stipend upon completion of the summer program.
While financial support is obviously important, BEST is so much more than a six-week summer program. It’s a challenging but rewarding four-year college experience in which the Center for STEM Diversity is viewed as a home away from home for BESTies. We provide well-rounded support for academic success and personal growth for each BEST scholar, and maintain a family atmosphere through outings, workshops, and Sunday dinners. Throughout their four years, we help BEST scholars concentrate on specific goals.
First-year BESTies are part of the same pre-major advising group, enroll in a fall semester advising seminar (taught by me), have access to BEST-specific tutors through Tufts’ Academic Resource Center (ARC), and attend time-management counseling. As BEST scholars get older, we focus on mentoring, snagging those internship and research opportunities, and navigating the world post-grad (whether that means industry or graduate school).
If there is one thing I want you to take away about BEST, it’s that peer support matters. BEST is a cohort-based model that aims to foster community amongst students from similar backgrounds, so that as you navigate your life here at Tufts, you know that you have friends you can rely on for encouragement, advocacy, and validation. We know that by yourself, you can achieve great things. But think of how much farther you can go with the support of a cohort by your side. BEST is a reminder that you are not alone in your quest for knowledge—you have a network of people cheering you on!
If you have any questions about BEST, please feel free to reach out to me, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck with the college application process, and enjoy the rest of your senior year!
“When I graduated in May of 2014, I immediately began working in the Boston area for a private contractor. My day-to-day responsibilities required skills that were not my strongest when I arrived at Tufts four years prior. However, with the help of the BEST staff and the immense amount of support granted to us, I felt very comfortable navigating the initial learning curves, asking the right questions, and eventually developing my skills for my company. The leg up that BEST granted me has paid dividends over the years, as seeking out support transformed from a perceived weakness for me, into a necessary skill. Today, I am working at a civil engineering design firm in San Diego, California. My four years of experience in the professional world has helped me in my transition, but I always turn back to the skills I learned as a BEST student to help me navigate challenges, both engineering and otherwise. The experiences, connections, and lifelong skills are invaluable, and I will always be thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the initial class of BEST scholars.” – Aliandro Brathwaite, E14
“BEST meant so much more to me than just skill building. BEST became my Tufts family. It was my support system, my outlet to share experiences, my boost of confidence. To say that my engineering education was hard is an understatement, and it would not have been possible without BEST.” – Alice Lee, E15
“I work as a member of the technical staff at Draper Labs in the Heterogeneous Microsystems group. A common theme of my life since joining BEST has been the importance of building on relationships through academic and professional work to grow a long-lasting community. To this day, I stay in touch with other BEST alumni and with BEST staff, and I keep up with how the current BEST students are doing. My ties to BEST even after officially completing the program are very important to me because I want to find ways to give back where I can. The relationship building made possible by BEST has supported my professional life, from my research work, to my studies with the Mechanical Engineering Department, and most recently with my co-workers at Draper. I felt very prepared coming out of school, not only knowing key fundamentals, but also knowing how to interact with others and build small groups or families as we work towards a common goal.” – Daniela Torres, E16
“BEST was able to foster a community of support that allowed me to develop my strengths and identify my weaknesses, but most importantly, introduced me to a very close group of people that support and help each other.” – Martin Majkut, E19
“Being a BEST scholar is more than just receiving a certificate for me. It means so much more, as it is a constant reminder of everything I overcame to get here, and everything I did here to get where I am today.” – Derrick Sosa, E21
“The BEST program has provided a great community that’s made me feel welcome at Tufts. I’ve cried, laughed, and had many great memories with BESTies and BEST staff. The support I’ve received from the program is truly a blessing.” – Mischael Anilus, E21
“My advice for incoming students would be to use your first year to not only succeed academically, but to grow at your own pace. You will be surrounded by a lot of students who are constantly seeking to better themselves and that can be both motivating and intimidating. So, take your time, and learn, experience, and grow according to your own timeline.” – Jada Worthy, E22