If you’re currently in the thick of the college application process, you’re probably taking a lot of (virtual) college tours and comparing all the aspects of innumerable universities. From what I remember of my college search process, what got lost in the sauce the most for me was the academic portion of each tour. It’s funny, right? The actual education part of college was the least important to me when choosing one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you feel the same way. But like it or not, college isn’t just clubs, parties, and the all important on-campus dining—we actually go to classes too! If you’ve taken a Tufts tour or looked into Tufts academics at all, you’ve probably heard of our distribution requirements. These are our liberal arts version of General Education (GE) classes. What’s great about Tufts is we don’t really have any mandatory classes that every student has to take. Instead, we have a series of requirements in multiple subjects to ensure that our students get a well rounded education. These amount to two classes each in five different areas: Mathematics, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Arts. But while a ten-course requirement may seem like a lot (that’s essentially the size of a full major!), there are multiple ways a student can fulfill these requirements without even trying:
Now, there are, of course, some subjects that will not be automatically fulfilled. I personally am not a STEM-proficient student, so I had to deliberately seek out courses to fulfill my requirements that I wouldn’t have chosen on my own. Thankfully, I placed out of half of the Math req with AP Calculus, so I only had to take one more math class at Tufts. In situations like these, generations of previous Tufts students have passed down wisdom to each incoming class as to which math and science classes are easiest for humanities students and vice versa for STEM students. I ended up taking a class called Logic, which is cross-listed between the Philosophy and Linguistics departments, for my Math requirement. I loved the course, not only because it was extremely interesting and new to me, but because it meant I never had to take Calculus ever again. Instead of a high-level math course that I would’ve struggled severely in, I was allowed to take a course that introduced me to an entirely new language (the language of Logic!) while still gaining the computational and logistical skills one would obtain from a more conventional math course.
The same goes for Natural Science. This was a subject that I came into Tufts with zero pre-matriculation credits for, so I had to seek out two classes that would fulfill this requirement but would not be so hard that I’d be tempted to drop out of college. I ended up taking Intro to Cognitive Brain Sciences and Plants and Humanity. Intro to CBS was very cool because it was predominantly based in psychology; I’d taken AP Psych in high school and really enjoyed the topic. Plants and Humanity, although a standard Bio class, was a science course that actually catered to my interests (if you’ve read my previous blogs, you may remember the obscene amount of plants I own)! Although the content in these courses didn’t come as easily to me as an English class, they were still interesting and accessible for me, and I did end up learning a lot.
So that’s just a brief overview of the distribution requirements in the School of Arts and Sciences here at Tufts. We do have some other graduation requirements (a World Civilizations req, a Writing req, and a Language req), and of course they are completely different for the School of Engineering, but the distribution requirements really dominate our liberal arts studies. I hope this helped you understand academics a little bit more at Tufts and potentially relieved some stress you may have felt about this ten-course requirement! Although it may seem like a lot, these courses are part of what makes Tufts students so intelligent across all fields. If you’d like to learn more about our liberal arts graduation requirements, you can do so here: https://students.tufts.edu/academic-advice-and-support/academic-advising/liberal-arts-babs-advising/guidance-academic-policies-liberal-arts-babs/requirements-graduation-liberal-arts-babs.