Senior spring was both an unnerving and exciting time of my life. While I was stressed thinking about the uncertainty of where I would spend the next four years I also was looking forward to new beginnings. Would I be moving across the country or staying local? Would I end up going to a bigger public school or smaller liberal arts school? My brain was full of a whirlwind of emotions and mappings of different potential four-year plans. Naturally, things only got more overwhelming as the decisions started to come in and I saw rejections from some of the schools that I had dreamed about possibly attending. As the clock ticked leading up to the end of March, I felt even more worried about if I would be happy with where I ended up. Then finally, I received my final college status update from Tufts admissions upon wrapping up my last class of the day, and after taking a deep breath and opening my eyes I saw the congratulations and confetti pop up on my phone screen. I was overjoyed and for the first time in months felt calm and sincerely relieved with the waiting game being over. After running to my college counselor to break the exciting news and celebrating with my family at home, I moved into my mode of joining the Facebook admitted student pages, looking at all the exciting admissions media, and making a pros and cons list that helped me narrow down the schools I wanted to consider.
There were three primary things I considered in choosing where to commit: 1. academic flexibility and diversity of major offerings, 2. community diversity and presence of Identity-Based Resources/Centers, and 3. geographic location and convenience.At the time, I knew that I didn’t want to attend a school with a core curriculum that would restrict me from freely exploring my interests and taking classes that I was interested in so I made sure to evaluate the setup of each school’s requirements and curriculum design and score how well it aligned with my preference. Additionally, I looked into the strength of the schools’ diversity of humanities, social sciences, and language offerings with a particular eye for public health, Africana studies, and Arabic as those were topic areas I wanted to be able to study in some capacity. The next thing I considered was the community-based diversity and presence of cultural spaces, groups, and structural supports for the identities I held (including my financial aid package!) as a Black Muslim first-gen low income student. While many schools had cultural groups like a Black Students Association and Muslim Students Association, they didn’t have a cultural center or space catered to Black identifying students or a Muslim Chaplain. Lastly, I looked at the geographic location of the schools, considering whether it was in a city, suburb, or rural area and how easy it was to commute off-campus. Realistically, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy attending a school in an isolated area that didn’t have accessible transportation to reach city centers or made going off-campus to explore and get fresh air difficult.
As I visited different schools, I made it a point to ask questions that addressed the three major types of concerns I had: Are the students here competitive, and does the school breed a toxic work environment? Do you feel supported and part of the community as a Black Muslim in the Muslim Students Association? How easy is it to reach and explore the surrounding areas off- campus? Through asking these questions at student panels, in informational conversations I had with different folks, and observing the campuses myself, I was able to narrow down my list to two schools and ultimately choose Tufts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away the element of in-person visits and tours to colleges and understandably so, made it harder for students to feel out the campus atmosphere and interact with its community members. My biggest piece of advice for all the seniors out there is to take a deep breath and time to pause as you see decisions roll out and experience a whirlwind of emotions. It is okay to cry, be frustrated, and unpack all that you are feeling during this time. The noise around you as your peers hear news and families repeatedly ask about where you got in, where you want to go, what you want to do, will be overwhelming. My personal way of coping with all the pressures and questions that came my way was honestly, not revealing to my peers where I had applied or was deciding between--taking it to the extremes of not revealing my college destination until graduation day (not saying you have to do this much, haha but it definitely helped reduce my stress). And finally, the fun part, take advantage of the admitted student celebrations, programs, and sessions that you are invited to! Take the day off from school to meet current students, faculty, staff and other community members and overwhelm them with any and all questions you have! I love meeting admitted students during Jumbo Days and sharing candid opinions on the many different questions students ask me. So please don’t be shy, and happily schedule a zoom meeting with one of our Diversity Admissions Council members to get the chance to virtually interact with a current student and discern if Tufts is right for you.
Sending love and wishing you all the best during this season of your lives!