When I was touring colleges, I remember getting to a point where each college sounded exactly the same. Every college I visited was fairly selective; they all flaunted their accessible professors with great research opportunities, their 300+ clubs and student organizations, their students’ ability to build their own club or major, etc. Eventually, I started wondering how I could possibly choose the “right” school, or if there even was a “right” school, when all of the schools seemed so similar (with the exception of location and size of the student population).
My answer ended up being that the way to choose a school was through evaluating two things: the people and the campus traditions.
For me, Tufts’ students were different from other college’s students. I knew that I really liked the intellectually curious, social justice-oriented, and quirky community at Tufts, and I saw myself fitting in here. I had the advantage of knowing many Tufts students, because my brother came to Tufts before me, and I had met all of his friends. In fact, I even wrote my "Why Tufts?" essay about a specific meal I enjoyed with my brother’s friends in Dewick dining hall.
The second biggest thing I looked for in a school was traditions or campus rituals. I think that these are really important because they show campus unity. I loved Tufts’ cannon painting tradition (pictured above). For those of you who don’t know, any student group can paint the cannon to promote a performance or game, celebrate a holiday, advocate for a political candidate, propose to their significant other, etc. On warm nights, there have been times when multiple groups have come to paint the cannon, but the tradition is that whoever gets there first gets to paint it and then has to stay all night to protect it, or else another group can paint over the design on the same night.
I really like this tradition because it reflects a fun campus culture in which students come together as a community with their organizations. It is also so cool to see all of the different cannon designs every time I walk by it. We have other traditions as well, like the candle lighting ceremony on the first and last nights of college, but I think that the cannon is the most unique tradition I heard when touring schools, and I am super excited to get to paint the cannon for the first time this weekend!
So ultimately, what is the “right” choice? The answer is, there isn’t one. I truly believe that you can find your niche anywhere, but I do understand that it feels like you need to choose the "right" college. My Emma’s advice is to narrow your schools down with your logistical priorities like student population size and location, and then once you have a handful of schools that fit with your priorities, start focusing on what makes the schools different—the people and the traditions!