This, I remember clearly:
It was a warm afternoon, in a cluttered classroom back in my high school in Singapore. A few alumni were back to share their experiences studying in the U.S., and I was passing brochures down the row. Next to me, was this girl wearing denim shorts, flip flops and the most easy-going and warm vibe.
We got talking, and I found out that she was doing this thing called “Peace Studies”, in a school on a hill, where “lots of cool stuff goes on every day”.
That was over a year ago. Between then and now, I also met this tall, tough-looking dude at a college fair, who couldn’t stop talking and smiling about his school, and summed it up by saying, “Tufts really has a lot of heart”.
Between then and now, there was an admissions talk, during which the admissions officer was refreshingly honest, quirky and funny. Dan Grayson (WHO IS AWESOME) evidently oozed a genuine love for applicants, and an appreciation for how much each individual’s context matters. Throughout the two hours, he didn’t even try to “sell” Tufts, and refused to provide any rankings.
Between then and now, I devoured the entirety of both admissions blogs within a few days, two weeks before exams.
Between then and now, I secretly added “Tufts University (Class of 2018)” to my Facebook profile, making it visible only to me.
I’m not sure when exactly I realized that Tufts was the school I wanted – no, needed – to be at. But what I do know is that all too soon, there was a girl camped underneath her blanket in the dark, reading on her computer at 3am.
She fought hard to stop herself from sighing, jumping up and down, or bursting out laughing (thus awaking her three roommates) … as she learned about a beloved waffle-maker, Muggle Quidditch adventures, Jumbo’s ashes (in a peanut butter jar), “The Phenomenon of Hope”, a dance concert by anyone who wants to dance, the absolute coolness of International Literary and Visual Studies, an all-Disney a capella group …
Tufts may not have been my first love, but after a series of chance encounters – and seeing it extend a bear hug instead of a formal handshake every time – I knew this was where I wanted to call home for the next four years.
Because what are the odds of stumbling upon a school that takes you in because of who you are as a human being, instead of what you’ve done? That makes you smile first thing in the morning, as you open up your inbox or check the crazy Class of 2018 Facebook group, with all its warmth and infectious enthusiasm? That literally opens up a world of opportunities, with Jumbos bringing stories from all over to campus? That pushes you to love what you learn, question what you know, and think hard about the issues around you and beyond? That will hold your hand through tough times, but challenge you to find your voice and articulate who you are? That is big enough to live out a motto like “Pax et Lux”, yet humble enough to celebrate Jumbos as unique individuals, trying to make the world a little bit better, one baby step at a time?
What are the odds of finding a community that you can fall in love with so easily … that will love you right back, even more fiercely?
I wish I’d known this when I was drowning in my college search: That the simple stuff like kindness and heart? That's what really matters.
In retrospect, I believe that choosing a school is about figuring out what kind of community you want to immerse yourself in. Because seriously, the people around you make a world of a difference, in shaping who you learn and grow to become.
For me, it’s about finding a community full of individuals who can explore together with you, teach you about how they see the world, celebrate your unique perspective, share all the great and not-so-great moments of college, and push you to become a better human being.
And I feel insanely lucky and incredibly grateful, to have found just that.
For all the RD admits out there, some of you guys may be feeling pretty torn right now – between different schools, between different paths to take, between what you want and what others expect of you. Go ahead, talk to people from every community you’re considering, visit campus (if you can) to get a better feel of the vibe, and discuss your options with family and friends, to get constructive advice and different perspectives.
But then again, perhaps you secretly have it figured out already; you just don’t know it yet. Perhaps somewhere deep inside of you, you know where it is that you can imagine yourself for the next four years, where you can develop into the best you you could be. Where you’ll be happy.
But no matter where you end up, I wish you every best in your journey ahead. Because home is where the heart is, and that answer lies in you.
(This post has gotten way too long, I know, but I thought I’d share a simple video I put together – my take on “Why Tufts?” Enjoy!)