Applying to Tufts? Here are this year’s supplemental essay prompts for Tufts University.
1. Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short: “Why Tufts?” (50–100 words)
TIP: This is the most common type of supplemental essay prompt universities will ask of their applicants. What’s challenging about the Why Tuft’s supplemental essay is the word limit. You have to be very concise about what you like about the school. Whether it’s about a specific academic program or campus culture, use concrete examples to demonstrate how you feel and how much you know about the school.
2. There is a Quaker saying: “Let your life speak.” Describe the environment in which you were raised – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – and how it influenced the person you are today. (200–250 words)
TIP: This essay prompt is wants to know more about your community. Whether it’s the physical location or your support group, how did that help you grow? Were there any restrictions or limitations that triggered you to initiate a movement? Or that forced you to venture out? Again, going back to the 5 big supplemental essay tips, it’s important for you to keep in mind the bigger picture. If you have a few different ideas on how to respond to this prompt, choose the one that you have yet to elaborate on in your application.
3. Now we’d like to know a little bit more about you. Please respond to one of the following six questions (200-250 words). Students applying to the School of Arts and Sciences or the School of Engineering should select from prompts A-E. Students applying to the SMFA at Tufts’ BFA program or the Five-Year BFA + BA/BS Combined Degree program must answer prompt F:
A. It’s cool to be smart. Tell us about the subjects or ideas that excite your intellectual curiosity.
TIP: If you talked about a specific academic program in the “Why Tufts” supplemental essay, then this would be a good area for you to elaborate on why you are interested in this field of study. How long have you been interested in it? Did you have a role model or someone that got you interested in this field? How have you taken an initiative in high school to follow these interests?
B. In a time when we’re always plugged in (and sometimes tuned out), tell us about a time when you listened, truly listened, to a person or a cause. How did that moment change you?
TIP: This reminds me of an old Common App essay prompt: a moment that changed you. This can be a challenging prompt, so if nothing immediately jumps out at you when you first read the prompt, I’d recommend you choose another.
If you do want to choose this prompt, perhaps it’s easier to brainstorm based on a person or a cause you care about. Why was that conversation important to you? Did it change your perspective? If not, were you able to empathize with the other person.
If you were heavily involved in volunteering, this would be a good prompt to launch into your dedication to the organizations you were part of. Recall any little conversations with people you worked with or for, and how that renewed your dedication.
C. Celebrate the role of sports in your life.
TIP: The perfect prompt for all those student athletes out there! Sports and training is a commitment during high school. You have to set aside so much time to train and compete that it may have defined your high school career. What did you learn from being an athlete? How did it translate to your life outside of sports?
Remember, this prompt isn’t just student athletes. If you’re interested in sports, you can also utilize this essay prompt to demonstrate your varied interests. This might even be an important prompt for students who didn’t play sports in high school, but enjoyed it as a hobby. How are sports important to you as an interest?
D. Whether you’ve built blanket forts or circuit boards, produced community theater or mixed media art installations, tell us: what have you invented, engineered, created, or designed? Or what do you hope to?
TIP: If you did any independent project inside or outside of school, this will be a great place to elaborate on your project. Or perhaps something you worked on over the summer! The point is to demonstrate your creative thinking, building ability and entrepreneurial spirit. Even if the project was unsuccessful, share the thought process and experience of the project. What happened, and what could you have done differently?
E. What makes you happy? Why?
TIP: This seems so straightforward, but it is secretly a tough supplemental essay prompt to respond to. It is very open ended and you can talk about anything you want. It also requires a lot of reflection on yourself. Whatever you do choose to write about, make sure you’re able to provide insight into what you value. That’s the true point of the essay: to get an intimate glimpse of who you are.
F. Artist Bruce Nauman once said: “One of the factors that still keeps me in the studio is that every so often I have to more or less start all over.” Everyone deals with failure differently; for most artists failure is an opportunity to start something new. Tell us about a time when you have failed and how that has influenced your art practice.
TIP: This is specific to students applying to the SMFA at Tufts’ BFA program or the Five-Year BFA + BA/BS Combined Degree program. This is a very common application essay question, but don’t take it lightly. While it’s easy recount a time you have failed, it’s not always so easy to let readers in on your thought process and emotional journey.
The failure experience is important, but it’s only to help you frame your essay. The focal point of your response is how it influenced in. What did you learn from what? What did you do differently? Were you surprised you failed? Did you take a different direction or did you embrace it into your future work? It’s helpful to write out the full experience and then cut and edit by drawing out the emotions and insight you had from the experience you had.
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Hope this was helpful to students applying to Tufts University this fall! Here are more general tips on writing the supplemental essays. For supplemental essay examples, you can now search by supplemental essay topics on our search page. Or, you can check out our curated packages to find what you’re looking! For further access, upgrade to our premium plans offer different levels of profile access and data insights that can help you get into your dream school.
About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.
Writing college applications can be fun. Stop laughing.
Think about it: in the next few months, we are asking you to write about only things that you already love! That can be fun! Here’s the thing: “fun” doesn’t mean “easy.” It can be very tricky to write a combination of essays (for Tufts it’s four, including the supplement and the Common App’s Personal Statement) that you feel describe you perfectly and authentically. These essays need to be informative, concise, and written totally in your 17-year-old voice. That’s hard. So every year my colleagues and I collect a handful of essays written by last year’s applicants that worked really well (meaning they’re now Jumbos) and we publish them on our site for you to read! We then choose a few and talk about why they worked so well. Here are the resulting videos. Watch and learn, my friends:
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Shaan Merchant '19
Common App Essay
“Biogeochemical. It's a word, I promise!” There are shrieks and shouts in protest and support. Unacceptable insults are thrown, degrees and qualifications are questioned, I think even a piece of my grandmother's famously flakey parantha whizzes past my ear. Everyone is too lazy to take out a dictionary (or even their phones) to look it up, so we just hash it out. And then, I am crowned the victor, a true success in the Merchant household. But it is fleeting, as the small, glossy, plastic tiles, perfectly connected to form my winning word, are snatched out from under me and thrown in a pile with all the disgraced, “unwinning” tiles as we mix for our next game of Bananagrams. It's a similar donnybrook, this time ending with my father arguing that it is okay to use “Rambo” as a word (it totally is not).
Words and communicating have always been of tremendous importance in my life: from silly games like Bananagrams and our road-trip favorite “word game,” to stunted communication between opposing grandparents, each speaking a different Indian language; from trying to understand the cheesemonger behind the counter with a deep southern drawl (I just want some Camembert!), to shaping a script to make people laugh.
Words are moving and changing; they have influence and substance. Words, as I like them, create powerful flavor combinations in a recipe or (hopefully) powerful guffaws from a stand-up joke. They make people laugh with unexpected storylines at an improv show and make people cry with mouthwatering descriptions of crisp green beans lathered with potently salty and delightfully creamy fish sauce vinaigrette at Girl and the Goat. Words create everything I love (except maybe my dog and my mom, but you know, the ideas). The thought that something this small, a word, can combine to create a huge concept, just like each small reaction that makes up different biogeochemical cycles (it's a stretch, I know), is truly amazing.
After those aggressive games, my family is quickly able to, in the words of a fellow Nashvillian, “shake it off.” We gather around bowls of my grandmother's steaming rice and cumin-spiced chicken (food is always, always at the center of it), and enjoy. By the end of the meal, our words have changed, changed from the belligerent razzle dazzle of moments before to fart jokes and grandparental concern over the state of our bowels.
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Ray Parker '19
Let Your Life Speak
All my life I have been surrounded by science, filled with science, covered in science. I grew up with an electron microscope in the house, a holography lab and darkroom in the basement, and a cleanroom next door. While my friends were playing in sandboxes I was playing with dry ice in the sink. It is not impossible that I may have been influenced by this. I grew up with an interesting mix of science and art, which comes from my parents. My mother is a photographer and holographer, as well as an optical engineer; my father is an entrepreneur and the creator of the plasma ball light sculpture. They embrace both science and art and have taught me to embrace both as well. When I was young my mother taught me how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and at about the same time my father introduced me to BASIC programming. This laid the seeds for nearly everything that has come after. I kept much of my childlike creativity, and infused it with technology. Nearly all of my school projects have had an extra element that made them much more interesting; a book project on Cities in Flight was a magnetically levitating model of a city, a tectonic map project became a Blender animation, an English class final project was a trio of holograms.
My family has taught me to do interesting things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, and fun.
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Evana Wilson '19
Let Your Life Speak
After a long day of school, a strenuous practice, and a long ride home on SEPTA, I walk into a noisy house. Balls flying, TV loud, dogs barking, food cooking. A two-bedroom house with seven occupants. My mother in the kitchen cooking; the dining room table cluttered with paper. The living room is filled with animals and a few humans. I go upstairs and the bathroom is occupied while the children play in the bedroom I am designated to sleep in. My younger brother runs in and out of my mom's room sneakily playing the Playstation, although no one is patrolling. Where in this two story house can I do my homework? The basement? I like to have spider web-free hair. The bathroom? Occupied. My bedroom? Occupied. My mom's room? Inconsistently occupied. The closet? The closet!
On roughly a 6-foot by 4-foot shelf I sit with my books and papers spread out in front of me. Garments hanging from above and footwear resting below. Trying to ignore the clamor around me, I indulge in my homework. The most peaceful place in the house, although it is quite uncomfortable. No one notices I'm gone so they don't bother to look for me-except for the cat. I successfully avoid all humans, but when the cat prances in and finds me he stops at the doorway and stares. I stole his hiding place.
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Celeste Teng '19
Tufts' ILVS major drew me instantly. I wanted to explore both film and literature as vehicles of social and cultural significance, to discuss the parallels of transnationalism in cinema and literature, to compare the auteur theory across cultures and media; I'd already noticed common threads of cynicism and anti-establishment sentiments that influenced this generation of Singaporean writers and filmmakers, and I found this intersection a rich, fascinating one. The ILVS is uniquely Tufts; the fact that this major exists at all speaks volumes - this is a community that embraces diversity, and uses it to enrich the way students learn.
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Tessa Garces '19
Celebrate the Role of Sports in Your Life
My first vivid memory of swim practice is of being yanked by the ankles from underneath the kitchen table, my nails scratching against the wood floor and my screams loud enough to elicit the neighbors' concern.
Clearly, I hadn't “gotten” swimming yet. As a first grader, I simply couldn't understand how shoving my hair into a cap, wearing goggles that almost pressed my eyes out of their sockets, and flailing my limbs in freezing liquid for an hour could possibly be worth my while.
However, as I came to understand the mechanics and elegance of the sport, my attitude started to change. It really changed in 4th grade, when I began to win races. The little gold medals gave me a confidence that was addicting. More than that, they motivated me to cultivate good habits before I learned that discipline, daily practice, and just being part of a team are rewards in and of themselves.
Swimming has definitely influenced the way I move through the world. To avoid head-on collisions with lane mates, swimmers are taught from the beginning to always stay to the right of the lane, called circle swimming. Sometimes I feel as though I “circle-live”-walking on the right, driving on the right (naturally), even sleeping on the right. Yet, thinking of how focused and alive I feel after swimming, I think it's more accurate to say that my time in the pool keeps me centered.