Road Trip: "Aha! Moments" at Tufts University

Just five miles or 15 minutes from Boston and a 5 minute “T” ride from Cambridge, Tufts’ feel is more urban than college town. With slightly over half of the ~10,000 students undergrads on 150 acres of campus, students can make their experience as urban or as suburban as they choose.

While visiting Tufts, academic engagement was front and center — in the tour guide’s remarks, the info session, the brochures’ emphasis. So, Aha! “At Tufts it is cool to be smart,” wasn’t a surprise to read in Greetings From the Dean. Flipping through that brochure, the vast majority of pages dealt with impressive academic pursuits of multiple students. Our tour guide, importantly, put into context how Tufts bends to students’ academic interests.

Our guide transferred from the School of Arts & Sciences to Engineering and studied away at Claremont McKenna University remains on track to graduate in four years.  He “had to go the extra mile” with emails and visits to professors, to make the transfer happen after his first semester and his study away was “on his own initiative” (you won’t find a study away program on Tuft’s website).  Both experiences reflect Tufts’ flexibility to respond to students’ academic interests and he was able to make it happen.  

Roughly 80% of Tufts’ student body is in A&S and 20% in the School of Engineering.  Tufts, this year acquired the School of Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) in Boston where students can receive a BFA, which combines liberal arts from Tufts with two years of studio arts at SMFA.  Tufts continues to have a highly selective 5-year combined degree program with the New England Conservatory — the first two years are at NE Conservatory before taking more classes at Tufts.  Tufts has several 5-year programs including guarantee veterinary, dental, medical schools and others that they “don’t advertise” as they are small programs. My sense is that at Tufts when you demonstrate your interest and go after opportunities, Tufts responds. 

A few more academic notes: (1) the most popular majors are international relations, economics, biology (2) a senior thesis is not required, but seems to be prevalent and undergraduate research as a whole is extensive. Note: Paul Allen has this year contributed $10 million to study the life sciences — professor Michael Levin will lead the Allen Discovery Center, and typically 50% of Levin’s research students are undergraduates. (3) a Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) opens in 2017 where lab space accommodates cross-functional research themes that researchers across different departments will share. (4) taking classes at Tufts’ Fletcher School, a leading graduate school of international affairs, is dependent on space availability and requires petitioning (read: unlikely) but the school draws a good number guest speakers that interested undergrad students may attend. (5) by the way, professors, as well as TAs, hold office hours and they appear to be attended regularly.

Given Tufts’ focus on the arts, it is not surprising that there are theater or dance performances every weekend, and that the tickets sell out.  Though Tufts would not be considered a sports campus, there are roughly 500 varsity athletes and the university is very competitive in the D3 NESCAC league. Tufts is “not a big party school” and according to our guide’s experience, was unlike Claremont MeKenna in that category.

Consider Tufts if you are serious about academics and want an environment where your peers are as well.  Tufts is a particularly good fit if you enjoy the arts, international affairs, research, and are proactive in seeking a mix of academic interests.