Josh - Tufts University - Class of 2017

student photo

Your comfort level on a campus is one of the most important factors in deciding whether or not to apply to a school.

When I started looking into colleges in my sophomore year, I went with what I thought was most important—a college's name, ranking, and prestige. But when I began to visit campuses, my idea of what I wanted in a school drastically changed.

Hometown: Orange Village OH

High School: Public

GPA: 3.71 / 4.17 (weighted)

ACT: 31

Major: Biology

Goal: Prepare for medical school and pursue my interests in music, theater, French, and creative writing

College

Status

Tufts University (ED)Attending
Boston CollegeWithdrawn
Cornell UniversityWithdrawn
Emory UniversityWithdrawn
New York UniversityAccepted
The Ohio State UniversityAccepted
Tulane UniversityAccepted
University of Chicago (EA)Withdrawn
University of Michigan (EA)Accepted
University of PittsburghAccepted
Washington University in St. LouisWithdrawn
Freshman Year Update

I grew up in a small suburb of Cleveland, and everything at Tufts is so different—the people, the weather, the amount of things to do. The best part is choosing what you want to learn. For me, that's chemistry, psychology, and orchestral music. The people you meet are the other great part. So many times I've said, "Wow, I never would have guessed that!" about someone in my dorm or a professor. I met a mechanical engineer who is also a defensive lineman for the football team, a punk rocker who is dedicated to helping the environment, and a student who is the CEO of two companies.

Managing your life can be complicated and overwhelming, so it's important to keep to a schedule. And don't spend three hours playing XBOX with your friends. Before you know it, it will be 2 a.m., and you'll still have two chapters to read!

Sophomore Year Update

Tufts isn't a perfect school (no college is), but it's perfect for me so far. It definitely has its quirks (both good and bad), but the initial spark that drew me here hasn't disappeared.

I am still on the premed track, but I changed my major from biology to clinical psychology. I discovered that I have a deep fascination for the human mind, and that I want to connect with patients using compassion and empathic understanding as well as science.

Outside of class, I play trumpet with the Tufts Symphony, work with Tufts Youth Philharmonic, volunteer in a pediatric emergency room, and am active in my fraternity. Striking a balance between work and play was a major accomplishment for me.

If my GPA fits, so will I

When I pictured colleges in my mind, they all looked relatively the same: I saw big, rural campuses filled with students wearing the university's apparel and having similar intentions and interests. I formed my list of schools based on name and ranking, and on how well my academics and scores matched a college's entering class profile. My top choice was Cornell University. From what I had read, it seemed like the ideal college for me. It had a beautiful campus, and my family and I were impressed by its renowned academics. My counselor and I both felt that my grades and test scores were strong enough to be considered.

But when I visited Cornell, something didn't feel right. The campus was beautiful, the students were exceptional, but I felt sort of isolated, being five or six hours away from the two largest cities in upstate New York. I realized I needed to pay attention to how I felt on campus as opposed to only rankings. Luckily, I planned to visit colleges in the Boston area, and a family friend suggested I visit Tufts, which I hadn't heard of. I figured spending an hour or two at Tufts couldn't hurt.

Tufts feels like home

It turns out two hours at Tufts was all I needed. It had everything I knew I wanted: strong academics, a small student-to-faculty ratio, a solid ranking, and a good relationship with graduate schools nationwide. But it also had things I didn't know I wanted at first: close proximity to a city, a rural campus feel, good food—and an outrageously friendly student body. The students were interesting, quirky, diverse, and multilingual—and they all loved Tufts. When that campus mentality rubbed off on me, there was no turning back.

The clincher was a campus demonstration by the student groups Students for Justice in Palestine and Friends of Israel. They spoke, debated, and praised their nations, and then walked off together for lunch, engaged in friendly conversation. Although Tufts students may hold different views, they are bound by community and camaraderie. It was then I knew I had found home. I applied under binding Early Decision.

When I was accepted ED, I felt like the luckiest person alive. I immediately withdrew my applications to every other college I was still waiting to hear from. I was finished—and beyond excited to attend the dream school I never knew existed.

My ups and downs

I hit an all-time low when I received poor scores on the PSAT. I started receiving college recommendations from the College Board based on my PSAT scores, and they weren't nearly on the same par as the colleges I was interested in. I became incredibly discouraged and worried constantly about the upcoming ACT. After months of tutoring sessions and practice tests, I took the ACT and was elated with my score. It was a relief to know that I could start seriously looking into colleges that interested me.

What I learned

At first, I should not have solely relied on how well my academics and scores matched the entering class profile of a college. This is important, but if college admissions were entirely based upon numbers, then there would be no reason to write essays, have interviews, or even have college visits. Schools want people to fit the dynamic they're trying to foster on campus, not just people who have perfect GPAs and standardized test scores.

The money factor

I intend to pay for college with family savings and student loans.

My advice

Your comfort level on a campus is one of the most important factors in deciding whether or not to apply to a school. On every campus you're going to find people with different interests and mentalities, but each college also has a unique personality of its own. If you can, visit campuses and see if you can get a feel for the student culture and envision yourself as a student walking around.

Also, you can follow family traditions, or attend a school simply for its pedigree, but if the only amazing thing you can list about a school is its name, then it's not the right place for you.