How to Ace Tuft’s Supplemental Essay | Guide & Examples, 2022-2023
College essay
resources
Create your Prompt account and get free resources to help you write strong college essays.
Create account

How to Ace Tuft’s Supplemental Essay | Guide & Examples, 2022-2023

School Supplements

How to Ace Tuft’s Supplemental Essay | Guide & Examples, 2022-2023
Brad Schiller
read

Well, this is exciting. [Sweeping music starts.] We, as college admissions essay coaches, are hereby issuing a rare great supplemental essays award to Tufts. 

Tufts’ two supplemental essay prompts are excellent springboards for setting yourself up for admissions success. Here they are:

1. Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, "Why Tufts?" (100-150 words)

2. Now we'd like to know a little more about you. Please respond to one of the following three questions. (200-250 words):

A) It’s cool to love learning. What excites your intellectual curiosity?

B) How have the environments or experiences of your upbringing – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – shaped the  person you are today?

C) Where are you on your journey of engaging with or fighting for social justice?

We’ll show you what makes these so great below the table of contents. Expect step-by-step guidance and examples that should make this process pretty easy. 

(For help with all aspects of your college application, head to our College Essay Help Center.)

Brainstorm — decide what’s most impressive to say before reading the prompts;Even though Tufts says you can be “playful” (and you can), keep the 5 Traits firmly in mind;“Why Tufts” — Your college interests + how they fit with what’s at Tufts;“Why Tufts” — examples;“One of three” question — showcase your intellectual curiosity (A), diversity of experiences (B) or Contribution & Initiative (C);“One of three” question — examples;Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to Tufs (and other schools)
Brainstorm — decide what’s most impressive to say before reading the prompts;Even though Tufts says you can be “playful” (and you can), keep the 5 Traits firmly in mind;“Why Tufts” — Your college interests + how they fit with what’s at Tufts;“Why Tufts” — examples;“One of three” question — showcase your intellectual curiosity (A), diversity of experiences (B) or Contribution & Initiative (C);“One of three” question — examples;Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to Tufs (and other schools)

    Brainstorm — decide what’s most impressive to say before reading the prompts 

    Prompt’s essay-writing method starts with figuring out what you want to say. (Then we slot that into the essay prompts that are available.)

    So what should you say on your college application? Easy. Your entire task is to show admissions officers that you will succeed in college and beyond.

    Okay, but how do you show an admissions officer you’re likely to succeed? This is also, surprisingly, not that hard: you do it by talking about your experiences that show one or more of the 5 Traits Colleges Look for in Applicants:

    • Drive (grit)
    • Initiative
    • Contribution
    • Intellectual Curiosity
    • Diversity of Experiences

    That brings us to brainstorming. Before you can begin talking about “Why Tufts” or thinking about which of the three choices is best for you, you need to write down all of your high school experiences, which is easier said than done. Brainstorm things like your:

    • Academic interests
    • Extracurricular activities and interests
    • Self-learning and independent projects you’ve undertaken
    • Work experiences and substantial domestic obligations
    • Any other skills you’ve developed or meaningful experiences you’ve had

    If you create a free Prompt account, you can develop these ideas through our brainstorming modules. 

    At the end of this process, you should have a solid idea of what experiences you’ve had that best show off one or more of the 5 Traits. The very best of these should go into your personal statement. (Re-write your personal statement if that’s not so!)

    But the “next-best” after that should find their way into these two Tufts essays. 

    Even though Tufts says you can be “playful” (and you can), keep the 5 Traits firmly in mind

    Tufts tells you to:

    Think outside the box as you answer the following questions. Take a risk and go somewhere unexpected. Be serious if the moment calls for it, but feel comfortable being playful if that suits you, too. 

    We think this is good guidance but only if you bear in mind the 5 Traits. As admissions essay coaches, we know for a certainty that every essay is graded, even the “fun” ones. 

    But we also agree with Tufts that thinking “outside the box” and going “somewhere unexpected” can pay off — we just think you need to do this “outside the box,” “unexpected” thinking in your brainstorming. 

    Take the admissions team to unusual experiences you’ve had that show off the 5 Traits — 

    • The party you threw for your grandmother
    • The time you read every Jane Austen novel in a row
    • The lengths you went to to find your neighbor’s lost cat

    Our word of caution is not to be so “playful” that you neglect to show off the reasons you’d be a strong addition to the Tufts campus.  

    “Why Tufts” — Your college interests + how they fit with what’s at Tufts

    Here is the prompt again:

    1. Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, "Why Tufts?" (100-150 words)

    Now, 150 words is quite short. So you’re not going to be waxing poetic in this answer. (Which is good!) 

    If you look at some of the examples Tufts itself provides (note, some are longer than 150 words, from the days when the word count was larger), you’ll notice that two things jump out from winning answers:

    • A tangible sense of excitement to be on the Tufts campus and
    • A sense that the writer is intellectually curious

    That’s what you want in your answer, too. 

    When a school asks “Why Us,” they’re looking for:

    • a likelihood that you’ll actually choose their school if admitted — (read our article on Demonstrated Interest for more on how powerful this can be) and also 
    • a sense that you’ll be a good fit at the school — (read our article on “Why Us” essays to get into the minds of admissions officers asking this question). 

    The short version of what this means for your essay is that you need to talk about:

    1. Your college-related interests and
    2. How they’ll be a great match for Tufts.

    As you’ll note, number 1 here is “you” and number 2 is Tufts. So start by thinking about your academic/extracurricular interests that you’d like to highlight to the admissions team. Refer to that big brainstorm we talked about above. After that, get digging for things at Tufts that match those interests. 

    If you visited the campus, consider working an anecdote into your essay — you can also have the essay center around your visit. If you look back at Tufts’ examples, you’ll see that many of the essays do this. 

    Just make sure that the aspect of the campus visit you describe relates to your intellectual curiosity — whether it’s academic or extracurricular pursuits that you’re excited about. You don’t want the experience you showcase to be about social life or amenities.

    Whether or not you visited, spend a bit of time on the Tufts website, looking at the academic departments you’d likely major in for courses you might like to take. Also, look at its official news site for anything that fits with your interests.  

    “Why Tufts” — examples

    Rather than “invent” an example, which is what we usually do in these articles, we’re going to dissect a few of Tufts’ examples, to show why they work.

    First example: 

    I spent my Tufts campus visit in a "Sociology of War and Peace" class. The discussion was rich as ideas were tossed back and forth, comparing and contrasting modern warfare in different regions and cultures.  The dialogue instantly excited me, but when the students I was sitting with invited me to come to lunch with them, to continue talking about the Middle Eastern conflict, I knew that Tufts was the kind of environment I was looking for: an open community that values dialogue, and a campus with a strong intellectual pulse, even outside of the classroom.

    About this example:

    • Word count: 96
    • Strong: Lots of specific examples that show this student’s intellectual curiosity — the fact that they’d go to this particular class, the fact that they’d continue the conversation with students (also showing contribution - that they’d add to the campus atmosphere). 
    • Weak: This example doesn’t talk with specificity about the student’s own interests — why did they pick this particular class? How does it connect to things they’ve done so far? About 50 words on their own intellectual pursuits would make them stand out even more. 

    Second example: 

    I'm not a picky person, but in the college search, I sure was. Luckily, I found Tufts, a school that checked every box.

    At Tufts, the many facets of my personality will be embraced. I can be an environmental engineer who does research in the Water: Systems, Science and Society program, takes US Foreign Policy in the Middle East, and stage-manages a musical. At Tufts, an institution that celebrates interdisciplinary learning, my diverse interests won't be met with judgmental indifference. Instead, they will be encouraged by peers who are just as enthusiastic about pretty much everything as I am.

    About this example:

    • Word count: 99
    • Strong: Shows a lot of enthusiasm for Tufts in particular (remember demonstrated interest?). 
    • Strong: The student has clearly researched lots of specifics about the programs available to them on campus.
    • Strong: The student’s own intellectual interests come out clearly as they talk about what they’d like to do on campus.
    • Weak: Like the example above, this student did have the word count to develop their own interests a little more in addition to the excellent work of showing how they’ll match what is at Tufts. Never waste an opportunity to talk about what makes you unique, exciting and a potential asset on campus!

    “One of three” question — showcase your intellectual curiosity (A), diversity of experiences (B) or Contribution & Initiative (C)

    Here is the second prompt again:

    2. Now we'd like to know a little more about you. Please respond to one of the following three questions. (200-250 words):

    A) It’s cool to love learning. What excites your intellectual curiosity?

    B) How have the environments or experiences of your upbringing – your family, home, neighborhood, or community – shaped the person you are today?

    C) Where are you on your journey of engaging with or fighting for social justice?

    Now, it’s true we don’t love the lead-in here: “we’d like to know a little more about you.” That overly-used phrase makes this essay sound lower-stakes than it is. Essays mean a lot (a lot a lot) in college admissions. 

    But, the prompts themselves are great. We love how they clearly direct you to talk about the 5 Traits

    • Choice A literally mentions intellectual curiosity.
    • Choice B is a nice springboard for showing diversity of experiences — although we’ve got a word of warning for this one below, so approach it carefully.
    • Choice C is a great setup for showing contribution combined with initiative and possibly drive (likely to be a winning combo).

    Given the work you’ve already done brainstorming your high school experiences and looking at those that best showcase one or more of the 5 Traits, you should have a strong sense of what your best material is for this essay. 

    To repeat ourselves: let your best-quality material guide your choice of topic

    Then, write a straightforward essay that recounts the experiences you’ve had showcasing one or more of the 5 Traits. Pack it with actions that you took and concrete details about how you achieved what you did.

    Word of warning on choice B: Choice B could lead you astray if you spend too much time talking about your background or environment. If you love your Nepali heritage, that’s wonderful. It will make for a great essay if you talk about how it influences what you do today, how you think differently than others, and other ways in which you display some of the 5 Traits.

    The potential problem would be to spend your essay overly focused on Nepali culture, or on the difficulties of being a first-generation immigrant, or anything else about your background, without translating what those elements mean for the kind of “person you are today,” to quote the prompt. (Hint: a person who will succeed in college and beyond!)

    “One of three” question — examples

    Choice A example — intellectual curiosity

    I love trash. Yes, trash. Well, no. Not actual trash. Rather, the idea of “trash” — I love that. And, in particular, thinking about how to reduce trash. So, you could say: the opposite of trash. I love thinking about trash, working on ways to reduce it, and exploring the technologies that allow us to recycle it.

    My interest in trash and especially recycling led me to tour our local recycling plant whenever they offered it. I went twice as a freshman. I asked so many questions and had so much prior knowledge (by my second visit, I’d been reading up on the machines our city uses and some of their issues) that I got a paid summer internship there after both freshman and sophomore year

    My interest in finding out how recycling technology works has only increased. But I’ve also developed a new interest: finding out how we, as a society, can change people’s behaviors to be more mindful of waste. I applied many of the lessons I learned in my internships to my school, where I’ve been working on a campaign to reduce our plastic waste by 50% by the end of this school year and begin a composting program.  

    Yes, I’m hoping to pursue my “trash” interests in college, majoring in engineering to further explore the tech aspects of recycling, and likely to add sociology and political science classes to start understanding the social aspects of trash better, too. 

    Notes:

    • Word count: 241.
    • This essay is all about intellectual curiosity, though it veers into initiative and maybe drive as well (which isn’t necessary; it’s fine to focus only on intellectual curiosity).
    • This essay shows that your intellectual curiosity can be about anything, even if it’s not strictly academic.
    • While the essay ends with a paragraph on pursuing the interest in college — and that can be a good idea if it works — it’s absolutely not necessary to connect your intellectual interest directly with what you’d do at Tufts. 

    Choice B example — your upbringing

    The person I am today is deeply concerned about immigrant experiences and wants to help create a country that better welcomes immigrants, translates more for them, and ensures they get necessary social services. That, and I love climbing!

    The background that helped to form this person (me) involves a family that left Nepal when I was seven. Leaving my country was hard. Arriving in second grade without being able to speak English (and without understanding how anyone could eat that bland cafeteria food) was a shock that took years to recover from. It didn’t make things easier that my parents also struggled upon arrival. Most notably, they failed to navigate the health-care system here, and my mom lost the use of her hands for almost a year from carpal tunnel syndrome due to her job. She’s since recovered, but that mostly-needless suffering exerted a toll on us. 

    Luckily, my family had a respite: climbing. My dad took me to the climbing gym every weekend. I’m now in a private league and love it. My whole family also still goes on mountain hikes at least once a month. The hills here are no Himalayas, but they connect us to the landscape and culture we all miss anyway.

    In high school, I co-founded an immigrants’ rights club and have interned for immigrants’ rights nonprofits. Finding tools to help make the immigrant experience easier for others has helped me more than anything else. 

    Notes:

    • Word count: 243
    • This essay has lots of concrete examples of diversity of experiences.
    • While this essay talks about hard subject matter (particularly the mom’s story), the focus is always on the student. What actions they’ve taken as a result of their background, from the “fun” (ie: climbing) to the “serious” (ie: activism). 
    • The framing here is good — the student starts describing who they are, which means that they can’t really spend too much time on their background. You can definitely steal this framing if it works for you. 

    Choice C example — social justice

    In terms of my journey of fighting for social justice, I’m at the very start! However, I know that the start is much better than “not yet begun,” which is where I was until recently.

    My family moved to the US from Nepal when I was seven. Leaving my country was hard. Arriving in second grade without being able to speak English was a shock that took years to recover from. On top of that, my parents also struggled. Most notably, they failed to navigate the health-care system here, and my mom lost the use of her hands for almost a year from carpal tunnel sydrome due to her job. She’s since recovered, but that mostly-needless suffering exerted a toll on us. 

    Throughout that time, though I didn’t realize it then, I suffered doubly from feeling that these situations were hopeless. But my mom had a long-time case worker at an immigration-focused nonprofit. As a freshman, I somehow summoned the courage to ask her if I could help. That was a turning point for me: I started interning at the office twice a week. I didn’t do much, but I learned a lot. 

    Since then, with support from staff at the nonprofit, I co-founded an immigrants’ rights club at school. It’s a safe space for first-generation immigrants to talk about their experiences. If club members or their parents are facing real issues (ex: carpal tunnel syndrome!), we connect them to the nonprofit. 

    Notes:

    • Word count: 245.
    • This essay is the same as the “upbringing” essay, but with greater focus on the social justice aspect. This shows: (1) you can recycle essays among schools and (2) that the prompt you choose will put different emphasis on different things - it’s up to you to make sure those things are the most compelling to admissions officers.
    • The essay shows a student who is driven, takes initiative and has a strong sense of contribution.

    Helpful info on all the “other” stuff you’ll consider as you apply to Tufs (and other schools)

    A few helpful resources for the non-supplement parts of your application:

    BTW, here’s our guidance for approaching any college supplement + here’s where you can find our guides for almost every college’s supplements

    Feeling inspired? A great place to start is at our College Essay Help Center

    More articles on Prompt.com’s admissions-boosting methods: