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How to Write the Why Tufts Essay (and the other Tufts Supplemental Essays) 2019-20

The Tufts essays have been updated for 2019-20! In this guide, we'll look at what's changed, and give you some tips for picking your prompt and brainstorming material.

Tufts University requires all applicants to write two supplemental essays, but the specific prompts you respond to depend on which Tufts program you’re applying to.

Remember, the Tufts writing supplement official page advises 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." To deliver on these essays, you'll need to dig deep and be true to yourself!

Let’s start by looking at the prompts for the Tufts supplemental essays you'll have to write if you are applying to the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, or the 5-Year Tufts/NEC Combined Degree

Applicants to the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and 5-Year Tufts/NEC Combined Degree answer the following two questions:

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

In this short essay, you'll need to convey two things: why Tufts and why you at Tufts, linking up your unique goals and motivations with unique resources at the school. Specificity is your friend! With just 150 words, you can't waste space on "prestige," "academic rigor," or anything that you could say about any school.

  • If you visited the campus: consider starting with an aspect of your experience that you can explicitly connect to your own goals and motivations. For example, if you are devoted to advancing women in STEM, you might talk about how encouraging it was to interview with female faculty members. Or if you value lively intellectual engagement, you might describe how you felt at home participating in a class discussion on an esoteric topic.
  • If you didn't visit campus: spend some time on the Tufts Website. Take notes on everything that interests you, especially if you can connect it to who you are and what you need. For example, if you are a visual artist who is also fascinated by physics, you might talk about an art exhibit put on by a Tufts faculty member who splits his time between the School of Medicine and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

For inspiration, you can even check out sample Why Tufts essays on the Tufts site. (Note: some of these example essays were written to higher word counts. This year, focus on the shorter essays!)


Applicants to Arts and Sciences, Engineering and the NEC Combined Degree get to choose between three prompts for the second short essay. Let’s explore how to pick the prompt that’s best for you!

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) From recognizing break dancing as a new Olympic sport, to representation in media, to issues of accessibility in our public transit systems, what is something that you can talk about endlessly? What do you care about and why?

Pick this prompt if: there's something that you care deeply about and are already advocating for in your everyday life. (Remember, advocacy doesn't have to be official! If you're trying to change the minds of friends and family members, that counts!) While this prompt says to pick a topic that you can "talk about endlessly," note that all the examples involve issues where it is possible to hold a strong opinion, and push for change. So if you can talk about Harry Potter for hours on end, rather than just expounding on why you love the books, you might make a case for why they should be taught in schools.

  • Tip: While no topic is too small, some topics might be too large. Instead of writing about "climate change," try to focus in on a more specific issue, like the need to pass a particular emissions bill in your home state.

B) Whether you've built blanket forts or circuit boards, created slam poetry or mixed media installations, tell us: What have you invented, engineered, produced, or designed? Or what do you hope to?

Pick this prompt if: you love creating things or expressing yourself through art/writing/music/film. You don’t necessarily have to attend Maker Faires to love creating things. Whatever your creative arena/area/activity, show readers how your creations reflect who you are. What experiences have inspired you? What have you learned from the creation process? What do you hope to achieve through your tinkering/designing/producing?

  • Tip: If you decide to write about future plans, make sure still to connect them to specific experiences you’ve had.

C) We all have a story to tell. And with over 5,000 undergraduate students on our campus, that is over 5,000 stories to share and learn. What’s yours? 

Pick this prompt if: you were one of those applicants that had a hard time choosing between Common or Coalition application personal statement topics. This is a great opportunity to explore a key aspect of your background or an important incident that you didn't get to cover in your main essay. For example, if your main essay was centered around a learning experience that you had running lights for the school play, you could use this prompt to address your background as an adoptee.

  • Tip: Don't think of this prompt as an invitation to tell your entire story. You don't have the room! Instead, focus on just one important aspect of who you are (or two aspects if you can show the reader how they intersect!)

If you are applying to the BFA or 5-Year BFA+BA/BS Combined Degree at the SMFA at Tufts, there’s no choice of prompts, so let’s look at what to focus on with each prompt so that your two responses complement each other well.

Applicants to the BFA or 5-Year BFA+BA/BS Combined Degree at the SMFA at Tufts answer the following two questions:

1. Which aspects of the Tufts curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? Why SMFA at Tufts? (200-250 words)

This prompt is very similar to the prompt for the other Why Tufts essay. However, you’ll also need to specifically address the SMFA program. Since SMFA is big on art that’s big on ideas, you might try this approach: Brainstorm ways your artistic and intellectual interests intersect. Are there some specific projects for which you’ve combined these different areas of interest? Next, identify specific aspects of the Tufts/SMFA Combined Degree program that will help you explore those intersections. For example, if you use graphic design to call attention to issues that you care about, you might mention the studio course in Socially Engaged Art.


2. Art has the power to disrupt our preconceptions, shape public discourse, and imagine new ways of being in the world. Whether you think of Ai Weiwei’s work reframing the refugee crisis, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s portraits of the Obamas reimagining portrait painting on a national scale, or Yayoi Kusama’s fanciful Infinity Mirrors rekindling our sense of wonder, it is clear that contemporary art is driven by ideas. What are the ideas you’d like to explore in your work? (200-250 words)

The previous prompt lets you show your commitment to an education that bridges disciplines. Here, you have the opportunity to highlight specific ideas that you’re passionate about expressing through art. Try not to get too philosophical about the ideas themselves here, but instead show how these ideas have grown from your unique experiences and perspective. Here’s an idea: Think about a favorite piece of art you’ve created. Brainstorm/freewrite about the story behind it. What inspired you to make it? What were you trying to say with it? Even if you’re not sure about that, what does it say to you when you look at it now? Next, look to the future and explore how these ideas might influence your choices and your artistic and academic pursuits at college and beyond.


To encourage playful, out-of-the-box thinking with your Why Tufts essay and your other Tufts supplemental essay, really spend some time brainstorming and let your imagination run wild! By surprising yourself with the material you come up with, you’ll be more likely to write a response that “goes somewhere unexpected” and stands out to readers. Although your Common App personal statement may be more on the serious side, in these essays feel free to let the playful side of your personality shine through and show readers how you’ll make a vibrant addition to the Tufts community.


Click here for our guide to the Common App essay

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