Tufts Essay Let Your Life Speak

Essay Questions

The Tufts Writing Supplement

When you visit the Common Application or the Coalition Application website to fill out and submit your application to Tufts, you'll notice that the application includes a writing supplement. The Tufts writing supplement consists of three required short response questions. We’ve created this page to allow you to peruse the questions without having to leave this site. Visit the Common Application site or the Coalition Application site when you’re actually ready to apply online.

Short Responses for the Class of 2022 (Required of all Applicants)

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. 

1. Which aspects of Tufts’ curriculum or undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short: “Why Tufts?” (50–100 words) 

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) 

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.

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?

C) Celebrate the role of sports in your life. 

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?

E) What makes you happy? Why?

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.   

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Let Your Life Speak

Looking for examples of past college essays that worked? These are some admissions essays that our officers thought were most successful from last year.


Amir Abdunuru Rwegarulira '20
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I grew up knowing exactly what it felt like to have parents everywhere. Of course, my biological parents - a retired social worker and an economist - had nothing omnipresent about them, it's just that in my immediate neighborhood, every adult automatically became my parent. This ideology was based on a Swahili saying “mkono mmoja hauuguzi mtoto” meaning one hand cannot nurse a child. I learned to respect neighbors the way I do relatives. There were no wedding invitations or funeral ceremonies that one could excuse oneself from attending. Everything was done with the welfare of the community as a whole in mind. As children we could not pass by a woman carrying a bucket of water without helping her, and adults would take the liberty of escorting us all the way home if we were returning late from school. Regardless of age or gender, there was an intangible sense of obligation that unified everyone and its importance was deeply instilled in me from a young age.

My life is still speaking; as I scale the ladder in education, sports and personal life. I continue to see the world through the lenses created by my community and treating everyone I encounter as part of it. Whether it is a primary school student struggling to finish his homework or a friend grieving over a lost loved one, I know that I am responsible not just for my own self but also for the people around me.

Sacdio Ali ’21
Jamaica Plain, MA

When I was in second grade, I wished my mom could talk to my teachers like the other parents did. Instead, I had to translate from English to Somali so that my mom could understand what was going on. Since my parents never went to school and I am the oldest of my siblings, I was used to this: if I went home, I had to be my own homework help, so I often stayed late at school to get help from my teachers. I was sad to see my friends working at home with their parents because I couldn't do that with my mom. I wanted to be them so badly--but even more, I wanted that for my siblings. I managed to do well in school thanks to my mother's constant encouragement, but I promised myself that I would never let my siblings feel sad that they couldn't come home for help. When my siblings were growing up, I read to them. Before they started school, I taught them how to read and do simple math. With time, they looked up to me for guidance and any help they needed outside of school. The strong connection I developed with my siblings helped me realize how much I enjoy working with children. I started helping other students like my classmates, which inspired me to become a school counselor so that I can explore how the environment and people around a child can influence his or her life.

Emma Tombaugh ’21
Oradell, NJ

Dinnertime  in the Tombaugh household is seldom dull. I sit down, never knowing what topic will be introduced that night. When the standard chatter subsides, and the last bits of food are being plucked off the plates, any innocent query can launch itself into a lengthy scientific discussion. Why does my dad's watch have a ratcheting bezel around the edge? I'm plunged into a lesson on why decompression stops are necessary for scuba divers. (Nitrogen bubbles in the blood vessels...Who knew?). Evidence for the theory of evolution is presented as neatly as the silverware next to my plate. I now know more than I ever thought I would about mimicry in animals and antipredator adaptation. The justifications for the demotion of Pluto (our favorite planet, discovered by Clyde Tombaugh) are hotly contested. Scientific and mathematical concepts are explored, debated, and questioned. How does one classically condition mice? Let me count the ways. Together, we marvel at the sheer enormity of the universe and in an instant might be awestruck by the small size of a single cell. Conversations like these feed my insatiable appetite for learning. I regard the world around me with inquisitive eyes; there is always something new to discover. Scientific phenomena exist to be doubted and scrutinized. In cultivating these investigations, my family has stimulated me to be curious and engaged. Never satisfied with the facts that are placed in front of me, I am constantly on the lookout for the hows, the whys, and the what-ifs.

Looking for more insider tips on the admissions process? We can help! The admissions officers blog about every aspect of applying to college here!

Joe Hyatt ’21
Nashua, NH

Five years ago, I became the member of a new community, a community of siblings. I was an only child for over twelve years. Life was great-  I had my parents' undivided attention and no one stealing my toys. Then my world changed dramatically. Our family was blessed with three baby girls.  I went from being the center of the universe ,to one of Pluto's moons. My life of order spiraled into disorder.  "Me time" became "story time."  Now I'm in high school with three baby sisters. They cry at my basketball games when the buzzer blares, escape onto the court during volleyball warm-ups, but melt my heart nonetheless. Plenty of my friends have younger siblings, but none are babies. While my friends were teaching their siblings how to skateboard and throw a fastball, I was changing diapers and rocking babies so my mom could shower. While buddies were helping their sisters with homework, I was feeding mine oatmeal in their high-chairs so my dad could grill.   My sisters are finally old enough that I can teach them to shoot a basketball and skip and to create snowflakes from popsicle sticks and sparkles.  I can now explain simple math on their fingers and perform science experiments with a coke can and a flame. Above all, I now also understand the meaning of the phrase "herding cats."  My new micro-community has turned my world upside down, changing me forever.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Celina Vidal ’21
Larkspur, CA

From age three until nine I attended a Waldorf school, or as I affectionately refer to it, the "school of fairies and gnomes". While my high school classmates spent their childhoods decorating coloring books and watching cartoons, I crocheted a poncho, played the violin, and learned a type of rhythmic dance that allowed me to spell words with my body. As archaic and unproductive as these activities might sound, I am eternally grateful for the person I have become due to my lack of media exposure and excess of wooden toys throughout my youth. Primarily, I developed in an environment where I had the opportunity to test my creative outlets. This innovative drive has continued to fuel my academic experience through high school, and I constantly find myself searching for interactive ways to obtain knowledge rather than turning to textbooks. Also, in a society overrun with technology, having the prior knowledge of detachment allows me to observe my surroundings, not my phone screen, and inspires me to explore my community. Fond memories of third grade nature days in which we gained a basic knowledge of botany established my lasting appreciation for the outdoors. Finally, having a safe place to believe in fairy tales for so long preserved an innocence in me that guides me through our often disturbing world. As I continue to inquire and create during my college experience, I hope my Waldorf background will help me imagine new discoveries and inventions no matter how fantastical they may seem.

William Wilson ’21
Lewiston, ID

I grew up in a town whose one traffic light only flashed yellow, there were more churches than gas stations, and the nearest clothing store was a thirty minute drive along a dusty road. Despite the barren land of the prairie, I kept busy by helping with chores around my household, serving pancakes as a cub scout at Lions Club feeds, and volunteering at the library to help my fellow peers with homework. My parents were both dynamic members of the city council in my home town. My mother worked as a courthouse clerk, my father was the mayor, and both were leaders in the local fire department as volunteer firefighters. Their impact on the community had an equal impact on me; I was encouraged to influence my surroundings in any way possible. This influence continued after I moved. I quickly found haven volunteering to help in children's education classes. In high school, I jumped at the opportunity to be in student government by running a campaign every year I was in school. My parents' active roles in my neighborhood inspired my love for having a positive influence on those around me. As I continue to grow, I aspire to enrich not only myself but also anyone else that I can impact.

Want to hear more from current students? Jumbo Talk has blogs from current students talking about every aspect of life at Tufts here!

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