College Road Trip to Boston: Tufts University

With nearly 6,000 undergraduate students, Tufts University is a medium-sized university, but its 80-plus majors, opportunities for research and global study options give students the resources of a much larger school. Its ethos, an emphasis on civic engagement and hands-on learning, encourages undergrads to “think outwardly,” says James M. Glaser, dean of the school of arts and sciences.

Senior Lily Campbell had her own such experience during a six-week program in France, where Tufts has a satellite campus. She made visits to the United Nations-affiliated International Environment House and the World Wildlife Fund, and discovered the field of environmental economics — the perfect combination of two chief interests.

On campus and off, professors “show you how to take your hard skills and your passions and combine them together,” says Campbell, a senior quantitative economics major from Bethesda, Maryland, who is completing a thesis examining the effects of climate change on global economies.

[Read: What You Should Know About Experiential Learning in College.]

The Civic Semester has students taking classes on campus in August, then traveling for a semester of language immersion and part-time work at a community organization. Another program combines coursework and fieldwork in the local community.

The school of engineering is a big draw, with about 1 in 6 incoming students choosing one of its 16 majors. The curriculum puts an emphasis on collaborative and experiential learning, and every engineering student completes a final project, says Carter Silvey, a 2020 mechanical engineering and math graduate from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, who designed a device for warehouse workers to wear on their arms to more easily lift heavy loads.

Tufts also has its School of the Museum of Fine Arts, which has its own campus at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Students can pursue a bachelor’s in fine arts, exploring freely across mediums from ceramics and metalworking to photography.

[Read: Understand the Difference Between a B.A. and B.S. Degree.]

Although students must apply to one of the three schools, they are free to take classes in the others. The average class size is 22, and relationships with faculty are a real part of the Tufts experience, students say.

“They’re willing to invest in you both personally and academically,” says Vaishnavi Enaganti, a junior biopsychology major from Columbus, Ohio. After expressing interest in research, Enaganti was soon linked up with a professor to work about 20 hours a week in her genetics lab.

The university offers several programs for funding undergraduate research, plus an international program that has student-faculty teams conducting research abroad.

[Read Why Undergraduate Research Matters in College.]

On the whole, Tufts is full of people who are driven but also down-to-earth, undergrads say. More than 300 student organizations contribute to a fun, playful vibe. That’s especially evident in Tufts Dance Collective, a competition for students who cannot dance – a much-anticipated event.

“It’s something that the whole school can really get behind,” Campbell says.

The Jumbos compete in 30 Division III varsity sports. Nearly 1 in 8 students join one of 10 fraternities and sororities. Other options for student involvement include mock trial, public health club, and many competitive dance groups and cultural organizations. The largest student group is the Leonard Carmichael Society, an umbrella group for 32 service organizations that address community issues like literacy, homelessness and food security.

First- and second-year students are required to live on campus, located on a hill in Medford about five miles from the city. Tufts has striking views of the skyline, and shuttles connect the main campus with the school of the Museum of Fine Arts. Davis Square, located about a 15-minute walk from campus, is a hub for restaurants and shopping, as well as the closest T rail station for those wanting to venture into downtown Boston.

More From the College Road Trip to Boston:

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Boston College

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Wellesley College

This story is excerpted from the U.S. News “Best Colleges 2021” guidebook, which features in-depth articles, rankings and data.

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