“Stop being a jerk and write the application.” What a Tufts admissions interviewer’s mom told him before he applied. Cole continues sharing his insider insights, including why he got into Tufts, what mistakes he saw applicants make, how Tufts views college consultants, what action applicants should take to improve their chances, and why missing a college fair might not be that big of a deal.
Exclusive Insider Interview: Alumnus and Admissions Office Guide, Tufts University
SocratesPost: Through those observations, what types of applicants stood out to you most at Tufts and why?
Cole at Tufts: I think once you get past the baseline of academics and numbers, one of the things that I saw pretty consistently was that the students that had really developed passions were most successful. If there was something that I could point to that I found to be true about almost everyone I met, it was that they had something, either something that they were extremely passionate about, or a way of doing things that they were extremely passionate about. And I think that oftentimes that intersected with a sense of curiosity.
…students that had really developed passions were most successful.
SocratesPost: When you interviewed applicants, what did you specifically look out for?
Cole at Tufts: I really look for students who have something that is more important to them than school. Because if you’re going to get into Tufts regardless, the academics are probably going to be there. It’s a pretty demanding place for that. But if that’s the only thing, then nothing separates you from anyone else who’s in the running and anyone else who gets in. What is the thing that you’ll stay up until four in the morning talking about on your dorm room floor? And I think if you can answer that question, truly and honestly, for yourself, it’s an extremely helpful step in the application process to Tufts, because it will show in whatever supplemental essay you write, or whatever interview you have. That’s something that I found to be true again, and again and again, with people that I’ve interviewed, with people that I helped on tours, with friends of mine from school and honestly, with folks that I would just meet once.
SocratesPost: Did you find that those students once they matriculated pursued those deeper? Or did some people transition to different interests?
Cole at Tufts: It’s a mix because some people’s passion had nothing to do with their career.
SocratesPost: What’s an example of a having an unrelated passion and career?
Cole at Tufts: I have a friend whose passion is jazz. He’s an amazing jazz musician. His first year out of college, he decided to busk his way across New Zealand, which was pretty cool. But he is an engineer. His training is in engineering. And then one of my closest friends went into that school as a mechanical engineer. And he and I would talk all the time, you know, trading stuff back and forth from me doing theatre and him doing engineering and we lived together for three years. And we would say things to each other, that the other clearly didn’t understand, but just the passions were carried through. And then he graduated and did a year or two of engineering management and now he just got his master’s in journalism, because he discovered that that was the thing that that he cared more about. And I think he was someone who realized that his passion and his career did need to line up and so he realigned those later. I think it just depends. Plenty of my friends, their passion is their career.
SocratesPost: Having been in admissions, do you find that your passion has to align with your career?
Cole at Tufts: It is for me. It is for – trying to think of the eight people that I lived with my senior year – most of us are doing the thing that we were trained to do at Tufts. A few of us are not. Yeah, I think it’s probably five of us, five or six of us are doing more or less the thing that we thought we would be doing and three of us made some changes after they graduated.
SocratesPost: You were saying that most Tufts students come in with developed interests, so it makes sense that many people would want to continue developing those deeper throughout college and beyond.
Cole at Tufts: Yeah, that’s true. It’s also funny, because as I say that, I know for a fact that that wasn’t me. I definitely didn’t get in because I wrote some brilliant essay about the one thing that I was passionate about. They really are right. I’ve always been kind of a jack of all trades. This is more something I’ve observed than something I’ve lived, I suppose.
SocratesPost: Do you remember what you wrote your Tufts essay on?
Cole at Tufts: Yeah. It’s so funny. I wrote my essay on camping.
SocratesPost: That topic hasn’t come up in our whole conversation. Tell me more about that.
Cole at Tufts: Yeah. I just I love being outdoors in nature. I think growing up on the west coast, that’s a pretty natural thing. And my family’s super into it, so I’ve been backpacking and camping for pretty much my whole life. I can’t remember what the prompt was, but it had something to do with how do you approach problems and it was supplemental. And Tufts was sort of an early adopter of the zany supplemental essay. Well, I think they were the first to do YouTube essays and that was my year. There were, as a side note, a lot of very fun people who were YouTube famous by the time we got to campus. That worked out really well, and really poorly for a handful of folks.
SocratesPost: In your essay, what did you specifically write about?
Cole at Tufts: I think I wrote about how I am happiest when I am in a place that is quiet. And that part of the reason for that is because I’m able to solve my problems with a more natural approach to thought. I’ve always been a pretty socially anxious person and I tend to get kind of emotional really quickly, when I’m uncomfortable around other people. I’m not good at putting on the brakes, and handling this and then moving on. I tend to respond in the moment. And so, I think I was talking about how I really love being able to get out into the woods because it helps me center myself around problems in my life and make clear and more thoughtful decisions.
SocratesPost: If you had to guess, what do you think got you into Tufts?
…part of not being extremely gifted at any one thing, means that to be good at anything, you have to work really hard.
SocratesPost: When you say “Tufts as a school is like that,” what is it like?
SocratesPost: How did Tufts embrace this identity you mentioned?
SocratesPost: I’m impressed that you’re able to do that. It’s so hard for anyone to prove to someone that they worked hard at something; it’s not just that they naturally were good at it. If an applicant asked, “How do I show an admissions officer application reader that I actually worked really hard on this? This didn’t come easy to me,” what would you tell them?
SocratesPost: If that’s not what you should focus on, what should applicants focus on instead?
SocratesPost: What’s the biggest mistake you saw applicants make?
SocratesPost: What’s actually most effective?
SocratesPost: Would you say that this is your best piece of advice to someone applying for Tufts?
SocratesPost: What’s your best advice for those who haven’t already decided to apply to Tufts?
Cole at Tufts: How much of your readership is parents?
SocratesPost: How do you view applicants or students who are eager to please their parents?
SocratesPost: With that in mind, what’s your best piece of advice to students who haven’t decided on applying to Tufts?
SocratesPost: Based on your experience in admissions, a Tufts alum and student, and now professional, what are some different ways students can think of the meaning of a diploma?
SocratesPost: What about your best piece of advice for parents helping their kids decide on Tufts or get into Tufts?
SocratesPost: There are also students who hire out help on their applications or essays. How does Tufts view students who use college consultants or essay coaches?
SocratesPost: That’s an important distinction. I think some students work with college counselors and expect to be directed. And the students will just follow along, but it sounds like what’s important is doing it the opposite way in which the students are directing these people and asking them to help them in ways that they want to be helped.
SocratesPost: What is a better question to ask, then, of a college counselor?
SocratesPost: Most people don’t know how to ask for help and what kind of help to ask for.
SocratesPost: How often do your interviewees actually ask you good questions?
SocratesPost: As a Tufts admissions interviewer, what is something most applicants and prospective students misunderstand?
SocratesPost: What action can an applicant take that will make a big difference?
SocratesPost: What kind of attitude should applicants adopt when interacting with potential schools or schools that have already accepted them?
SocratesPost: That’s understandable. What you’re saying might surprise some readers, though. Do you think that the advice to constantly express interest in a school is overblown?
SocratesPost: That’s inspiring and a bit relieving, too. Cole, thank you so much for your insights today and for sharing your Tufts admissions experience.