It’s winter in Medford, and the days may be shorter (why, oh why, is it dark by 5:00?) but we know that for many of our applicants, the months are feeling longer. I get it. After clicking “submit” on your application, the only directive is a frustrating one: “Wait.” I do not consider myself a patient person – I am a fan of efficiency and getting to the point, despite what this rambling intro may suggest – so I can empathize with how you must be feeling right about now. I picture you sitting at home thinking: “Do they really need three whole months to make a decision?” The answer is yes.

This season, we will evaluate 21,501 applications to the Class of 2022. We will evaluate each of them, reflecting on many forms of merit as we go: academics, community involvement, personal qualities, and institutional priorities. Between November and March, we will evaluate 21,501 transcripts, examine 21,501 Activities lists, and read 86,004 essays and at least 43,002 letters of recommendation. It takes us a long time. A long, long time. (Is this a good time to ask if you’d be willing to give us a couple extra weeks? No? Didn’t think so.)

Our process is exhausting, but it is incredibly important. We often call these months “the work of the work.” The decisions we make in March (and in December and February for our EDI and EDII friends) determine the experience each Jumbo will ultimately have on our campus. They will decide who fills our classrooms and what kind of conversations happen there. They will determine how happy our students are, the strength of our engineering school, even how our mock trial team does in competitions. Most importantly they shape our campus personality and culture, one that we work hard to maintain. Our students are intellectual, playful, collaborative, and down-to-earth, and this is purposeful. That culture doesn’t just happen; we shape it. With the work of the work.

Reading carefully and closely allows us to be as informed as possible when we make our final decisions. So we read critically. We spend time with each application and ask ourselves as we go: Can this student do the work at Tufts? Beyond just getting it done, can they enhance the learning experience for their peers by offering new perspectives, challenging arguments, and intellectual support for their classmates? Will they be an engaged community member, a valuable teammate, and a fun and compassionate friend and roommate? That’s why we ask for so many essays and letters; these decisions are nuanced and we need a significant amount of information in order to make them.

We make sure many eyes see each application. We check each other’s biases and engage in discussions about everything from our long term goals as a university to the value of introverts to the vastly varying cultures in high schools across the globe. We’re honest when we’re not connecting with a certain applicant and may need someone else to take a look, and while we often agree with one another, we also aren’t afraid to challenge each other.

I hope this allows you to understand what our winter looks like; maybe it gives you a better appreciation for the amount of time your decision takes us, and why you prepared such a thorough application to Tufts. Or maybe it just gives you the idea to send me a care package because I’m working really hard over here; I’m OK with either outcome.

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