What was your experience at Tufts University?
February 21, 2010 7:42 PM   Subscribe

What was your experience at Tufts University?

I'm looking at colleges (I'm a high school junior) and Tufts is one of my top choices right now. It would be great if you could share your experience as a student (or alumni, faculty, parent etc.). I'm interested in stuff like dorms, academics, extracurriculars, campus, food, etc.

I'm interested in the sociology and communication and media studies departments so any experience with either of those departments is a huge bonus!

Disclaimer: I know that the best way to get a feel for a college is by visiting, but I want to know as much as I can about the college before making the trip out to visit (I'm currently in Chicago), so recommendations to go visit aren't super helpful right now.

Thanks everyone!
posted by kylej to Education (14 answers total)
Tufts grad, class of '98 here. I absolutely loved my time at Tufts. I transferred to Tufts from a smaller, more isolated school, and the vitality and opportunities at Tufts were amazing. The campus is definitely urban, but quite beautiful, with some exceptional architecture (both new and old), and is in a very vibrant part of greater Boston. Connections (via the T) to just about any corner of the city you could want to get to are plentiful. The professors are often world-class, while still being approachable -- I was always amazed at their willingness to spend time with and advise undergrads. Extracurriculars were fantastic as well -- plenty of options, but the organizations were small enough that anyone could contribute right away. About the only real cutthroat organizations were the a cappella groups -- which are considered some of the best in the nation.

From their website it looks like the Communications and Media Studies program is an "interdisciplinary" sort of department, which means you may be mostly spending time split among the various departments that are actually offering the courses you are taking (I was an Architectural Engineering minor, which was organized in that way). It's fine, but it means you may end up fending for yourself when it comes to creating a broader context for your coursework -- there may not be a pre-defined track to fit into.

Really, I could not have been much happier with my Tufts education. Please email or MeMail me if you want more specific information from a not-so-recent graduate.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:03 PM on February 21, 2010

I graduated from Tufts two years ago.

Dorms: I lived in the dorms for two years and enjoyed myself. The first year was on a "healthy living" floor -- i.e., people who don't drink/party much. That's was great for me, a boring teetotaler, and I made the majority of my long-lasting college friends there. However, since that wasn't a typical experience (insomuch as there is such a thing as a "typical" college experience).

Academics: I studied English and music and loved it, but since those aren't your areas of interest I'm afraid I don't have much specific advice. I would really recommend asking upperclassmen for help. Ask the guys you meet in the dorm if they have any friends in your department, and ask those guys for tips. I find that people are pretty helpful, and if you do even a little bit of legwork you'll be able to figure out which professors you want.

Extracurriculars: I sampled a bunch of clubs as a freshman -- everything from improv comedy to ballroom dancing -- but it wasn't really for me; I slowly dropped out of everything except for one music ensemble. Some people get really into the extracurricular stuff though. The theater kids seemed especially intense. There are a shit-ton of awesome a cappella groups, too, if that's your thing.

Campus: I like the Tufts campus a lot. Many of the Boston-area schools either don't really have campuses (like BU) or have campuses that are sort of integrated with the town (like Harvard), but Tufts feels like its own separate place. Davis Square is a short walk or a shuttle bus ride away; it's a great area in its own right (I live there now), and you can easily get to Cambridge or Boston from there using the T.

Food: The dining halls are pretty good, I guess? Or were you asking about places to eat out? There are a bunch of restaurants in Davis (and many more further afield), and there are so many places that will deliver pizza that you'll wonder how they are all possibly still in business. I have the palate of an eight-year-old, so I've tried a lot of them. :-)

I'm not sure how useful an overview like that will be, since everyone's college experience is so different. (The healthy living experience dramatically altered my time at Tufts but few people go that route.) If you have any specific questions, though, feel free to shoot me a message.
posted by danb at 8:20 PM on February 21, 2010

I've never been to Tufts, but I'm a current college sophomore (at another school in Mass.) and I asked for college advice on AskMe a few years ago. Based on that, I'd caution you that most people on AskMe graduated a while ago. That doesn't make advice you get here useless by any means, but schools can change radically in just a few years- in my case, advice I got here about housing, while appreciated, wasn't relevant because my school completely reorganized its housing system five years ago. A college is a constantly changing, evolving place without a lot of institutional memory, in my experience. You should really, really be getting in touch with current students with these questions. The admissions office might be able to hook you up.

Above all, though, nothing is going to replace actually visiting the college while classes are in session. I know you said that's not useful advice right now (which I totally understand), but I showed up on campus for freshman orientation without visiting beforehand and I think it was a huge mistake. A lot of schools will be really helpful in getting you on campus- from finding you a floor to sleep on and a current student to show you around to financial assistance. I've been where you are, and while it's hard not to search up every scrap of information you can find on colleges you're interested in, none of that is going to be as valuable to you in your decision making process as actually visiting the school.
posted by MadamM at 8:56 PM on February 21, 2010

I've been where you are, and while it's hard not to search up every scrap of information you can find on colleges you're interested in, none of that is going to be as valuable to you in your decision making process as actually visiting the school.

This is very good advice.
posted by danb at 9:26 PM on February 21, 2010

I don't know anyone who actually went to Tufts, but I have a friend who lives basically down the street from it (you can hear their frat parties from her house on the weekends) and she LOVES that part of Cambridge/Somerville/whatever. She's lived in different areas, and likes that area best of all. I visited the area once and was so amazed at how convenient it was to the T and thereby to everything, but also very neighborhoodly, with the benefits of suburban life as well (of course, as a Texan, good public transport is like magic to me, so take that for what it's worth).
posted by ishotjr at 11:07 PM on February 21, 2010

I graduated from Tufts last year.

The average Tufts student was an overachiever in high school (I was Editor in Chief of my high school literary magazine, co-president of our chapter of Amnesty International, and a National Merit and AP scholar. Pretty much everyone in my class at Tufts was, too.) and vaguely offbeat-- though not to the extent of the kids at Wesleyan. The Tufts admissions office asks several students to maintain blogs every year; they'll give you a sense of the typical Tufts kid. Double majoring is the norm (though I triple-majored, and that raised quite a few eyebrows). "Alternative" scenes include the international crowd (unless you have an enormous disposable income, you won't be in that group) and the artsy crowd (which has two focal points: the Arts Haus/SMFA crowd, which is the hipsters who party a lot, and the Crafts House/Mountain Club crowd, which doesn't shower and eats a lot of tempeh).

The professors are generally very accessible and very smart. I didn't take any sociology or communications classes, so I can't comment on any specific ones, but Tufts has its own RateMyProfessors-type site (here) that's pretty thorough and reliable.

The biggest downside to Tufts for me was the administration. While the faculty is generally great, the office staff (ResLife, Student Affairs, etc.) are at best difficult to work with and at worst embarrassing. It reminds me of Gogol's bureaucratic Russia, no joke. This isn't much of an issue for most kids, but if you want to take on a leadership role, you'll have to deal with them.

Overall I'm glad I went, but was also glad to graduate and move on. Feel free to memail me with any questions.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:22 AM on February 22, 2010

Oh-- dorms are average. Some are nicer than others. As a freshman, you don't have a choice about where to love (except if you opt for healthy living, though you still don't get to choose which dorm you live in). People liked to say that our food was rated best or second-best on some national poll, but really, it's just cafeteria food. You'll like it freshman year and then get sick of it. There are a lot of decent restaurants on the periphery of campus (I highly recommend Tasty Gourmet for sandwiches). In terms of extracurriculars, Tufts students love their clubs. It's the smallest college in the US with a daily newspaper, so if you get involved with that during your freshman year, you'll probably end up an editor of something or other at some point. Sports are a joke. Academics are well-respected.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:32 AM on February 22, 2010

*where to live. Although you don't really have a choice about where to love, either.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:33 AM on February 22, 2010

I'm coming up on my 10 year Tufts reunion this year, so either discount my advice by that amount or add extra value for my, er, wisdom.

I don't know much about the sociology or communications/media studies departments in particular, but in general, the faculty is very accessible, class sizes were reasonable. Generally, Tufts feels like the hybrid between a major research university and a small liberal arts college that it is.

The Medford/Somerville campus feels very prototypically campus-y and apart from the city, but not isolated from the area-- well except for the fact that the campus sits atop and around a "bleak hill".
posted by andrewraff at 7:46 AM on February 22, 2010

I was there for two years (1990-1992) but left for Boston College. I had a few great friends, really good professors, and *loved* my time with the Tufts Daily. But man, oh man, were people hung up on not getting into Harvard. Like, really hung up on it.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:12 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm about a 3.5 minute walk away but don't go there. However, for the record, the neighborhood is awesome, one of the best in Boston. Great places to eat and so many things available within a short distance. Great music (21+ often times...) libraries, museums, etc.
posted by sully75 at 8:43 AM on February 22, 2010

I just graduated, though I transferred there my sophomore year and never lived in the dorms.

Professors are awesome, the campus itself is awesome, the quality of education provided is awesome, the students... well, it is really hit or miss. I was older than the average student, granted, and way more independent from the get go, but man, I found there to be a level of immaturity in most of my classes that still astounds me.

I don't know if this would have been my experience in any American college, or if this was an atypical environment. What I do know is that most of the (few) friends I made on campus - who tend to be English majors/International students - don't, actually, like the rest of the mad-partying mad-money mad-drinking student body.

The Davis Sq area is, in fact, amazing. I've lived here for the past four years and I would recommend Tufts for that alone. Okay, and the professors.
posted by lydhre at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2010

I really, really regret choosing Tufts, but it was completely my fault for not doing enough research, so it's so great that you're looking into this here!

I graduated 5 years ago. I did not have a good experience overall. I was very unhappy with the social scene, felt like I was just going to college with kids from my high school (upper middle class, preppy, spoiled, kind of rude/immature) and didn't feel like I fit in at all. HOWEVER - I had friends who were totally happy and fit in fine. And of course, I'm not saying that everyone was the type of people I described above - there are lots of fun people there who aren't like that at all. That just often felt like the general vibe.

Ok, and now that I think about it, there were lots of things I DID like at Tufts:
-I was always happy with my dorms.
-The dining hall food is pretty good and there are lots of selections, including a take-out dining hall. There are also lots of great local places to order in from.
-Davis Square is very fun, and so accessible. Being near Boston, but not IN Boston, is also a huge plus.
-I was a math major, and was very happy with most of my professors.
-If you're interested in art classes, being able to take some art classes in Boston as part of your regular schedule is great.
posted by violetish at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2010

I know this is an old question at this point, but I'll share my thoughts.

I graduated from Tufts in 1997 and loved it. Like any situation, it will be what you make of it.

The campus is really quite pretty. There are some crappy dorms, like Lewis and Haskell, but a number of newer dorms that are quite nice.

It's not a huge school, so it's easier to get personal attention.

The quality of the facilities (library, computer lab, gym, etc) are all fairly high.

I loved being near Boston, but not in it, like at BU or Northeastern. My wife and I still live in the Boston area.

One of my interns a few years ago graduated with a sociology degree and was really happy. She's gone on to do some interesting things.

And I think that if I hadn't gone to Tufts, I wouldn't be doing what I do today, which would be sad because I love it. Not many schools have undergraduate Human Factors / Engineering Psychology programs, at least when I was enrolled.
posted by reddot at 1:06 PM on March 7, 2010

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