Why more students want to go to Tufts

tufts harder to get in

With its small size and dramatic increase in applications, Tufts has become one of the more selective colleges in the country. Tufts attracts students through their three major focuses – global, research, and undergraduate.

Tufts is among the top 10 research universities for the percentage of undergraduate students who study abroad (42 percent!). No wonder given that students at Tufts can choose from 170+ semester and year-abroad programs and a full-immersion program in 9 countries around the world. Additionally, Tufts is among the top universities with graduates entering the Peace Corps.

The Carnegie Foundation ranks Tufts as an institution with “very high research activity,” its highest classification. There are a wealth of opportunities for undergraduate students to join faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers on research across all disciplines. About 67% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and are taught by professors who are praised for being “knowledgeable, engaging, and caring.”


Academics at Tufts

Tufts students have the freedom to take classes across the 3 different schools – School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Course requirements are distributed across disciplines and include a World Civilization course in addition to art, English, foreign language, social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and math for liberal arts students. Engineers must take six courses in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, with one of those fulfilling a writing requirement.

Tufts offers a popular and unique program that allow students to develop and teach courses (which may, in part, offset the fact that the education majors are only offered at the graduate level). One is the Experimental College (affectionately known as “ExCollege”), which offers more than 100 nontraditional, full-credit courses taught by students, faculty, and outside professionals in the Boston area. The interdisciplinary approach of ExCollege promotes student-faculty collaboration, opportunities to teach, explore and incubate new ideas. A sampling of courses include: American Witches; Baseball Analytics; Self-driving Cars and Podcasting.


Additional quick facts about Tufts

Freshman acceptance rate: 14%

Freshman retention: 96%

Freshmen out of state: 80%

4-year Graduation rate: 87%

Most popular majors: computer science, international relations, biology


Social scene at Tufts

Tufts has a host of social activities on campus organized by student groups and the university. Artistic programs include concerts, free movies, a cappella groups, and plays. The largest campus-wide group, with more than 1,000 students participating each year, is the Leonard Carmichael Society, which oversees community service initiatives for 40 groups, with projects that include support for adult literacy, blood donations, domestic violence victims. Less than 20% of guys or women at Tufts participate in Greek life. The university organizes Halloween on the Hill, a carnival for children in the community, and Spring Fling, an outdoor concert before final exams. Though Tufts is located in the suburb of Medford, the nearby “T” metro system allows students to take an easy trip to Boston for work or play.

Tufts’ Jumbos compete in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, with their softball, men’s lacrosse, and men’s soccer recently capturing national titles.



Freshmen through seniors may choose from 40 residences ranging from traditional dorms and shared apartments to small special interest houses, which give students a chance to live with others who share their cultural or academic interests. Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus in the dorms, while upperclassmen compete in a lottery or move to affordable apartments near campus. (A fun fact that I heard during my campus tour was that the freshman roommate matching survey focuses on music!) Those students who reside in residence halls organize discussion and study groups and may bring in guest speakers for special events.


Similar colleges to consider:

Boston University, Brown, Cornell University, Georgetown, NYU, Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, Washington University in St. Louis


Financial aid and Scholarships

Tufts offers need-based aid only, i.e. they do not offer merit or academic scholarships. 100% of need is met. Although the tuition and fees are $69,000 a year, the average financial aid package is $43,000, with 41% receiving need-based scholarships or grants.


What do you think about Tufts University? What about this college is a good fit? Please post your comments below.

Union College has interdisciplinary studies, engineering and unique study abroad options

union campus engineering

Union College is known for its interdisciplinary studies and study abroad programs. To emphasize creativity in its engineering programs, Union supports STEAM (with arts). During my visit there, I was most impressed with the high rate of graduation for women in the sciences and engineering. Union has a rather unique program in Siberian Russia which combines Russian studies and environmental studies. Building on a strong sense of community, all faculty, staff, and students are assigned to a “house” which is a space for them with seminar room, programming and community. (Upperclassmen can live in the house.)

Here are a few quick facts about Union College:
Union College

Acceptance: 38%

Freshmen from out of state: 75%

Most popular majors: economics, biology, psychology

Housing: Guaranteed housing freshman year

4-year Graduation rate: 80%

Academics:  “Union has outstanding academics.” says a freshman. Union operates on a trimester system, which means thrice-a-year exams and a late start to summer jobs—but also the opportunity to concentrate on just three courses a term. The common curriculum has modern language requirements and 5 writing across curriculum courses within the 7 distribution areas. Engineering majors must declare by the end of freshman year – bio-, mechanical, electrical, or computer. Union also provides wonderful opportunities for students to study abroad. One program allows students to study for a term in Siberia, Russia, delving into Russian and environmental studies. The professors here at Union are simply wonderful.” says another student. Students can expect to see full professors at the lecterns rather than TAs. 

Social:  “The majority of social life is on campus,” says a student. Campus events also include comedians, concerts, and speakers. What Schenectady lacks can be found in Saratoga Springs, which boasts restaurants, jazz clubs, horse racing, and Skidmore College, or in the nearby Adirondacks and Catskills. Popular road trips include Boston, Montreal, New York, and the ski slopes of nearby Vermont. Union’s athletic teams compete in Division III, aside from men’s and women’s ice hockey, both of which are Division I. 

Financial: Although the tuition and fees are approximately $62,274, Union College offers grants and need-based financial aid, with the average need-based scholarship of $32,000. 100% of need is fully met, although the Union is need-aware. Union does not combine merit and need-based aid.

What do you think about this college? What else would you like to learn about it? Please post your comments below.

Teens’ concussion risk higher among girls and not just football

One of my students recently returned home from school due to a concussion that occurred during wrestling practice. I was somewhat surprised to hear a) that a tall guy like him was wrestling and b) that he suffered a concussion in this sport, rather than football (his Fall sport)!

We often associate concussions with football, but a recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that students in other contact sports, such as girls’ soccer or basketball, ice hockey, and lacrosse are also at risk. As lacrosse season is about to begin, let’s take note…

Estimates of the number of Americans suffering sports-related concussions have been climbing in recent years. That’s partly because more people are playing contact sports, young athletes are training more aggressively at an earlier age, and doctors are more aggressive about diagnosing concussions. A recent study found that in 2008, there were five concussions for every 10,000 U.S. high school athletes who hit the playing field. That was up from just about one per 10,000 a decade earlier.  . . . .

The other interesting finding is that girls had a higher concussion risk than boys.

In “gender-comparable” sports, girls had a 70 percent higher concussion rate than boys.

via Teens’ concussion risk not limited to football | Reuters.

As a side note, a number of colleges are adding girls’ lacrosse, such as the University of Southern California and Furman.

As teens continue to participate in sports throughout their high school and college years, it’s incumbent on parents, coaches, school administrators, and the broader community to be aware of the symptoms of concussion. Those symptoms, which may occur many hours after a blow to the head, include:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

Let’s keep our teens safe!

SMU reaches beyond ‘Southern’ and beyond ‘Methodist’

Southern Methodist University is a college campus located in the heart of Dallas. I don’t refer to it as an urban campus because the city surrounds an academic culture, spirited athletics, and a thriving social life. Likewise, Dallas is more a business and residential town, than a college town. Beyond having ‘Southern” in its name, SMU boasts a student body from around the US and world. (SMU’s student body is less Texan than other Christian colleges in the state.)

The academic core of SMU focuses on liberal arts and sciences. Students can also major in programs across SMU’s five colleges:

  • Arts
  • Business
  • Education and Human Development
  • Engineering
  • Humanities

Two additional colleges offer post-graduate courses only – Law School and School of Theology. However, undergraduates can study in the law library…nice perk for pre-law students!

Student Life features Greek and Athletics

An active Greek life with over third participation and numerous student clubs keep students busy. SMU has a strong sports culture as does the surrounding Dallas metropolitan area. The sports museum at the stadium features the Heisman Trophy won by SMU graduate, Doak Walker in 1948. Students provided input to the fitness center and it’s quite an impressive facility with a rock climbing wall, billiards, basketball courts, and even a tanning pool! The tour guide stated that “the girls are happy about the tanning pool and the guys are glad that they’re happy.” 🙂

Although the university was founded by Methodists, there are no required religion courses, no required chapel attendance. With the exception of an on-campus chapel (where the most weddings in Dallas are held), there is no semblance of religious affiliation. Just as Federal Express became FedEx, perhaps Southern Methodist University may consider SMU as its official name!

SMU also has a satellite campus in Taos, New Mexico. I look forward to visiting there in the upcoming years.

What if you change your mind about attending/applying to Penn State

If you’re like me, you’re deeply disturbed by the recent arrest at Penn State. The media reports have been alarming and unsettling. Although I’ve heard about the 23-page indictment report, I can’t bring myself to read it. Some things are just better left to the imagination, without all the sordid details. In other words, I don’t want it in my spirit.

A few weeks ago, when I was visiting schools, a young man mentioned that he would be attending Penn State next year. When the news broke days later, my heart sank for this young man and his family. Is he really going to attend? The campus vibrancy and its culture is forever altered. The only good news is that the news broke in early November and there are still many colleges that this young man could still consider.

Given the horrendous nature of these accusations and the fact that the president of the university is out, this family should strongly question whether Penn State is a place where their son should attend college for the next 4-6 years. (Graduation rate: 84.6%) If families are having second thoughts about Penn State, they should contact the university immediately if the student is a committed athlete. You should know whether you are obligated to still attend. Although, it’s hard to imagine that you would still be bound to matriculate.

Once the university’s admissions team learns of your decision, they can offer a spot to another student who may be still eager to attend. About a year ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article about the hiring and placement records of Penn State. There may be a large number of students who may want to attend Penn State for this reason alone.

As for me and my firm . . . it will be a long time before I can include Penn State on any of my students’ college lists.

University of Michigan: Big campus, small feel

University of Michigan

Given all the big numbers for the University of Michigan, such as

  • 26,000 undergraduates
  • 3,300 courses
  • 19 schools and colleges
  • 4 campuses

reviewing Michigan online may be intimidating. Everything about my campus visit actually felt much more intimate and personalized. The admissions director stated it well in saying that Michigan is both a small liberal arts college and a major research university.

In describing the features that make Michigan a special place, the information session presenter highlighted these not-so-obvious factors:

  • Classroom support – Did you know that 80% of classes have 50 or fewer students?
  • Academic support – There are countless ways that students can get extra academic help outside of class, through writing labs, math labs, advising and more.
  • Undergraduate research – I could hardly believe my ears when the presenter mentioned that Michigan offers opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research (even with all the graduate students there!) During the 2009-10 academic year, Michigan spent $1B in research. An undergraduate research office makes it possible to get involved as early as freshman year
  • 1,300+ student organizations – Wow! A Quidditch Club was recently formed and there’s even a “Squirrel Feeding Club.” Our tour guide demonstrated just how close a squirrel will come towards humans for food.

For the college-bound student who is seriously considering a particular college, it makes such a difference to visit the campus and feel the energy. In all of my visits to Michigan, I did know that it’s a highly spirited campus with unbounded opportunities. I learned through this most recent visit, however, that it is a smaller place than the big numbers suggest. GO BLUE! Here are some more quick facts.

Acceptance: 28%

Freshmen from out of state: 49.7%

Most popular majors: economics, biology, psychology

Housing: Guaranteed housing freshman year

4-year Graduation rate: 76%

University of Michigan



Salisbury, Indian Mountain, and Hotchkiss integrate world-class athletics and academic rigor

In Day 2 of my western Connecticut prep school campus visits, I’m admittedly overwhelmed by the diversity of program offerings in this region. Connecticut is not a big state but is dense with prep schools. Today I visited Salisbury School, Indian Mountain School, and The Hotchkiss School.


Salisbury serves 300 male students from around the world. The science center included a wonderful library, a physics lab, a chemistry lab, and a separate biology lab. My tour guide expressed that he wasn’t too keen on attending an all-boys school but realized that girls would be a distraction. Besides that, the school hosts dance each week so he’s still able to intermingle with girls socially.

The first stop on my tour was the boathouse, which is a sight to behold. It’s big, clean, and houses all the boats rowed by their world-class rowing program. An administrator proudly stated that “We grow rowers!” highlighting that many young men join the team with little to no experience. However, many advances to D1 level crew teams. The other athletic facilities were just as impressive . . . squash courts, hockey rink, lacrosse fields. Not to mention that their football team is strong in its division.

Salisbury understands boys, how to teach, how to engage, and how to nurture them both academically and socially.


There are 85 guitarists among the 180 students in the upper school. 140 musicians overall!There are 85 guitarists among the 180 students in the upper school. 140 musicians overall!
There are 85 guitarists among the 180 students in the upper school. 140 musicians overall!

Indian Mountain School is a junior boarding school that I was excited to visit in person. In my prior conversations with administrators, I sensed that it was a special place for students to develop into their own. The lower school has students in grades PK-4, while the upper school ushers students in grades 5-9 through early adolescence. Students will typically board in grades 7th, 8th, and 9th. For the teachers, administrators, and other staff, this really is a life commitment/decision. The responsibility is even greater in supporting these youth.

The team of adults who work there, live on campus, coach, and organize activities provide all the support services imaginable. The support services are balanced with student leadership opportunities. Students are given just as many opportunities to take risks. Each class experiences an outdoor adventure that bonds them in unforgettable ways. The overall thrust of the community was character development.

An administrator shared a quote in his office, which speaks to the character and quality of Indian Mountain School: “In all things, a lesson.”


The flags adorning the Hotchkiss dining hall showcase the 69 countries represented on campus.
The flags adorning the Hotchkiss dining hall showcase the 69 countries represented on campus.

Hotchkiss is a school that you have to see to believe. Admittedly, I was overwhelmed by its campus size, facilities, and student involvement. A surprise day-off was announced prior to my arrival, so, as you can imagine, the students were happy and taking advantage of the many opportunities to order food, leave campus, or play games on the field.

The students I met were involved in so many activities – athletics, theatre, community service, as well as AP coursework. There are about 500+ students at Hotchkiss but its size rivaled most small colleges I’ve visited. An administrator described it as a “small school within a large school.”

From the science center to the fine arts offerings to the radio station to the Olympic-sized swimming pools to the school-owned farm, students have unlimited opportunities to explore and discover their interests. The academic rigor at Hotchkiss is well-known so students must learn fairly quickly how to balance their coursework with all these other enticing offerings.

Top 3 Concerns when applying to a Party School

Ohio University

When I recently visited Ohio University in Athens Ohio, I had no idea that it would be named this week as the #1 party school by

Princeton Review! The town of Athens was quite charming, filled with restaurants and shops. Even though I visited during the summer, there were many students on campus, current undergraduates as well as high schoolers. The campus and curriculum seemed to have a lot to offer.

Certainly, with this new ranking, it begs the question . . .

Should college-bound students still apply to a college that has a Party School reputation??

That’s a serious question. While I don’t encourage selecting a college solely on rankings, this particular one is a bit unnerving. According to the Princeton Review, the ranking is based on a “combination of survey questions concerning the use of alcohol and drugs, hours of study each day, and the popularity of the Greek system.” Oooh!

Before adding a “party school” to your list of arbitrarily removing from your list, here are 3 critical questions that a family should answer:

  • How grounded and self-aware is my teen?
  • Does my teenager typically make their own decisions or follow the crowd?
  • What campus resources will be available for my teen if the academic load is too easy or social influences are negative?

And these questions are part of a whole range of questions that every college applicant must ask as part of their due diligence. There are other questions related to the student’s social well being, academic expectations, and financial support that will determine whether a party school still remains on the list.

In considering these questions, here is a list of the top 20 party schools of 2011 by Princeton Review, along with their rate of admissions and graduation rates. There are only two private colleges among this list and the number of enrolled students ranges from 2,000 at Depauw to 56,000 at Arizona State. These campuses are located in varied settings with 3 in rural communities, 7 suburban, and 10 urban communities!


2012 Party Schools* Graduation Rates Admit Rates
Ohio University 69.7% 77.8%
U Georgia, Athens 77.9% 54.8%
U Mississippi 55.7% 83.4%
University of Iowa n/a 82.3%
U California Santa Barbara 81.5% 54.4%
West Virginia University 55.9% 34.7%
Penn State, University Park n/a n/a
Florida State University 69.5% 46.7%
U Florida 81.6% 41.5%
U Texas Austin 77.8% 43.5%
U Illinois Urbana-Champaign 82.0% 69.0%
Syracuse University 80.1% 52.5%
Louisiana State, Baton Rouge 58.9% 72.8%
U Wisconsin Madison 81.3% 62.8%
DePauw University 85.3% 64.8%
Indiana U Bloomington 72.9% 70.7%
Arizona State 56.0% 82.1%
U Maryland College Park 81.8% 38.8%
U Vermont 71.2% 64.8%
U South Carolina Columbia 66.7% 59.4%


Additional interesting posts to check out:

How to get into the University of Chicago

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Ohio University in Athens for the Summer and Academic Year

Ohio University in Athens

Who knew it would be so difficult to find on-campus parking at Ohio University in Athens . . . in the middle of the summer? My tour guide stated that this summer was unusually busy on campus and likely due to students taking courses in preparation for the university changeover from quarters to semesters. The 2011-12 academic year will be the last year that Ohio University is on the quarter system.

Photo of the student center at Ohio University

In addition to enrolled students taking courses this summer, there are 3 other cohorts on campus:

  • International students – I saw a lot of international students. I was surprised to see so many international students since there is a relatively small international community during the academic year (less than 8%). In fact, only about 17% of their student body are non-Ohio residents.
  • Rising Freshmen – OU encourages its freshman students in the Honors College to begin in the summer session. Those students participate in smaller learning communities. Administrators noted that the summer session is a program to help students transition to college and hopefully improve retention. The most recent graduation rate for OU is 69.7%.
  • Middle and high school students – There are a host of summer programs on OU’s campus for both day and residential students. Nike hosts several sports camps there each year. Additionally, OU hosts its own summer program for high school students. During my visit, I met with the directors of the summer programs and they have been fine-tuning this program since its inception. I will be meeting with them again during the academic year to learn more about upcoming changes.

As rising juniors and seniors are traveling this summer, I encourage them to take advantage of opportunities to visit area campuses. Even if you visit a campus that may not be of interest, you can still learn a lot about available options and make comparisons. When I use the term “area” I am referring to those campuses that are near your home or proximal to where you’re already traveling. I am not suggesting that families make special distant trips just for the sake of visiting – that can be very costly and time-consuming. Campus visits should be done more thoughtfully and strategically than that.

Please listen to our radio show on-campus visits and get more information about how you can make the most of your campus visits.

The importance of College Completion, even after the NBA

During this spring, we have had several shows where we’ve discussed sports in K-12 and at the collegiate level. We’ve talked about golf, hockey, and baseball. Everyone knows that I’m a Yankees fan but my guest to talk about baseball was Dan Mooney who played with the Mets so I stay away from the team rivalry and really delve into what these sports mean for students who aspire to advance in high school and college.

On today’s radio show, we talked about the sport of basketball and it was a great time to have this conversation because we’re in the midst of an exciting finals series!!

My guest today was Corrie Blount, who played in the NBA for eleven years, playing with several great teams, including the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. (My entire family are big Lakers fans.)  Corrie has played at every level of basketball . . . high school, junior college, and college prior to the NBA. What I find so fascinating though about his career in basketball and higher education is that he still saw the importance and value of earning his college degree after retiring from the NBA! That’s excellent and a message that I echoed in our program today.

Please listen to our show as Corrie discusses his experiences at Santa Ana Junior College, Rancho Santiago, and University of Cincinnati! He also intimately shared what made him cry . . .

How Corrie Blount decided to Complete College after the NBA