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Introducing the Class of 2014

Introducing the Class of 2014Every year, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Lee Coffin writes an introduction for the incoming freshman class.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.01.10] "Let your life speak," we told the 15,432 applicants to our Class of 2014. And they did.

A Southern poet set the standard. "I am the whimsy of cotton candy stranded in the steamy burrows of West Tennessee," she said. Sometimes a few words captured a key idea about identity: "I'm a bit Goth,""I'm a gay Socialist,""I'm a failed environmentalist" and "I was the 6'3" red lobster on the Santa Monica Pier." The reporter for ABC's "Teen Kids News" was cheery: "My life would not speak," she said, "it would laugh!" Another was emphatic: "I'm an outspoken Dominican who will give my all to Tufts: my heritage, my language and even my big hoop earrings." And, of course, the class has its share of characters: "I'm a rock star in a suit and tie, the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Frank Sinatra's clothes."

Places as different as "a three bedroom Cape at the end of Riverside Drive," a Lutheran rectory in Montana, an American embassy in Africa and a Boston homeless shelter shaped the world view of 1,315 incoming students. A Latina engineer likened her family to "a swarm of bees in a hive, everyone colliding and making noise" while a Vermonter documented his bucolic roots: "I come from a place where there's more maple syrup than diversity." A tiny flock of hens roam the courtyard of an environmentalist's green urban home while the son of a Cape Cod funeral director "was raised among the dead."

Like its predecessors, the Class of 2014 is distinguished by excellence as it enrolls with an academic profile that matches last year's record highs: 85 percent graduated in the top 10% of their high school class with mean SAT scores of 705 Critical Reading, 712 Math and 714 Writing. A pre-med from Worcester hopes to meet "fellow intellectually restless people," and he will encounter peers whose interests are as diverse as marine archeology; confidence levels in children; security issues in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia; "the archetypal human consciousness" in the Greek and Norse mythological pantheons; energy conservation; the impact of Scottish immigrants on the Bahamas; and the implications of diet on mental illness. "Chemical mischief" inspires a home-schooled scientist from New Hampshire while a Japanese quant jock hopes to develop sustainable economic growth in war-torn countries. And, of course, many are blissfully undecided: "I'd like to see where my studies take me."

Diversity is a clear hallmark of the University's 155th class, which matriculates from 886 high schools in 45 American states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 35 nations. While Massachusetts sent the most new students to Tufts, a record-setting 138 Californians took their place in Medford-Somerville and eight percent were raised abroad. A third of the class is Roman Catholic or Jewish but another third indicated an agnostic or atheist outlook. Twenty-six percent are Americans of color, 17 percent speak a language other than English at home and nearly 11 percent are first-generation college bound. China, South Korea, India and Turkey are the largest foreign delegations but many freshmen offer a truly "global" heritage that resonates with Tufts' international aura. "I am the product of globalization and trans-nationalism," a multi-ethnic student reported. A native Swede via Oman, a Kenyan feminist from the first graduating class at the African Leadership Academy, and a Cuban-American raised in Japan underscore the idea that identities and ethnicities are elastic.

Freshmen hail from hometowns as varied as Vienna, Virginia and Vienna, Austria; Tulsa and Sioux Falls; Jerusalem and Ramallah. One of the 87 representatives of the Garden State offered a clarifying comment about her upbringing: "I'm the non-Jersey Shore, non-Sopranos side of New Jersey." While the majority were raised in suburbia, the rural imprint of places like Derby, Kansas and Prospect, Kentucky is also clear: "I am the child of three parents," one proudly said, "Mom, Dad and Western Massachusetts." A Mainer spent his first 13 years in a Yupik Eskimo community in Alaska while a ranch near Elko, Nevada taught one new Jumbo to "silently stalk elk, master duck calls and catch fish in a sturdy cabin in the mountains."

Tufts welcomes Harry Potter (from New Hampshire, not Hogwarts) and Hannah from Montana; a spoken-word poet from inner city Chicago; an Irish pirate queen from Tucson; and a Shanghai engineer with a patent pending for a light-up umbrella. The Class includes 70 high school valedictorians and 37 National Merit Scholars; the New Mexico State Fair winner for "Best Scones and Danish"; a singer-songwriter renowned on the New York music scene (and I-Tunes!); the Governor of Virginia Boys' State and Iowa's Student Council State President; a volunteer firefighter from Martha's Vineyard and a chicken farmer from Plantation, Florida. Ninety-six are the sons and daughters of Tufts graduates. "Why Tufts?" a double legacy asked. "Without Tufts I would not be here."

Nearly 40 percent qualified for need-based financial aid, and socioeconomic diversity is a defining hallmark of the new class. The youngest child of a single mother worked 20 hours a week at a fruit stand during high school to help make ends meet. She noted: "I always had what I needed and occasionally what I wanted." Several were raised in foster care. "I lived in a car, in a trailer, in multiple tiny rooms, on a couch, in many family friends' houses and various low-income households," one of them reported.

It was the University's most selective year since 2001, with an acceptance rate of 24 percent, and personal qualities were often determining factors in an admission decision. We asked each applicant, "Who are you?" and the personality of the incoming class reflects their varied responses to this simple query:

They are affable. ""I'd get an 800 on the laughter subject test if such a test were offered."

Identities are fluid. "I used to be a massive metal head, and I still have the t-shirts, long hair and encyclopedic knowledge of obscure rock bands to back it."

They dream. As a high school student, a local resident worked 20 hour a week for Tufts Dining Services in Carmichael Hall. "One day I hope to be a part of Tufts," he told us, "and be a participant rather than a spectator."

They are verbal. "I could never, wouldn't even if I could, ever stay quiet. I will be me. I will argue, I will be passionate, I will make things work."

They are skeptics. "I am an athlete-activist who is skeptical of human motives but idealistic for revolutionary change."

They are inventive. A New Yorker concocted "Itai's Almost-Perfect Cherry Ice Pops."

They are true to themselves (and stylish, too). "I love hats," announced a Fedora-adorned San Franciscan. "They represent the freedom to be different, to be whoever and whatever I want to be."

They emulate greatness. "I want to be like da Vinci," declared the biomedical engineer from Utah who has created a parabolic solar oven as well as a PVC pip marshmallow gun. She can also recite 75 digits of pi.

They are social. "I was once told that I would be the perfect person to talk to at a cocktail party."

They are selfless. A pacifist Quaker from DC plans to join the US Army Special Forces "to do this fearful thing so those I love and those I do not know will have peace and liberty."

They are successful. Success on the sea distinguishes the member of the US and Dutch National Sailing Teams as well as the two-time National and North American sailing champion while Nevada's state champion in alpine skiing, New England's amateur champion in disc golf (think ultimate Frisbee), and members of the Palestinian National Equestrian and Turkish National Snowboard Teams will enhance Tufts' athletic prowess.

They are endearing. "I am the girl who gets targeted by kiosk workers at the mall."

Contrast appeals to them. "I am Unitarian Universalist with a lesbian mother and a best friend who's a conservative Republican."

They challenge authority even when they are part of it. "I am the kind of person who is student body vice president and is also starting an unofficial anarchy club with another member of the student council." An Eagle Scout from Connecticut concurred: "Irreverence is the fuel for change."

They are principled. A Miami Latina left her Catholic high school because "I was told to believe things that conflicted with my idea of being a good Catholic."

They are self-deprecating: "I am that gay kid who sadly does not know how to look FABULOUS..."

They come highly recommended by those who taught them in high school. "He can perhaps best be described as a user-friendly radical."

They find deep meaning in quiet pursuits. "My favorite book has no author, no chapters and little text, no plot and no characters." The book is the 1987 Rand McNally Universal World Atlas.

They are quirky. An Ohioan has used the same pencil for four years while a non-conformist Eagle Scout drives a mini-van with bean bags instead of seats.

And our mascot appeals to them. "Elephants are family-oriented, share lifelong bonds with each other and are highly intellectual," one said. And now he's a Jumbo, too.


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