Welcoming New Jumbos

Record-setting undergraduate Class of 2017 and transfer students come to campus

More than 1,300 first-year students marched onto the academic quad Wednesday afternoon and into Tufts history. They come from the largest pool of candidates ever to seek admission to the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering—18,420—with the lowest-ever acceptance rate of 18.8 percent, down from last year’s previous low of 21.4 percent. And they boast the strongest academic profile of any enrolling undergraduate class yet.

“As each class moves in, it resets the norm of what a Tufts first-year class looks like and feels like,” says Lee Coffin, dean of undergraduate admissions. “The Class of ’17 continues our recent history of enrolling students who are outstanding in both their academic and personal attributes.”

But those aren’t the only qualities that count. “One of the things that doesn’t get acknowledged as much when we report admissions stats—it’s something that we can’t quantify, but that we are very conscious of—is the vibe of this institution. One of our goals is to enroll a group of students who personify Tufts and what Tufts values,” says Coffin. “Their impulse towards citizenship, their sense of inclusiveness, their creativity and their willingness to think outside the box are qualities that are very much evident in the incoming class.”

In his speech at the matriculation ceremony, Coffin captured the humanity, achievements and personality of a class that not only contains 76 National Merit Scholars, 58 valedictorians and 43 salutatorians, but also a homecoming queen from Dallas who was president of the LGBT alliance; a football player who was the first woman to play on her high school’s varsity squad; an Italian pole vaulter who was among the top 10 in that event; and a former intern for the New York Times crossword puzzle editor. The class includes 115 students who are among the first generation in their families to attend college; 94 sons and daughters of Tufts alumni; the offspring of farmers, fishermen and diplomats; and the child of a couple who met on their first day at Tufts 33 years ago.

The significant increase in the number of applicants to the Class of 2017—12.5 percent over last year—represents a clear rebound after the recession, both for Tufts and for schools nationwide, Coffin says. Another significant trend has been the growth in international applicants, both from Americans living abroad and foreign citizens. For the Class of ’17, overseas applicants as a group outnumbered those from any U.S. state for the second consecutive year.

The number of accepted and enrolled students from abroad has also reached a record number. This year’s class includes 25 students from China, the highest from any international location, followed by 16 from India. “China has, in the last decade, created a very different middle class than had existed there before, and they want American degrees,” Coffin says. Tufts has also been recruiting students from other Asian countries, including Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Of the 1,316 entering students, the largest contingent still comes from Massachusetts, which supplied 244 students to the freshman class, followed by 142 from New York and 138 from California. The increase in students from California, and from the West Coast in general, has been significant over the past five years, Coffin says, as the overall number of high-school-age students in the Northeast declines. Overall, the new undergraduates come from 43 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 47 countries.

The School of Engineering saw its seventh record pool of applicants. This year, one-third of the engineering class is women. The school, led by a nationally prominent female engineer, Dean Linda Abriola, continues to recruit women interested in careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

Overall, the new class has equal numbers of women and men. A little more than 28 percent of domestic students are people of color; a third of the overall class is non-Caucasian when foreign students are included.

The university awarded a record $16.4 million in need-based financial aid to the incoming class—an increase of almost $2 million over last year—with 34.5 percent of the incoming students receiving a Tufts grant.

The mean SAT score for critical reading was 712; for math, 727; and for writing, 720—an increase to record levels in all three areas, Coffin says.

The student with the longest name is Usjima Vittayaamnuaykoon, and the shortest is Qi Yan. And anyone wandering the halls of a freshman dorm wouldn’t go wrong by calling out “Sarah!” or “Alex!”—those are the most common names of the new students.

Helene Ragovin can be reached at helene.ragovin@tufts.edu.  

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