New Kids on the Quad

The record-breaking undergraduate Class of 2018 and transfers arrive on campus with great expectations

The undergraduate Class of 2018—one that can only be described in superlatives—arrived on the Medford/Somerville campus on Aug. 27. The 1,352 first-year and 22 transfer students in the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering started their Tufts careers at matriculation exercises on the academic quad.

The class holds the distinction of being admitted to Tufts through the most selective admissions process thus far, with an overall acceptance rate of 17 percent, down from 19 percent last year and 27 percent five years ago. The university received 19,074 applications for spots in the class, making it the third record-breaking pool of  applications over the past four years.

“It’s not hyperbole to say the entering class is getting stronger,” says Lee Coffin, dean of undergraduate admissions. “We’ve been blessed with an expanding applicant pool and high-quality academicians who bring compelling personal stories to the class. And you see that reflected on campus, in the way our recent classes have engaged the faculty and pursued their own work. We’re very lucky.”

The acceptance rate for the School of Engineering stands at record-low 14 percent, down from 20 percent one year ago. The applicant pool set a record, at 3,726, the eighth year in a row of a record high. “Nationwide, there is a strong demand for engineering degrees and a widening recognition of the quality of our engineering,” Coffin says. Thirty-four percent of the 211 incoming engineering students are female, a significantly higher percentage than is usually seen among engineering schools.

See a slideshow about two students as they head off to Tufts. >>>

The Class of ’18 is also distinguished by an important uptick in socioeconomic diversity. “This has been an important goal for us, and the entering class is a much more pluralistic group,” Coffin says.

The class has the largest number of students who are among the first generation in their family to attend college—12 percent—since Tufts began tracking such statistics about a decade ago, Coffin says. It also has the highest number of recipients of Pell grants—federal awards to students from low-income backgrounds—another strategic barometer of socioeconomic diversity. Tufts awarded $19.2 million in need-based institutional financial aid to incoming students; 42 percent of enrolling students are receiving some form of need-based financial aid.

Students in the Class of ’18 come from 49 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 41 nations.

While Massachusetts and New York remain the top two states for new students, the growth areas continue to be the West Coast and overseas, where the high school age population has been growing overall, Coffin says. California follows New York in sending the most students to Tufts. And if “overseas” was considered as a single unit, it would come in fourth, right behind California, Coffin says. Foreign citizens make up 7 percent of the class, with Americans living abroad constituting an additional 4 percent.

The country supplying the most students is China, a trend reflected in other North American colleges and universities. “We see this continuing for the foreseeable future,” Coffin says. “China is a place that is increasingly valuing foreign undergraduate degrees.” China is followed by India, Singapore, Turkey and Thailand.

Students of color make up 30 percent of the U.S. citizens in the first-year class. Factoring in international students, people of color account for almost 35 percent of the class, Coffin says.

The freshmen—who are equally divided between women and men—arrive with impressive academic credentials: 65 National Merit Scholars, 69 valedictorians and 53 salutatorians. The mean for the critical reading scores on the SAT is 714, a new Tufts record. The mean for both the SAT math and writing portions is 720.

The class counts some individual stars among its members. Thanawan Wongsanguan, who has the stage name “Boom,” is half of the Thai teen pop group AB Queen. Harry Paul is the winner of the 2014 Intel International Science Fair for developing a spinal implant device. The class also includes one of the recipients of the United Kingdom Commonwealth Award for poetry, a world-champion mule packer from Maine, the Turkish national slalom waterskiing champ and an Indian filmmaker who won an award at Cannes.

Some already are familiar with Tufts: the student whose parents met in Carmichael Hall during freshman orientation in 1984, the granddaughter of former Tufts president Jean Mayer, 15 residents of Medford or Somerville. Others—the son of unemployed Chinese immigrants who earned a GED, a student who grew up in a Congolese refugee camp, another who lived in an orphanage in Zimbabwe—are walking new paths. Over the next four years, all will learn what it means to be a Jumbo.

Helene Ragovin can be reached at

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