New Jumbos on the Hill

The university welcomes another record-breaking undergraduate class and transfer students—and the first to enroll in the SMFA at Tufts

students line up before matriculation

David Hartman is excited as he adjusts his phone to photograph his daughter, Rachel, A20. She’s turning the corner past Ballou Hall with other members of the Class of 2020 as they make their way to a sea of folding chairs on the academic quad for the matriculation ceremony on Aug. 31. 

For Hartman and his wife, Laura Pincus Hartman, J85, the day marks a momentous beginning. Rachel’s smile as she walks beside her new classmates eases, somewhat, how they’ll feel when they say goodbye later.

“You have to be excited on the outside for her, but inwardly you have mixed emotions,” says Laura. When they return home to Chicago, “there will be an empty space where she’s supposed to be,” Laura says. “But I know she’ll love it here.”

View more coverage of Matriculation 2016 >>

Rachel and the other members of the Class of 2020 made history this spring—there were 20,223 applicants, an increase of 5.7 percent over last year’s record pool. The class came out of the university’s most selective admissions process. Just 14.3 percent were accepted, compared to 16 percent last year, placing Tufts among the most selective research universities in the country, says Karen Richardson, dean of undergraduate admissions and enrollment management.

Tufts’ reputation is underscored by yield, or the percentage of students who accept the university’s offer of admission. That metric also set an all-time high of 46.5 percent, continuing a positive trend. Yield has climbed steadily over the past three years: 44 percent for the Class of 2019, 41 percent for the Class of 2018 and 38 percent for the Class of 2017.

The class is made up of 1,342 first-year undergraduates, plus 55 students who will pursue Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees through the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts. They are the first to enroll in the SMFA at Tufts University, which became part of the School of Arts and Sciences on July 1.

This class maintains Tufts’ strong academic standards, with mean SAT scores of 713 in critical reading and 729 in math; the class includes 54 National Merit Scholars. Preliminary surveys to gauge student academic interest indicate that in the School of Arts and Sciences, international relations and biology are the most popular majors. In the School of Engineering, freshmen expressed strong interest in the mechanical, chemical and biomedical engineering departments.

“My colleagues and I were incredibly impressed by the smart, engaged and collaborative vibe of the Class of 2020,” says Richardson. “As a collective and as individuals, the students enrolling today should make Tufts proud.”

Indeed, the undergraduates are high achievers both in and outside the classroom. The Class of 2020 includes an inventor who responded to car-related deaths in her town by developing an app to test drivers’ fitness to get behind the wheel and a student who founded an organization to help women in Jakarta build financial literacy. Another is a promising young scientist whose research has been published twice in the Journal of Child Neurology.

The incoming students also include the first group of 1+4 Bridge-Year fellows, who returned this spring from nine months abroad in Brazil, Nicaragua or Spain. They participated in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life’s new service-learning program, which gives accepted students the opportunity to perform full-time community service work before beginning their four years on campus.

Financial aid continues to help admissions staff create a “diverse and dynamic class,” says Richardson. Tufts this year budgeted a record $19.278 million in need-based grants for the Class of 2020. The average grant is $41,419. Out of 466 grant recipients, 130 also received federal Pell grants, awarded to students whose family income is $50,000 a year or less. Within the class, 132 are among the first generation in their families to go to college.

Just over half of the class—59 percent—attended a public high school. The class is split evenly between men and women; of the incoming students in the School of Engineering, 37 percent are women. Twenty-nine percent of domestic students in the incoming class are of color, up from 28 percent last year; 4.9 percent identify as black, 5.2 percent as two or more races, 6.6 percent as Hispanic, and 12.4 percent as Asian. 

Students in the class come from 45 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; the states with the largest contingents are Massachusetts, New York and California.  

In line with Tufts’ focus on building international perspectives into the college experience, the new class comes to the Hill from around the globe. International students account for 11 percent of the class, and hail from 45 countries, including Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Paraguay, South Korea, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. China accounts for the largest number of international students, followed by India and Singapore. Within Europe, the top countries represented are the United Kingdom, Turkey, Greece, Switzerland and Norway.

Laura Ferguson can be reached at

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