BYLINE: By Laura Ferguson, Tufts Now

Newswise — President Sunil Kumar welcomed members of the Class of 2027 to Tufts on August 30, encouraging them to take full advantage of the “immense freedom” that comes with being a college student—starting with being open to new ideas and experiences.

“Every now and then, when someone asks you why you are doing something, your answer should be ‘Why not?’ . . . As you’ll come to learn, one of the great advantages of being a college student is the immense freedom you are afforded,” he said. “I urge you to take full advantage of this freedom. It will never be easier to explore a new discipline or to discover new ways of viewing the world than in the next four years.”

Kumar, who took over the presidency of Tufts on July 1, shared his words of advice at the university’s matriculation ceremony. While traditionally held on the Academic Quad, the event this year was moved online due to forecasts for heavy rain.

Kumar’s remarks were drawn from his own journey. When he landed in the United States to pursue a PhD in electrical engineering, his new hometown of Urbana, Illinois, was a far cry from the large city of Bangalore in India, where he had earned his master’s degree. “To say that I felt out of place when I arrived would be an understatement,” he said.

“My solution to this discomfort? I grew a ponytail, bought a 20-year-old Cadillac, and developed a taste for truck stop food. Looking back, these were arguably not the wisest decisions I’ve ever made, but the point is that I immersed myself in discomfort rather than shying away from it.”

That experience shaped his belief that “personal growth rarely comes from within your comfort zone. I firmly believe in the value of so-called mistakes and failures. They help you discover deep truths about yourself and your calling,” he told the incoming class and transfers.

“So, when you are debating whether to take that course on a topic you’ve always been curious about, or whether to fulfil your dream of studying abroad and immersing yourself in a new language and culture, ask yourself how that decision will contribute to your overall learning and growth. And, if you’re still unsure, just ask yourself ‘Why not?’,” he said.

“Today marks the beginning of an exciting journey, and it is a privilege for me to be part of it,” Kumar noted. “I look forward to getting to know each of you during your time here, and I can’t wait to see what you will accomplish.”

Diverse in All Kinds of Ways

Kumar’s remarks followed similar warm greetings from Caroline Genco, provost and senior vice president, and JT Duck, dean of admissions and enrollment management for the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering.

“We know that this class is going to make our community’s light on the Hill shine brighter,” said Duck, who then shared some of the distinctions of the 1,742 first-year students and 73 transfer students, six of whom are enrolling as members of the Resumed Education for Adult Learners program.

He noted that first-year students represent the most ethnically and racially diverse class ever to enroll at Tufts. They come from more than 1,100 high schools—the largest number of high schools ever represented in a single, incoming class—and include more than 300 that have not sent a student to Tufts in the past five years, if ever. 

“This class represents our continuing commitment to expand access to a Tufts education and to expand the number of communities from which our students enroll,” he said.

Additionally, “nearly 200 of you will be among the first generation in your families to graduate from college. I, too, was the first person in my family to graduate from college. I see you—you belong here.”

As reported in January, the Class of 2027 grew out of the university’s most diverse applicant pool in its history. The pool included the largest number of international students, first-generation students, and students of color, as well as the largest number of transfer applicants.

It was also Tufts’ largest applicant pool to the School of Engineering and to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts (SMFA), and the second largest-ever applicant pool to the School of Arts and Sciences. 

Students were selected through an “individualized and holistic review of their application by members of the Tufts admissions committee, a process that sought to understand the unique accomplishments, potential, and aspirations of each student,” said Duck.

Overall, “kindness, empathy, compassion, and a collaborative spirit defined much of what we saw in this exceptional applicant pool,” he said.

The Class of 2027 is the third class to enroll under Tufts’ SAT/ACT test-optional policy. The policy has been extended to the next three application cycles—for students entering in fall 2024, 2025, and 2026. Similar to each of the past three years, about 45 percent of the students enrolling at Tufts this fall applied without submitting ACT or SAT results.

The Class of 2027 by the Numbers

Identification and Diversity

  • Women make up 55% of the overall class and men account for 41%.
  • Students who identify as genderqueer, non-binary, or preferred not to specify a gender identity account for 4%.
  • 50% of incoming U.S. undergraduates identify as students of color.
  • 7% identify as Black or African American.
  • 11% identify as Latinx/Hispanic.
  • 20% identify as Asian American.
  • 11% identify as multiracial. 
  • 47% identify as white.
  • 3% did not specify a race or ethnicity at the time of application.
  • 40 first-year students identify with a Native or Indigenous heritage, nearly all as part of a multiracial identity. This includes 26 students who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, including four students who are enrolled citizens of their tribe, representing three tribal nations: Cherokee, Muscogee, and Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, and 14 students who identify as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

Academic Pathways

  • 282 first-year students indicate interest in the School of Engineering; 47% of those are women.
  • 1,460 first-year students indicate interest in School of Arts and Sciences, of which 5% intend to pursue the B.F.A. at the SMFA and 6% intend to pursue the combined B.F.A. + B.A./B.S. degree.
  • 12 first-year students are enrolling in the Tufts Civic Semester, a Tisch College of Civic Life program that combines academic coursework and experiential learning with a focus on community engagement and social and environmental justice. This year the program is based in Urubamba, Peru.
  • 32 incoming students took a gap year last year.

Global Reach

  • In total, enrolled students have citizenships from 65 countries.
  • The most represented citizenships among international students are China, South Korea, India, Turkey, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, United Kingdom, Brazil, and Spain.
  • At least 75 different languages are spoken in the homes of the students enrolling in the Class of 2027. The most common languages other than English are Spanish, Mandarin, French, Korean, Hindi, German, Arabic, Cantonese, Thai, Turkish. Other languages spoken at home by incoming students include Hausa, from West Africa Zo; from Burma and northeastern India; and Dholuo, from Kenya and Tanzania.
  • Students hail from­­ 49 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Students designated as foreign nationals account for 12%. 
  • The states that sent the most students are Massachusetts, New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Texas, and Washington.
  • One-third of the class enrolling from the U.S. is enrolling from the South, Southwest, and West.
  • 48 students come from the university’s host communities of Medford, Somerville, Boston, and Grafton. Several students are affiliated with local nonprofits supporting access to college, including Bottom Line; Steppingstone Foundation; Breakthrough Greater Boston; and SquashBusters.

Access to College

  • The class received more than $33 million in need-based grants from Tufts. The average grant this year was more than $53,500; 12 percent of the class are Pell Grant recipients.
  • 11% are the first generation in their families to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
  • 43 students participated in the virtual Voices of Tufts Experience hosted by undergraduate admissions last fall, a program for students interested in learning more about diversity and community at Tufts.
  • 53% attended public or public charter high schools.  
  • Transfer students represent more than 50 different colleges and universities across the country and around the world, including area community colleges such as Bunker Hill Community College, North Shore Community College, and Northern Essex Community College.
  • 125 students worked with local and national community-based organizations that support their path to college, including A Better Chance (ABC), EMERGE, Minds Matter, TEAK Fellowship, Thrive Scholars, and QuestBridge. Twenty students enrolled through the QuestBridge National College Match program.