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"Freshman year is breathless"

Mira Chhatwal, a freshman at Tufts University, says first-year students scramble to adjust to a new level of academics, while having a social life.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   02-12-2019

Mira Chhatwal

It can be excruciatingly difficult to get accepted into Tufts University, in Massachusetts since it is a highly selective private institution.

Overall, the school accepted just 15% of applicants for fall 2018, according to US News data. The average SAT score for freshmen was 708 for critical reading and 737 for math.

As the college application season heats up, Braingain Magazine caught up with debater and dancer Mira Chhatwal, who is currently a freshman at Tufts University, to find out more about the admissions process and life as a first-year college student.

Mira talks to Braingain Magazine about how every college applicant eventually discovers their best fit college. She also touches on how Tufts small classes offer interesting learning opportunities.

Students can choose from more than 90 undergraduate majors at Tufts, including classical studies, economics and international relations. According to students, Tufts' size is like Goldilocks: not too big, not too small, but just right.
 

How did you feel when you didn’t get into your early decision school?

For months leading up to the decision, I imagined my life in New York City, jumping the gun and picking classes, pretending to already belong to clubs at Columbia University. At 5.00 am when I opened a letter and saw my two-line rejection it felt unreal. I would be lying if I said the first few hours were not filled with tears. However, I bounced back and made a conscious decision to move on. I knew that none of this was a big deal, because in two months some other great US college would find me. The first tenet in approaching the admissions process is asking yourself can I control it all?

Here is the short answer: No. There are elements like institutional priorities or forming a holistic class that colleges prioritize and these are things which are out of a student’s control. Therefore, even if the process is not purely random, it can feel like a bit of a gamble, so you take your chances and move on. It all ultimately falls into place.
 

Why did you pick Tufts University over other great schools like Wesleyan, Emory and New York University that were wooing you with generous scholarships?

My dad completed one of his master’s degrees at Tufts, so I grew up wearing a Tufts baby onesie which I’ve now traded for Tufts sweatshirts. Despite this I never actively thought about Tufts and always pretended to have no interest in the school. I think this was mainly because I was scared about being the legacy student who didn’t get in. After my ED rejection however, it felt stupid to not apply and so for the first time I started researching Tufts. My obsession with Tufts was sparked almost immediately. I fell in love with the campus, and constantly watched the virtual campus tour.

I was a huge fan of the flexibility in the Tufts curriculum and the brilliant faculty. I know this sounds generic, but it really did prompt me to appreciate what Tufts offered. However, I think the biggest selling point was the thrill of being around students equally passionate and entrepreneurial as I envisioned myself.

Tufts University

I was very happy and lucky to pick from other great schools — I would probably be happy attending either of them. I know the next thing I am going to say may not make perfect sense till you experience it, but ultimately Tufts was a gut decision. You finally reach the point where you’ve studied colleges more than calculus, and you could get a fantastic education in a lot of places. Once you know your options, there’s no need to think it over so much instead trust your gut instinct.  
 

As your freshman fall comes to an end do you feel you made the right decision?

I feel like having such ready access to college through social media makes it very easy to envision your US college life even before you set foot on campus. This is great but can also be a trap. I feel like I had created an experience in my head before getting here and very quickly realized college wasn’t going to pan out exactly like that and it was entirely up to me to make or break my college experience. I can happily report I made the right decision in coming to Tufts. I will say though that frat parties have been the biggest disappointment. I’ve found a great group of friends. I’m constantly intellectually stimulated and meet passionate people and professors pretty much every day.
 

Tell us what you are studying and what it’s like being in a Tufts classroom?

I went into Tufts with a plan of majoring in Economics with a minor in Entrepreneurship and Leadership Studies. I still feel confident I will pursue both these courses, but since coming to college the sheer magnitude of attractive choices and classes is making me want to delve into psychology, religion and women studies. Also, this semester I took an acting class and it was amazing!

Being in a Tufts classroom is really an experience like no other. The beauty of Tufts is its small classrooms which really allows students to connect with teachers and classmates. I often leave classes feeling like I learnt something new and meaningful. Quite often, my friends and I talk about our classroom discussions. I know it sounds geeky, but it’s the truth.
 

Does college at Tufts live up to all the hype surrounding it?

As a freshman you hit the ground running and the hectic pace pretty much doesn’t stop till the end of the semester. There’s a real pressure to adjust to a new level of academics, while also trying to have a busy social life. It’s an overwhelming experience sometimes, but Tufts give you momentum to explore college in all its vibrancy. Whatever you may have imagined pales in comparison to the reality of being in college and doing a juggling act. By the end of the semester you get the hang for keeping several balls in the air, and doing several things at once.

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