WashU vs. Tufts

I’ve committed to Tufts but got off the WashU waitlist today. I really love Tufts but WashU is a great school. Considering that, I was wondering if you guys could help me with which school I’d be a better fit for. I’m interested in environmental science, writing, and film and media studies.

What I want out of a school:
-focus on undergrads
-small(er) class sizes
-less competitive community (don’t want grade deflation)
-a lot of grass/trees (nice campus)
-good college town/larger city
-accessible professors with whom I can form relationships
-students who balance work and fun (I would like a very active social community)
-good food both on and off campus
-nice dorms
-friendly people
-supportive community (inclusiveness of all races, LGBTQ, etc.)
-a degree that will open doors
-a school that will set me up for graduate school
-which school has the edge in employment after college?


Hey @ap012199 so glad you got off the waitlist for WashU!! Obviously both amazing options althoughI can’t really help you because I don’t know much about WashU but good luck!

I would really appreciate any help. I only have until Tuesday to decide!

Have you visited them both? What were your impressions?

I’m a big fan of Wash U. - My daughter didn’t end up going there (she’ll be going to Stanford), but it was a top choice among some excellent schools. The campus is beautiful, the professors very accessible, there’s a lot of flexibility in majoring across disciplines and schools, it’s got a strong undergraduate research focus, and they take their undergraduate advising program very seriously.

IMO - your decision must come from fit and financials.

Funny, as I was reading your criteria, I was thinking “That’s Tufts!”.

I am assuming you prefer WUSTL or you wouldn’t have taken the WL spot, though.

This is really about fit.

@gardenstategal well I actually took the wl spot because I got that decision weeks before my Tufts decision, and stayed on it for financial reasons. WashU ended up giving me more money. That’s why I’m in this pickle.

@LoveTheBard I’m visiting on Monday. I’ve already visited Tufts.

That’s a good pickle to be in. Two great schools – there are no bad choices here!

Can you do an overnight with a student at Wash U and sit in on some classes there?

@LoveTheBard probably not… I’m visiting Monday and have to decide on Tuesday.

Do you know what you want to major in?

Tufts appears to meet your criteria better than Wash U…

Tufts outperforms Wash U on outcome based criteria.

The issue appears to be cost.

Tufts claims to meet full need, but does not give merit scholarships.

Wash U gives merit to attract top students.

If your financial package from Wash U is purely need based then you should talk to the Tufts financial aid office and they may change your package.

If your financial package from Wash U has a merit component, then Tufts will not match it.

@Mastadon already talked to Tufts. Although my package at WashU was need-based, they said that they do not match aid based on what other schools give you. They only said that my aid would change if my family’s income situation did.

This is a little tricky. I will try to explain.

Tufts does not match aid, but it does allow appeal of the aid package (because they can make mistakes).

If you just ask them to match an offer they will not.

If you appeal their award with some sort of rational why they miscalculated your need and offer another need based award as evidence, then they will review their calculation in the context of the information you gave. This may or may not result in a change of award depending on the outcome of their review. If your financial situation is straightforward, a change is unlikely, but if it is more unusual, there is a chance.

@ap012199 Is the cost difference meaningful for your family? If so, I would choose Wash U.

FWIW, I preferred the Wash U campus and its surrounding area to Tufts; your opinion may differ. Also the dorms and food at Wash U are very impressive and the campus is beautiful. There is lots to do close by - Delmar Loop for shopping and restaurants, Forest Park for museums, running, walking, etc. and the campus is connected to St. Louis by light rail.

By reputation, Wash U students are friendly and collaborative.

They are both great schools, similarly ranked. There’s no bad choice. Congrats!

Two great schools. Go with your gut! Really!

What’s the cost difference, OP? To me it sounds like you really like Tufts and you’re only considering Wash U because you were presented with a new option and potentially because of money. So comment on what the difference in costs would be to your family. Would you have to go into debt?

@juillet fortunately, my parents say that they’ll be be able to get me through college without any debt. They want me to go to whichever school I like more, not which one is cheapest.

@ap012199 The ACT score is 33, and that’s over Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell, so just go to Tufts.

Wash U does not even offer a multidisciplinary Environmental Studies Major. They just announced an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Minor.

Tufts introduced one of the first multidisciplinary Environmental Studies Majors in 1984. There is no comparison between the two programs. Not even close. Tufts’ program allows you to study the environment from the perspective of any standard major which can be integrated with one of five different Environmental Studies Tracks, each of which includes an internship. The program spans both the liberal arts and engineering. There is also a regular “lunch and learn” seminar series

Tufts Economics department does not have a Phd program, but it still ranks around the top 50-60 institutions worldwide for both Environmental Economics and Energy Economics research. (Around the top ten for US university economics departments). Wash U is not ranked in the top 250 despite having a Phd program…

Tufts interdisciplinary IR program is one of the top few programs in the country and it includes a track on Global Health Nutrition and the Environment - much broader in scope than either anthropology or archaeology. The Fletcher School sponsors the largest student run energy conference in the Northeast.

Tufts Geology department does not have a Phd program, but that did not prevent President Obama from citing its research in his 2015 state of the union address. Somehow he missed all the research of Wash U’s “more robust” department (which graduated as many Phd’s as undergrads last year).

The head of the EPA (under Obama) was a Tufts environmental alum and several other alums are in senior positions.

Other Environmental majors at Tufts include:

Environmental Engineering
Environmental Health
Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning

Tufts actually launched the sustainability movement in higher education in 1990 with the Talloires Declaration. 499 college presidents across the world have now signed. Tufts has a summer environmental program where you can take a field course in botany at their Talloires Campus in the French Alps. (Much more beautiful than the Missouri Botanical Garden.)


Tufts has an environmental institute that sponsors environmental programs and education both inside and outside the university, as well as a second institute (co-directed by one of the lead authors of the IPCC report that won the Nobel Peace Prize) to connect environmental research and curricular development. The Stockholm Environmental Institute is a global research affiliate with an office on Tufts’ campus.

Tufts was a pioneer in the area of “one health” - the linking of the health of humans, animals and the environment. It has a separate institute to integrate this concept across all levels of the university. It has a vet school with a wildlife center that cares for wild animals, zoo animals and farm animals across all of New England as well as a Conservation Medicine program. (Much more effective than visiting the zoo.)

As far as Media Studies goes, Tufts has a strong program. A Tufts alum has been elected to the Forbes 30 under 30 list (media category) each of the last three years. Malia Obama is majoring in media and Tufts was one of the ten schools she visited (Wash U was not on the list). She ended up at Harvard. My daughter minored in Media Studies and landed a job in advertising/digital marketing in NYC

If you want more trees,

There is a 2500 acre urban forest 2 miles from Tufts

Tufts also owns a “loj” (run by the Tufts Mountain Club) in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Vans are provided for transportation.

Decided to stick with Tufts! WashU just wasn’t for me.