Tufts Syndrome

Tufts Syndrome Unwrapped
Have you ever heard others claim they were rejected by a school because they were “overly qualified” or “too smart?” If so, these people believe they have fallen victim to the painful condition known as “Tufts Syndrome”.

Tufts Syndrome is synonymous with the more academic term “yield protection”. A college’s yield refers to the percentage of admitted students who eventually matriculate. US News and World Report uses yield as a factor in their ranking system. Rumor has it that some competitive colleges will choose to waitlist or reject students whom they feel would be admitted to “better” colleges and universities and would thus choose not to attend the less prestigious school.

Though the origins of the disease are difficult to trace, one can infer that they must have some sort of connection to Tufts University. Likely, many highly qualified students who were admitted to other highly selective schools were shocked by their waitlists at Tufts and thus coined the term. However, we can never really be sure.

Is it Real?
It’s very difficult to prove whether or not Tufts Syndrome exists at colleges and universities around the country, especially when schools practice holistic admissions. Oftentimes, students who claim to have been “Tufted” are just insulted and hurt by the bad news and use the disease as a defense mechanism. Most schools accused of Tufts Syndrome deny it wholeheartedly by citing students with top credentials who were admitted and stating that they look at fit, not just grades and test scores. Ultimately, only anecdotal evidence can be used to validate or reject the presence of Tufts Syndrome in various schools.

How Do I Prevent It?
Nearly every college readily admits that demonstrated interest plays a factor in admissions. A student can demonstrate interest by visiting the school, attending an information session, emailing an admissions officer, or having an alumni interview, among many other things. Try to demonstrate interest in every school to which you are applying. This is good practice for all colleges, including safety schools, as demonstrated interest can play a role in merit awards as well. By showing this enthusiasm for a given school, students can communicate to admissions officers that they do truly want to attend the school and will not pass them up for others.

Some institutions will ask applicants which other colleges and universities they are considering. This practice reeks of Tufts Syndrome. Why would they want to know to where else the applicants were applying unless they were trying to gauge the odds that the students would matriculate? A good practice for applicants in this situation is to list 3 or 4 colleges to which they are actually applying that are of a similar or lower caliber than the given college (do not lie). Unless the college or university explicitly requests lists of all colleges or universities to which the students are applying, the applicants are under no obligation to respond with a complete or definitive list. Furthermore, many applicants are still finalizing college lists while applying to some colleges (particularly those that have early action programs).

Remember, worrying about Tufts Syndrome is a problem for a very lucky few. Most seniors applying to college are hoping to get into just one school that’s a good fit for them. If you are worried about or feel you have been “Tufted,” just remember how fortunate you are to be in such circumstances.

Have a question? Email Hope at hbrinn@thecollegiateblog.com or use the comment box below.