How “x” does academics: x = Tufts

December 4, 2006 at 4:15 am 1 comment

Posted by Leo

Chances are the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Tufts is its reputation in Political Science and International Relations. It is undoubtedly very strong in these areas, but is anything but weak in the rest.

The academic year at Tufts is split up into two semesters, which fall at about the same time as other schools on the semester system. Since it operates on a semester system, classes last 13 weeks, and finals in the fall are before Christmas break. In order to graduate from Tufts, you need to complete 36 credits. Most academic classes are one credit, so on average students take four to five classes per semester. The credit limit for each semester is 5.5 without special approval from an undergraduate dean. Although it is possible to go through almost all four years taking only four classes per semester, it is by no means a requirement. Taking five classes is completely feasible and not an unmanageable amount of work.

Tufts, being a liberal arts school as well as a research university, has a quite extensive set of core requirements. Students must complete two semesters of English unless they have an AP English score, which exempts them from some or all of the requirement. Students must take a total of six semesters of language classes, where the first three must be in the same language, and second three may be in the same language, the same culture, or another language. Every student must take a class that fulfills a World Civilizations credit, which pretty much boils down to a class on a non-western culture. There are many, many classes from all sorts of departments that fulfill this requirement, from Political Islam to History of South American film. There are then distribution requirements, where a student must take two classes in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Quantative Sciences, and the Arts. Although comprehensive, the requirements provide a strong background in a diverse number of fields.

Majors usually consist of 10-15 classes, so it is easy to double major. Even double majoring in two completely unrelated subjects with no overlap is possible with some planning. Freshman are put into advising classes which assign them a freshman advisor; usually there are about 12 people per class. This means that freshman get a lot of personal attention when it comes to selecting classes and figuring out what to take when. Once a major is declared, which has to happen by the beginning of junior year, a student is assigned an advisor from that department.

Choosing classes for freshman can sometimes be a problem, as small, high demand classes are often filled in by upperclassmen first.

Classes range in size from tiny to large. As with most colleges, the basic intro courses to the sciences, as well as Economics and Psychology are large lectures consisting of 200-300 people. As you move deeper, you get into smaller classes, of course, and occasionally very small classes are to be found. For example, a philosophy class on Foucault taught next semester has a total enrollment of five students. Most political science and humanities classes tend to be under about 40.

One criticism that can be heard about Tufts is the lack of an engaging social scene. The reality is, if you are looking for a party school with very strong school spirit, Tufts is not the place to go. There are some fraternities, but by no means do they dominate campus life. Most parties are smaller affairs, either in off-campus housing or in individual dorm rooms or suites.

Undoubtedly, if you plan on majoring in International Relations or Political Sciences, Tufts should definitely be on your list. Although not as well-known as some other schools in the area, *cough* on the Tufts campus there is a little-known gem known as the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Fletcher, a Tufts graduate school, specializes in Political Science and there are classes that undergraduates can take that are taught by full Fletcher professors. As an example, I am currently enrolled in a class called Comparative European Politics, the only undergrad class taught by my particular professor, who is at Fletcher. I can say with no exceptions that my professor is the most intelligent man I have ever met, and I learn more in that class than in all the rest combined. The benefit of the Fletcher school is not to be underestimated, as there are also a plethora of guest speakers, including such notaries as the Director of Policy Planning of NATO (who spoke today).

In conclusion, Tufts is an excellent school, especially in Political Science. The existence of graduate students and the benefit of a full research university are readily available for undergrads to use, and couple world-class research with undergrad learning.


Entry filed under: Academics, Advisor, AP English, Art, Classes, College trends, Core, Culture, Department, Dorm, Double major, Economics, Education, English, Environment, Europe, Film, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Fraternity, Freshman, Graduate school, Guest speaker, Guideline, Housing, Humanities, International relations, Islam, Junior, Language, Lecture, Liberal arts, Major, NATO, Party, Philosophy, Political science, Psychology, Research, Semester, Social science, South America, Tufts, Units, Winter.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Yong Bin  |  December 27, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Hmm if possible I would like to know how these universities do their academics as well.

    U Penn
    U Chicago
    Princeton U
    U Michigan

    Yup. I must say you guys have done a really great job. *salute*


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