College Guide


July 12, 2013 1:43 PM Because You Only Apply to Tufts Once

By Daniel Luzer


The latest question on the Tufts University application for admissions is pretty unusual.

Tufts, known for its creative application questions—a 2009 application question was “ Are we alone?” In 2010 it began to allow students to submit Youtube videos to apply to the school—has this year decided to go with #YOLO.

YOLO, an Internet meme that serves as an acronym for “you only live once,” is often used by teenagers to excuse irresponsible behavior (“did coke at a party this weekend with a bunch of slutty chicks @RobbyWilson8 ‘s house because parents were out of town #YOLO”) is now Tufts essay prompt.

According to a piece at the Boston Globe by Katherine Landergan:

For the third essay on the Tufts supplement, students are asked to choose one of six prompts, including the following:
“The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase “Carpe diem.” Jonathan Larson proclaimed “No day but today!” and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?”

Maybe admissions officers at the Massachusetts school (working in the building shown above) are just getting bored. Tufts is eager to emphasize that this question is totally not bullshit. According to the Globe article:

“The spirit of the question is actually quite serious as it asks students to consider a concept that people - from Roman philosopher of antiquity Horace to contemporary Grammy Award-winning Canadian rapper Drake - have been thinking about for thousands of years,” she wrote.

Um, so why keep asking? What new answers are we really going to get here?

This probably won’t happen, but an honest response is something along the lines of: “Look, I’m 17 and applying to a fancy college; all of my #YOLO things are ultimately pretty tame. Look my SATs, OK?” [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Demosthenes on July 15, 2013 12:30 PM:

    I guess Tufts is feeling the heat from the U of Chicago, which offers rather bizarre essay questions on its undergraduate application form. Last year, for example, the U of Chicago allowed applicants to write an essay on "Where in the World is Waldo anyway"?

  • Kenneth O'Connor on July 15, 2013 2:57 PM:

    Nice to see Demosthenes on this article commenting.

    The school is not ready for a real answer of #YOLO from an undergraduate, why do they invite such disingenuous issues while leaving more critical ones ignored?

  • Demosthenes on July 17, 2013 2:04 PM:

    Surely, Kenneth, your question was rhetorical? Tufts puts out such a silly question for the simple reason that the admission folks there think this shows they are "hip", or, as the article notes, maybe they are bored. I know, from personal experience, the U of Chicago comes up with similar stuff for the same reason (and also to dispel their (well-deserved) nerdy reputation). In either event, the last thing these schools want is for their applicants to comment upon something critical. Trust me; I know of what I speak, despite having to opine with rocks in my mouth.