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Tufts asks applicants: what does YOLO mean to you?

Posted by Your Town  July 12, 2013 12:30 PM

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Tufts University, long known for its quirky application questions, is asking prospective students this year: what does YOLO mean to you?

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?"

A rapper, Drake popularized the saying, which is frequently used as a hashtag on Twitter, in his song "The Motto,'' which includes the line "You only live once that's the motto.''

Tufts spokeswoman Kim Thurler said today in an e-mailed statement that the question was submitted by a member of the incoming first-year class.

"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, later adding, "Deceptively simple subjects can yield eloquent essays and important insights."

Thurler also said the university aims to provide a variety of questions, in an effort to attract diverse applicants.

"We try to offer a range of essay options that will engage a wide range of students and will reflect the full diversity of Tufts," Thurler said. "We ask ourselves how we can reach the athlete, the artist, the techie."

Other essay prompts include:

"Sports, science and society are filled with rules, theories and laws like the Ninth Commandment, PV=nRT, Occam’s Razor, and The Law of Diminishing Returns. Three strikes and you’re out. “I” before “E” except after “C.” Warm air rises. Pick one and explain its significance to you."

"What makes you happy?"

"Celebrate your nerdy side."

Although some of these questions may seem silly or lighthearted, Tufts' application process is nothing to scoff at.

This year, Tufts had a new record low acceptance rate of 18.7 percent.

In a blog post, Lee Coffin, the dean of undergraduate admissions, wrote Thursday that "to get your writing juices flowing, we penned questions that won’t sound like the ones you’ll encounter on (most) other college applications. That’s not an attempt to make it 'harder' to apply to Tufts; it’s our way of saying 'think outside the box.'"

Katherine Landergan can be reached at For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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