The Johns Hopkins University was the last school that I visited when I traveled through the Baltimore-Washington area at the beginning of November. I have visited Stanford this year, as well as Ivies on past travels. But I had never been to Johns Hopkins, a foolish oversight on my part, since it is one of the very best research universities in the world. It was a rainy day, so I did not get many pictures on this admittedly short visit. But I gathered enough to make a Pinterest page.
Prior to coming to Johns Hopkins University I had always thought the name of the school to be synonymous with “doctor.” There is some truth to that. Among the most selective research universities in the United States, Johns Hopkins is the only one that grants the majority of its degrees in the health sciences, science, and engineering. Just over 40 percent of Johns Hopkins seniors in 2013 earned a degree in science or engineering, according to College ResultsOnline. Only Rice and Stanford matched that percentage. Johns Hopkins also receives the most funding for academic research of any university, public or private, in the United States. This is due, in part, to Hopkin’s location as well as the prestige of the medical center.
But not everyone who attends Johns Hopkins University becomes a physician. Notable Johns Hopkins undergraduate alumni include former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor John Astin and journalist Russell Baker, among many others. The university does not even force non-scientists to take a lab science nor does it force students into specific science courses. There are distribution requirements in the humanities, social sciences and the sciences as there are at other schools. But there is tremendous flexibility in fulfilling them, even though AP credits earned in high school. It is very easy to double major at Johns Hopkins, even when studying engineering, or carry multiple minors. Students have an advisor for every major as well as each minor. Those who are ready can do paid research with faculty or seek funding for their own projects as early as the freshman year. There are also bachelor’s-master’s programs including one in engineering where the fifth year is offered at a 50 percent tuition discount.
With around 6,000 undergraduates Johns Hopkins is a mid-sized school. To me it is most similar to Brown, the University of Rochester, Tufts and Washington University in St. Louis and Yale, all of which are organized around the liberal arts and engineering, are located within urban settings and are not invested in scholarship varsity sports (except for men’s and women’s lacrosse at Hopkins). Like Tufts and Rochester, Johns Hopkins is very well invested in graduate education in public policy and international affairs. In addition, all of these universities are highly regarded for medical education and research. They also have some of the best graduate schools in the U.S. and allow undergraduates to start taking advanced courses if they prove to be ready. However, the introductory courses will be large and often supported by graduate students as they are at a state university.
Johns Hopkins students gave their faculty a rating of 3.72 (out of a possible 5) on RateMyProfessors.com. Rochester students held their faculty in similarly high esteem. Tufts students showed more regard for their faculty as did students at Brown, Washington University in St. Louis and Yale. So did students at Rice and Stanford, which are science-intensive schools.
Johns Hopkins accepts less than a fifth of those who apply. Near-perfect grades and SATs are just a starting point. When you have so many students with excellent records the holistic review has to be rigorous. A regional counselor will be the first to review an application, then three others will read it before it goes to committee. This year approximately 40 percent of the freshman class that came in this fall entered through Early Decision. That percentage might be higher for the class that starts next fall. Ninety-seven percent of the class that entered in 2013 returned for the next year. If this is the school you want you have to hope to gain admission as a freshman. Over 70 percent finish in four years, though many stick around for a fifth to earn a master’s degree.
With a high percentage of students coming in through Early Decision less than half of the students (48 percent) who graduated in 2014 needed to take out loans. The average indebtedness of borrowers was less than $24,000 though 30 percent had to go to a source other than the Federal Government. However, Johns Hopkins admits need-blind and will meet the calculated full need of every student who qualifies for aid. The average need-based scholarship award covered approximately 75 percent of tuition and fees in 2013-14 according to the most recent Common Data Set posted by the university.
Johns Hopkins cannot house every undergraduate–there’s room for less than 60 percent to live on campus–but the university requires it for the first two years. Johns Hopkins allows students interested in fraternities or sororities to rush during the second semester of the freshman year at a time when more schools have limited this to sophomores. Most every junior or senior who lives outside of university-owned housing lives within three blocks of campus.
It’s foolish to compare academics when shopping Johns Hopkins against very similar schools that also have strong academic orientations. The decision to attend Johns Hopkins over a school such as Tufts, which is similarly selective, is more likely to come down to people and setting. Baltimore, called the Charm City, has many charms, and Johns Hopkins is exceptionally well connected into the city’s business and medical community. But the city also has its share of blight–you drive through much of that to get to the Homewood campus–and political corruption and incompetence. David Simon did not place Baltimore in the most positive light in his television series, The Wire.
While Baltimore has a Collegetown Network that offers free transportation throughout the city and the university’s Blue Jay Shuttle can take you around campus, its not like you are in the Boston area where you can take a ‘T’ into town. Nor is Johns Hopkins like Brown where you can easily walk into town and shopping. You can travel from Hopkins into Washington DC for an internship or classes at the university’s School of Advanced International Studies for an $8 round trip. The university also allows all students to register cars. But parking around Homewood is very tight.
To me the housing situation as well as mobility are the only downsides to Johns Hopkins University when compared to the most similar schools. Other schools are more capable of housing a larger share of their students. I’d give the school a ‘B’ on that score, a B-plus for the community and A’s for everything else: Retention, Graduation Rates, Costs, Curriculum and Connections
Johns Hopkins is probably more of a spirit and sports school than its most similar competitors for students, thanks to a exceptionally successful lacrosse program that competes in the Big 10, as well as an excellent football team that competes against smaller colleges in the Centennial Conference. Johns Hopkins students also run the largest student-run Spring Fair in the country. With a $3.4 billion endowment in FY 2014, according to National Association of College and University Business Officers, it has the resources to help its students. And it certainly has the academics, even if a student prefers to become a poet, political scientist or physicist instead of a physician.