How to Get into Johns Hopkins

Zak Harris

How to Get into Johns Hopkins

When I was an admissions officer at Johns Hopkins University, I reflected upon the many aspects of Hopkins that make it attractive to its applicants: the size, resources, campus setting, and outcomes that allow Hopkins graduates to be some of the most successful in the world. Traveling across the country as an admissions officer for the university, I remember families and students asking, “How do I get in?” or “What can I do to stand out against other applicants?” Those were great questions then and now I am going to do my best to answer the question of how to get into Johns Hopkins

Remember, it’s not an easy task.

Be Realistic About Your Chances

When thinking about how to get into Johns Hopkins, it’s very important to understand that Hopkins is an incredibly selective school. The university received over 30,000 applications for the Class of 2023, with an overall acceptance rate of about 9%. 

Do your research about the typical admitted student profile and see how you compare. Hopkins, like other top schools, will make decisions on more than just test scores. If you are below their academic standards, but have a strong extracurricular background or powerful story, that really makes you stand out, I’d certainly encourage you to apply. 

If your school has Naviance, that can be a great tool to use to see how your specific GPA and test scores compare to other students who applied from your school. At Hopkins, we did not read applications by school group (we read by academic discipline), but school context still matters. Unlike other places where I have worked where we read by high school or geographic region, reading by major forced us to really think about the specific programs and trying our best to make sure they were getting enough students.

Be Specific in Your Supplemental Essays

A big step in finding out how to get into Johns Hopkins lies in familiarizing yourself with its unique features. Hopkins is one of the most impressive universities in the world because of its focus on research. That research mentality along with its emphasis on collaboration make it a very special place. 

Its supplementary essay this year specifically asks about something you want the admissions office to know about you. Some students take this essay for granted and don’t spend nearly as much time on it as they should. Or, they use an underdeveloped idea or a rather generic topic that doesn’t come across as very impressive. The idea of ambition, the idea of challenging yourself, the idea of discovery, the idea of exploration are all connected. It speaks to the kind of student Hopkins is looking for. For any supplemental essay a school is asking, it's for a specific reason. They're making direct connections to the things they care about in their process. So when you look at a place that wants ambition, the exploration idea, the idea that you're not going to be afraid of barriers, it's all connected to the students that would thrive in that environment. It doesn't matter to the AOs which category you talk about, it needs to be authentic and feels really compelling.

Think Strategically About Your Interests

While many students will apply to Hopkins because of its medical reputation (which is one of the best!), remember that it’s not the only great thing about the school. When wondering how to get into Johns Hopkins, consider that the school offers over 50 majors across many different disciplines. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Every single program at Hopkins is exceptional. Every program will have research opportunities and chances to complete an internship. Each major will help with your eventual goals and outcomes.

Since a large number of students apply to the medical field, why not think about something unrelated to STEM or in an academic discipline that may not be the most popular at Hopkins? Always follow your interests and your passions, but it’s okay to think strategically about this process. In my experience, many humanities programs just didn’t get as many applications as the STEM areas. This made STEM much more competitive. 

And if you are going to apply as a pre-med student to Hopkins, please make sure you have unique and substantial experience. Shadow programs or volunteer programs at a hospital are not enough. You need to take the most challenging courses, find research opportunities, write a powerful essay on your interest in medicine, and reflect on how your extracurriculars or work experience have helped solidify your interest and how Hopkins can help you. 

Make Sure You're a Good Fit

Students at Johns Hopkins want to make a difference. This is not a place where you can skate through for four years. You're going to be given a lot of resources and opportunities to take something that matters to you and shape it into your own and make it something that's incredible. On the fit side of things, if that appeals to you, I think Hopkins could be a good fit. But if it doesn't sound like it's you or it sounds scary, or it's not something you're willing to get into, that's perfectly okay as well. But when you're going through the application process, the essays or other pieces of the application that you're submitting, you have to understand what they're looking for versus other places.

Know What Makes Hopkins Unique

Given that they were the first research institution in the country, the foundation in research and not just the STEP perspective, but every major, every discipline and department perspective is something that really appeals to students and does make it different than other places. Know the fellowship opportunities and internship experiences that are offered. First year students can jump into these curricular experiences in a way that does feel different than a lot of other places that focus either more on graduate students or upper class students. Hopkins is a place where you can have the ambition to jump into something and you're skilled enough to do it and have ideas. Professors and other resources on campus are going to give you the opportunity to do it.

Don’t Make Rookie Mistakes

Spell the name correctly. I am not joking! Too many times I read an essay where a student called the school “John” Hopkins rather than Johns. You might think this is a small mistake, but it directly translates to an applicant’s level of focus and commitment. And it’s a really easy way to make your application seem completely discardable.

Impress in Your Field

While this is true for each of the most selective schools in the country, demonstrating excellence outside the classroom will certainly help you find your way into Hopkins. Regardless of your academic interests, there will be ways to stand out. Having an impact in your school and your community will be an absolute must. If you’re interested in a STEM field, participating in substantial research will help significantly. 

Even in humanities or social science fields, an unconventional approach to your learning will be seen as a positive. Think about ways that you can take your interest to the next level. Participate in an internship. Use your interest to help others and create a positive impact within your community. Research in the humanities can be very impressive and help Hopkins understand your seriousness and commitment. Hopkins likes risk-takers and applicants who aren’t afraid to be themselves. As you’re delving deeper into your potential college major, think about ways that you can elevate your interest with actual experiences. 

Get to Know Hopkins

Johns Hopkins University does a great job of allowing their students to be ambassadors of the University. Use these students as a resource and get to know Hopkins beyond what you might learn on the website. Standing out amongst other applicants who apply is partially about impressing the admissions office with details about why you want to attend. Hopkins knows it’s one of the best schools in the country and some students will apply only because of its reputation and not because they actually know anything about the school. Don’t be that applicant! Even if you can’t visit, take advantage of the numerous resources so you really understand why you would be a great fit. 

How Standardized Testing is Viewed

When you think about it statistically, 75% of the students that are admitted that have testing are above a 1510-1520. You have to understand what it means when it comes to testing expectations. Because of the test optional policies and the pandemic, I have no doubt that they are trained to make decisions without testing. One of the biggest shifts has nothing to do with how an application is read, it's more about the individuals in the office removing the testing bias from reading an application. You're looking at grades, letters of recommendation, quality of writing and still able to pull information from that application and it gives you confidence that the person is willing to do well academically versus when you look at a student who has testing and is able to give testing its appropriate value but not giving it too much weight through the process. I always tell students you want to make sure whether you're submitting or not, you're thinking "does this test score reflect the type of student that I am?"

When considering how to get into Johns Hopkins, understand that the school cares about you as a person as well as what your GPA and test scores look like. Being as selective as they are, they have the luxury of taking anyone they want, for any reason they want. Obviously, they need to have confidence that if admitted you will succeed academically. But the vast majority of students applying to Hopkins could do that. They want to admit special students, and even more importantly, unique people. There are multiple ways to show Hopkins who you are and creating a consistent narrative within your application that connects each piece, will be a great start.

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