With summer winding down, most of my friends are getting excited about returning to college or going away for the first time. When the inevitable college talk starts, you tend to quickly realize that while the school you go to seems like the absolute most unique and incredible one in the entire world, there are a lot of similarities within the top schools. While they may be called different things, my friend Kelly will be leaving for the Cornell version of Pre-O on Wednesday; Lily’s “core” at Georgetown is eerily similar to our distribution requirements; and Iain has been sending the students in his “Orientation Leader” group emails just like the ones I sent to my “Peer Ambassador” group kids. All this has made me wonder, what does make a college special? Is there anything that is truly unique to Hopkins? Obviously my classmates and faculty are a huge factor in making Hop one of a kind, but that’s true for any university! However, I know there’s a reason I chose Hopkins over every other school in the country. Here are some of the things that make Hopkins absolutely unique:
- Top graduate and professional schools with full-access for undergrads: I’ve never heard of a medical school with faculty so willing to let undergraduates participate in research, not even to mention that it’s one of the best programs in the country! At Homewood, it seems like the research question for pre-meds is “when” not “where” or “how.” Everyone I know who has wanted to work in a lab has had the opportunity to do so, which is ridiculously impressive! Several of the grad schools, like Bloomberg and SAIS, allow undergrads to take classes with graduate students; the Public Health major even requires it! Nowhere else have I seen such collaboration and continuity between all the schools.
- Intersession: While most schools go back to school in January, our winter session is totally optional and pass-fail! And not only are these three-week courses much more relaxed, but they’re also about really interesting topics like “The Science of Cooking” or “Inventing Language.” There are also opportunities to go abroad to places like Ghana, Spain, or Italy; and freshmen have their own comprehensive courses (B’More) where they explore Baltimore and combine academic subjects with the city and community. Intersession is totally free as well (including housing and dining), so it’s one of the best orchestrated and most fun programs I’ve ever seen at a college.
- Covered Grades: The fall of freshman year, all grades are Pass/Fail, although professors still grade you as if your transcript will have a letter grade on it. I could talk for days about how wonderful the covered grades program is, but that wouldn’t make for the most fascinating blog post. All I can say is that there is no further proof that the Hopkins administration cares about its students than covered grades. While critics may say that freshmen goof off as a result of covered grades, I think this claim is immensely unfounded. No one wants to start college getting C’s, even if no one sees them. Instead, it gives freshmen the flexibility to not be cautious in joining clubs and organization, making lots of friends, and exploring Baltimore. It doesn’t give you a “by” on studying; it just means that if it’s a choice between spending all day studying and taking lunch off to eat with that girl from down the hall who complimented your shoes during the RA meeting, you can, since it doesn’t matter if you get a 93 or a 92, like it does during non-covered grades. I learned exactly what study techniques work for me, which rooms and library levels I study best in, and how much time it takes me to do different types of assignments. My grades second semester were better than my first semester ones because I was lucky enough to get a “dress rehearsal.” All my friends from home are so jealous of my covered grades AND all the amazing experiences I was able to have because of them.
- JHMI Shuttle: This free bus service runs every 5-10 minutes and takes Hopkins students all around Baltimore to each of the Hopkins campuses: Peabody, JHMI, and Bloomberg, as well as Penn Station. There are also shuttles to the different medical campuses associated with JHMI, including Bayview and Mt. Washington, so students can get to their research jobs for free. You can also hop on to go to Mt. Vernon for dinner or in order to get a much cheaper taxi ride to the Inner Harbor for one of the more Southern stops.
- Seminars: While every school has both lecture and seminar offerings, Johns Hopkins was founded on the seminar style of learning. As a result, every major has its own seminars for every grade level. Last semester I took four seminars and this semester I’m taking two! I love the individual attention and the discussion format. Over 65% of Hopkins classes have under 20 students, so it’s clear that we still place serious value on this form of teaching!