Back about a month ago this “Why Hopkins: Admitted Student Blog” launched and every day in April we have posted entries to help you gain a complete sense of the Johns Hopkins University undergraduate experience and make that all important decision of whether you will move-in to the Homewood campus this coming fall. Many of you have made the excellent decision to join the JHU Class of 2016 and we are really looking forward to welcoming you to the Blue Jay community. But some of you reading this still have not made the big decision, and the May 1 Enrollment Decision Deadline looms less than 24 hours away. This final entry is for you, the procrastinators, a primer on how to make this final decision.
For those of you who have yet to sign the bottom line of an enrollment form, you are probably feeling an overwhelming mix of anxiety, confusion, and hopefully a tinge of excitement too. Not sure if you should choose Johns Hopkins over any of the other elite schools you have been admitted to. Trying to imagine what your four years will be like in Baltimore or at University X, Institution Y, or College Z. Attempting to predict the “value” of the education you will get at each school. For many, this is the first major decision you will make in life, and though in the end it will not determine your future completely, it does matter. We commend you for taking your time and focusing your energies, but we also need to be quite parental and let you know it is time to make a decision. And they say “getting in” is the hardest part!
So how do you choose? How do you make this big decision? What is the right choice? All these questions are justified, but in the end it is you and you alone who has to make the choice. Choosing which college / university to attend is one of those life-altering decisions where you must weigh all the factors, big and small. This decision-making process challenges your ability to self analyze your personal priorities and preferences while forcing you to attempt to predict the next four years of your life. And not only does this choice impact those next four years, it will leave an eternal mark on you as the school becomes your alma mater and an important line on your resume. The best advice to help make this decision falls into four categories:
I. Self-analysis and Research
The first thing you must do when approaching a big decision is to determine what is it you want/need and then research all the aspects behind the decision. You may have done one before, or avoided it like a plague these past few years, but a self-analysis can be quite helpful before deciding which college to attend. It is a good idea to re-consider those big questions you asked before, and it you didn’t do one, now is definitely the time. Ask yourself the big questions, and be honest with yourself when it comes to the answers:
• What kind of a school do I want to attend for four years? Location, atmosphere?
• What kind of student body am I looking for? Do I think I will mesh well with the current students?
• What kind of academic opportunities will be available to me as an undergraduate and what am I actually looking for?
• Same question, but relate it to extracurricular opportunities. Which is more important to me – academics or social life or a mix of both?
• What about the professors? Are they accessible? Can I see myself learning from them? Do I want to learn from them?
• How do I want to learn and how do I want to be educated?
• Will I be proud in four years to call myself an alumnus of the school?
• Will I / Can I make a difference?
If you visited your final choice schools it is probably easier to answer these questions with the certain schools in mind. If you didn’t visit, hopefully you did a lot of surfing on each school’s Web sites to gather as much information as possible. You may also want to create a ranking system for each question you ask of yourself and determine how each school measures up.
II. Pro / Con Lists
Make PRO/CON lists for each school you are considering. It is time for you to really start thinking about FIT. Write down the name of each school you are considering, then draw two columns under each school’s name — one with a “+” and one with a “-”. Now start listing the strengths and weaknesses.
Not only is this the time where you can catalog your personal opinions about each school’s strengths and weaknesses, it also becomes a study in what characteristics you find most important. If you did a self-analysis, now is the perfect time to match your thoughts of what you want to your opinions about what each school has to offer. Location, size, friendliness, professors, extracurricular offerings, cost, academic opportunities, etc. — list everything from the most important detail to the most minute. Nothing is too ridiculous to be included on these lists, and actually the best thing is to keep these lists private so they remain lists of your own thoughts. Consider it a personal brain dump that in the end will bring clarity, focus, and the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. All in all, this is your compare and contrast system, and I promise that it can really work.
III. Do Not Focus on Statistics and Rankings
Rankings and statistics can be helpful as you first start thinking about colleges and as you decide where to apply. In all honesty though, rankings are superficial at best when deciding which school to ultimately attend.
Seriously, statistical analysis should be kept to the process of choosing which schools to apply to. Throw US News out the window; ignore the numbers that can actually be manipulated to prove any point you want; avoid side-by-side number comparisons of schools. It is time to focus on the intangibles. The schools that have admitted you are all fantastic and they will all offer you amazing opportunities if you have the initiative and drive (which you probably do). This is not an apple versus orange versus kiwi decision, but rather a gorgeous green apple versus a shiny red apple versus a yellow delicious apple. Numbers do not predict whether you will be happy for the next four years, whether you will be challenged, whether you will be stimulated. The top schools are all top schools – it now comes down to FIT, and a percentage, formula, or statistics does not determine FIT.
IV. Input from Others (Be Warned)
If you listen to any of this advice, please listen to this — make sure to avoid hearsay, conjecture, myths, and rumors – they often are far from the truth. Each and every individual sees each and every college differently. Do your own research, get information directly from the source, and avoid the biased comments and come up with your personal thoughts. There is no cardinal rule that says if you read it or heard it; it must be 100% true. You need to filter through everything. Consider everything — both overly positive and overly negative comments — with a grain of salt. Constantly question the source, and consider the agenda of the person feeding you information. Ultimately though, your own personal conclusions are the ones to believe.
At Hopkins, we deal with myths and conjecture about our school way too much. If you are a frequent visitor to our blogs, message boards, or just speak with our students you will see that we are not only sick of these myths but can dispel them at every turn. And this is not just true about myths at Hopkins; many other elite schools are haunted by ridiculous and untrue myths. Make your own opinions and stick to them. Don’t rely on anonymous sources. Do not get hung up on myths, stereotypes, or other hearsay — filter through the information along with your own personal conclusions.
Still confused? Still can’t make the decision?
If all else fails, listen to your gut! In the end, know one thing … once you make your final selection you have found the RIGHT SCHOOL. It is one of the hidden truths of the admissions process, once you commit you begin to mold your choice into the perfect school for you. College is what you make of it – go out there and be successful.
Best of luck!
And don’t forget to make it really easy … CHOOSE JOHNS HOPKINS … wink, wink.
P.S. This Admitted Student Blog has covered so many aspects of the Johns Hopkins experience, but there are a lot of aspects that are too subtle and indescribable to dedicate an entire blog to. So the students behind Hopkins Interactive decided to provide a list of 30 random things that makes Hopkins great. Maybe these simple thoughts can help make the final decision easier for you.
1. How the campus looks on a sunny day.
2. British Anarchy coffee at Café Q.
3. JHMI drivers who are willing to pull the bus over and look for your lost phone with you.
4. Learning how to walk on marble steps covered in snow and rain.
5. The views from the balconies of your friends’ apartments when you become an upperclassman.
6. Wading in the fountain in the Mattin Center.
7. Chicken-on-a-stick during Spring Fair.
8. The seats in Hodson Hall’s lecture room.
9. People-watching in Gilman Hall’s atrium.
10. Hanging out with alumni of all ages during Homecoming weekend.
11. Reading your professor’s name in your textbook.
12. The rock climbing wall at the gym.
13. Veritas vos liberabit – that is kind of an awesome motto.
14. Moral upper ground to scold people for forgetting the s on Johns.
15. Taking a study break at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
16. Cheering on the lacrosse team on a gorgeous spring day.
17. Sitting in the hallways of your dormitory at 3 AM and eating Chinese food with your friends.
18. Professors who take their classes out to lunch in Hampden
19. Overhearing conversations in different languages.
20. Watching the Tutorial kids play outside Levering.
21. Waffles with the JHU seal embedded in them at the Fresh Food Café.
22. Endless supply of free t-shirts.
23. Camping out on the Upper Quad on a warm summer night.
24. Having spontaneous dance party breaks in the library study rooms.
25. Browsing the archaeology museum in Gilman Hall.
26. Taking naps in the President’s Garden.
27. Meeting people from all over the world.
28. Having those pivotal ‘A-ha!’ moments when sitting in class or talking to your professors.
29. Having the opportunity to apply what you learn in the classroom to the real world.
30. Becoming friends with some truly extraordinary classmates.