Here in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, we’ve been busy planning the upcoming Transfer Visit Day. With this in mind, we asked one of our current transfer students why he chose to transfer to Hopkins. He was eager to tell us. This is Eric Lau’s story (and advice!):
Why Hopkins? Typing this question really reminds me of the Common App essays, and yes, this kind of memory is in the ‘don’t you dare talk about that’ category.
Before transferring, I was in a small liberal college in Reading, Pennsylvania. I did pretty well and had a lot of fun. Life was easy—too easy and I started hating it. I’m not saying that I am the kind of guy that needs to study 24 hours a day to avoid feeling guilty, but what I’ve realized is that your undergraduate years are the best, and it’s the only time you are given the greatest freedom and guidance to explore whatever you want. So you know there must be something wrong if you describe your undergraduate life as “boring.” At that time, my current curriculum, the learning atmosphere, my peers, and many other things made me realize that I needed a new start.
And so in the start of my sophomore year, I began thinking about transferring, took my SAT (Hopkins does not require it, though), and looked into different schools. To be very honest, like most, or at least some of you, Johns Hopkins University was one of the schools on my Common App list, and the main reasons were its reputation and its abundant research opportunities. I really didn’t know much about the institution when I was deciding between it and my other offers.
As an Economics major, what finally brought me to Hopkins were the school’s spirit, flexible curriculum, and the research opportunities. But it was not until I arrived here that I realized how amazing Johns Hopkins fitted me.
The first myth I would like to clarify is: Johns Hopkins is not only for science students. In fact, Hopkins was best known for its strong humanities programs before the launch of the medical school. The writing seminars major, international studies, history, and basically all other departments are all regarded as one of the strongest in the nation. Here you will find the brightest people in which ever field you are interested in.
Therefore, not being biochemistry major or a pre-med is not the reason to block you from Hopkins. Instead, Hopkins really encourages students to explore their academic interest to the widest extent. And as Hopkins students, we are given an edge, being able to do just that thanks to the flexible distribution requirement. At Hopkins, graduating on time and taking the classes you actually enjoy are never in conflict.
I serve as the best example. In my first semester, I only took 2 major classes. I even took a neuroscience class just to get a taste of it, and it tasted real bad. But it was the possibility to explore that allowed me to discover my passion in international relations. Now, I am double majoring in economics and international studies, and this would never be achievable for a transfer student not under the Hopkins spirit.
The relatively flexible curriculum, however, does not imply a laid-back life here. Saying Hopkins is easy is like a girlfriend saying she is not mad. Lie. There is certainly a level of academic intensity. Before, I was the last person you will expect to see in the library. But at Hopkins, you just really have to work hard. At Hopkins, everyone is real passionate about what they are doing. Studying here is not solely about tests and exams; it’s about passion and exploration. The study atmosphere at Hopkins is thus the quality that I found myself best fitted into. At Hopkins, studying is no longer limited to the read text, but it intrigues and trains you to think. The method of thinking is what I regarded as my biggest gain—a gain is awarded to every Hopkins student.
This winter break, I enrolled in an intersession course that explores the trend of globalization. We visited the headquarters of United Nation, Bloomberg (FYI Michael Bloomberg is an alumnus and the biggest donor of Johns Hopkins and many other BIG organizations). We also had a lot of great speakers, and the most interesting thing I have discovered is their current career seems completely unrelated to their bachelor degree. For example, three alumni who now work on Wall Street were in fact all history majors at Hopkins. When I asked about this phenomenon, I was answered with a quote that I think best represent Johns Hopkins University:
“Johns Hopkins does not simply make you a scholar in your field, she makes you the thinker of the world.”
It wasn’t until now that I knew I had made a great choice. The more I am at Hopkins, the more I realize what she can offer. I was panicked to death before I came here. I worried about everything. I worried about my future, my friends, and of course, like most of you, the city. There is one joke that I always tell my friend: One day, when I was still in Reading, PA I received a call from my mum. She somehow, and finally, realized Reading is the most dangerous and the poorest city in the United States and told me to get out of there. I did…and I am now in Baltimore. But in the end, it is really just a joke. Baltimore is a wonderful city, diverse and energetic, and really has everything you need (and more). You are just 20 minutes away from Inner Harbor, the most beautiful and delicious place I have ever been to. I mean, who doesn’t love Phillip’s Seafood and The Cheesecake Factory!
The Hopkins student body is also greatly diversified. The background, interests, activities, and opportunities here are so diverse that you will find your jackpot for sure and make tons of friends. And the social life at Hopkins is actually fun—don’t believe the rumors!
I will let Google do the rest of the tour guiding since I know you can’t wait to see my tips (some of you might even just skip all the above). Finally, here is my advice to future transfer students:
1. Come visit the campus and ask for more information. The information online is never enough for you to decide if a school is a good fit. Visiting often confirms your interest.
2. The essays: You really want to show you’ve done your research on Johns Hopkins and why it will fit your interests. (Coming for a visit is definitely beneficial as it offers you information that other candidates don’t have, and thus makes your essays stand out.)
3. The essays, pt2: You also want to show why you are a good fit for Hopkins. Do not repeat all your experiences that are already on the application. Mention those that make you a good fit for Hopkins.
4. Pay full attention to the requirements and ask if you have any uncertainty.
5. If you get in, congratulations! Be as open-minded as possible and you will find unlimited opportunities here.
Good luck to you all!
Man Yik “Eric” Lau