QUESTION #1: What advice would you give to applicants or what’s something applicants should try to avoid in their applications?
Amy: Spend time on your essay. Essays that don’t wrap back to the applicant in some meaningful way leave the reader with little else to access how that applicant sees and operates within the world. Though there is absolutely no trouble with essays that address current events or phenomena, meaningful mentors and/or objects external to the writer, it becomes quite problematic when the centrality and focus of the essay stray too far and too often from the applicant him/herself.
Dana: Don’t call it John Hopkins or John’s Hopkins—as an alum it sounds like nails on a chalkboard!
Lester: Do your research, and tell us why Johns Hopkins is the right school for you. I find it (mildly) irritating when applicants are clearly just applying to Hopkins for the name—they don’t know what makes Hopkins unique, and they can’t articulate why Hopkins is a good fit for them. With all of the information available out there … c’mon, applicants!
Shannon: Be prepared. It drives me crazy when a student comes up to me at a presentation or high school visit and says, “Hi, my name is John Smith,” and then just looks at me. While it is great to put a face with a name and I love meeting students on the road, I am not a mind reader, and this situation can be awkward. Come prepared with questions, something you are interested in, or subjects you would like more information on. I am happy to help you learn more about Johns Hopkins and why it would be a good fit for you!
Sherryl: I would love to see each applicant review their essays just “one more time” to eliminate any errors which simply do not represent their talents as they should be represented.
Zak: Students, please make sure that the teachers who write you a recommendation know you well. Make sure that they know you well enough not just to provide us with a list of activities that you’re involved with, but a detailed description of why they think you would be a good fit for a particular institution. We already know which activities you are a part of. We probably have your resume or at least a list on the application of activities that you’re involved with. The recommendation should supplement that list with a description of what you are like in the classroom, how your performance has been, and why they think you’re so amazing. So please make sure you get to know your teachers so they will have the knowledge and ability to write you a strong recommendation.
Chloe: Use spell check.
Rachel: Try not to ask a question whose answer is easily found on our web site. I begin to wonder if the person took any time at all to do his or her own research and read our web site. It’s one thing if the question is on the obscure side, even if the answer is on our web site, because I understand how maze-like web sites can be. But when the information is one or two clicks away if you just follow your nose, I might end up remembering the person for the wrong reasons.
Mark: Students shouldn’t let their parents complete the application for them (yes, it happens).
Sarah: Students and guidance counselors shouldn’t just write the words “see transcript” or “see attached resume.” We ask for specific information in specific places for specific reasons, and when someone writes this they not only interrupt our flow while reading an application, but they appear to not be capable of following directions. They also risk that the information that is supposed to be on the “transcript” or “resume” isn’t actually there (this happens all the time!)—then we are at a dead end with an application. Please follow directions.
John B.: Simply put: students should do their homework about the university. Don’t be the student at college fairs, visiting campus, or via email who openly states “I don’t know anything about your school, tell me about it.”
Daniel: Working in Admissions for Johns Hopkins University for the past seven years, it would be easy for me to say my best advice is to remember the “s” or to do your research (we don’t have a pre-med program; a quick look at our web site or publications will tell you that before you get to a college fair.) But as the years have gone on, and my job responsibilities have expanded in being the primary online presence for the Admissions Office (hello Admissions_Daniel), my best advice is to make sure you’re getting the correct information from a good source. Students who ask questions on College Confidential or take the response of some anonymous message board poster over an official response from a university administrator may find themselves with inaccurate information. Many of these questions can be easily answered by a quick search of the school’s main Admissions site, or an e-mail to a staff member.