Name: Jimmy Fink
Parent of: (twins) Lucinda and Allison Fink (Lucie and Allie)- 2014
Hometown: Scarsdale, NY
The year of the college application—what a daunting process and anyone with a child going through it has my sympathies. Like picking out a melon–you squeeze it, smell it, feel it with your fingertips and still when you cut it open to taste it, it may or may not be quite as sweet as you had hoped. I recall the process of selecting a summer camp for my kids. While most of my contemporaries visited several camps, going to more than three nearby states, up and down the east coast trying to find that perfect summer spot, I, on the other hand, took my kids to one camp, one that I had known since I was a little boy. I told them, “Check it out, if you don’t like it, then you probably don’t like camp!” They did like it and eventually spent eight consecutive summers there, having that experience of a lifetime that can only accompany youth, rising up from camper to counselor before taking that summer off to visit colleges. Oh, if only the college selection process were that simple.
Though, like camps, colleges and universities all have their physical differences: this one’s flat, that one’s hilly—this one’s big, that one’s small—this one’s far, that one’s close, and every subtle combination of all of the above. There are several layers of pertinent information that go beyond the physical layout of a campus: does the school have the appropriate educational programs that fit one’s possible interests and does that underlying, unstated feel you get walking around on campus match what you think it should be? In short…will I fit in and will it fit me? After going through this process, years ago with my older son, we started once again with his younger twin sisters. Just when they thought they had it nailed down early in their senior year of high school, they paid a last minute, autumn visit to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Those 24 hours pretty much turned their world upside down.
So many people, from their high school advisors, to random friends and acquaintances offered an opinion: “Johns Hopkins? What, are you going to be a doctor?” Or, “Isn’t that for nerds and geeks?” or “I thought you also wanted to have fun at college.” The problem is no one who said these things really knew anything about Hopkins beyond hearing an old wives tale of reputation and rumor left over from the previous century. Most have never even been to Baltimore and certainly none have any personal experience with Johns Hopkins.
That late September visit showed my twin girls an absolutely gorgeous, pristine, finely manicured, immaculate campus with a student population that was not only warm and friendly, (and very social), but also academically engaged while never forsaking the fun or camaraderie of the college experience. In fact, they found a school which was virtually the opposite of its ancient and outmoded reputation. Kids were sprawled out on a grassy knoll section of campus known as “The Beach.” The main activity on the Freshman Quad was Frisbee and football tossing. Certainly, no one looked overly stressed out or socially dysfunctional and an atmosphere where kids were living life to its fullest pervaded the campus.
For my daughters to be accepted by one of the best schools in the country, on their own, without parental legacy, a letter from a big donor, or a connection to a trustee of the university was an accomplishment of which they were so very proud! But, it didn’t end there. Several times, while still agonizing over that final decision of where to attend the next four years, they called or emailed an admissions officer, or a professor, or a department head. Every time, without exception, their messages were not only answered and returned, but some resulted in chats that lasted longer than anyone should or could expect. Once the final decision to attend Hopkins was made by my girls and the final acceptances were mailed out, the faculty and staff’s level of interest only increased. I will never forget how, after registering for classes, each received an unsolicited email from their advisor on such a personal level that one even suggested eating a big breakfast on days when classes might be scheduled a bit heavier than normal. After having a previous experience with their older brother at an Ivy League school, where his advisor was a random math professor who barely knew my son, for these two girls to have a dedicated advisor taking a genuine heartfelt interest in every step of their life at Hopkins was incredible.
After they decided to attend Hopkins our house was filled with singing and dancing to the tune and beat of an old song from the 1960’s: “At The Hop,” the chorus of which repeats over and over again: “Let’s go to the hop, let’s go to the hop (oh, baby), let’s go to the hop…” Now after their first semester of freshman year is nearly over, we have an expression that sums up this whole experience: “I love The Hop!” It’s because, every step of the way they have only been impressed by the positive and encouraging tone set by friends, classes, dorms, facilities, advisors, faculty and staff, all on a level that far surpasses anyone’s expectation. Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant, sometimes stressful events have turned in to an unbelievably positive experience with support every step of the way. From move-in, to wireless computer set-up, to health services, to gym and athletic sign-up, everything has exceeded what my daughters had hoped for.
In just two short months at Johns Hopkins University, they now see themselves ingrained as an integral part of a community that will not only carry them through the next four years, but will forever be a part of who they are as adults. Their experience is far in excess of their original expectation. To this day I still hear that very early exultation and it rings true each time: “I love The Hop!”