Category: Freshman Blog Contest

The Hardest Thing They Never Told You


Name: Pava LaPere

Year: Class of 2019

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Intended Path of Study: Cognitive Science

The Hardest Thing They Never Told You

At first, they told us it was the high school workload that would be the hardest part of getting into elite schools. Then they told us it was the standardized testing. Then it was the essays. Then it was the interviews. Finally, it was the wait.

At each step in the process, guidance counselors, parents, family friends, regular friends, and anyone with an opinion would chime in on what the hardest part of college admissions is. Though varied, the answers stayed mostly the same: the grades, the tests, the resumé. And for the most part, they were right. Seven AP’s classes sucked the soul out of me, president-ing a club while working a part-time job chipped away at my sanity, and sitting down for that awful 3 hour SAT pretty much threw me over the edge.

Me when my AP World teacher gave us a 15 minute break. Actually pretty much me, always.

Me when my AP World teacher gave us a 15 minute break. Actually pretty much me, always.

But while their advice was sound, it was also a lie. I didn’t realize this until after it was all done: until after the acceptances (eh, rejections) were opened, the enrollment deposit was payed, and my closet became 1/5 Blue Jay gear. Because the hardest part of going to college they never tell you about is, well, the going.



Maybe (probably) (hopefully) everyone was less oblivious than me; I thought that once all the college admissions stuff was over, it was a high-tide, good-time ride right up to the first day of classes at Hopkins. This summer was supposed to be the first in many years that lacked worrying about getting into college. But instead, I’ve spent the better part of the summer worrying about getting to college.

Oddly enough, the first time it hit me was when I was sitting on the ledge in my shower and realized that in four months, I would no longer have my trusty shower ledge. The Hopkins’ dorms won’t have a nice butt-shaped nook to collapse onto when I’m just too tired. Hopkins also won’t have the same squeak of my bed when I fall onto it just right, nor will Hopkins have my cat to wake me up at 3am because he wants a belly rub.

The infamous give-me-all-your-attention-at-3am cat

The infamous give-me-all-your-attention-at-3am cat

Hopkins won’t have the smell of our homes, it won’t have the greetings of our parents and siblings and pets as we get back from school. It won’t have our rooms, it won’t have our desks, or our fridges, or our plates, our glasses or spoons. And for some reason, it seemed like this information was new to me.

It’s not that I was blind to the fact that to go to college, I had to leave home (What? You can’t be in two places at the same time?) Rather, it was the realization of how much I would actually miss from home. The tiny things we never care to notice everyday are going to change, and only then will we notice them: the bounce of your bed, the knobs on your cabinets, the darn door that refuses not to squeak. No matter how you grew up, how your family was structured, how big or tall or old or small your house was, there is one thing that you can be sure about: Hopkins won’t be the same.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Soon, all of the things you love about home will have to share your heart with all of the things you love about Hopkins. Hopkins will become a new home, your dorm will become a new room, you will make new friends, new relationships, and learn to use new spoons. Replacing your old home with your new home and learning how to love both of those places is not a bad thing at all; it’s just a hard thing.

But I guess we’re used to hard. We made it through the AP and IB tests, the drafting and redrafting of essays, the uncomfortable college interviews in uncomfortable interview clothes. We did make it through the hard stuff to stake our claim at Hopkins, and that’s a feat to be proud of. Now, in these last few weeks before we start our journey there, the very last obstacle we have to conquer is saying goodbye— at least temporarily—to our old lives. (Well, that’s what I tell myself in order to sleep at night.)

I sincerely hope my fellow Class of 2019 Blue Jays are faring better than me, seeing I’m still at the point where I get teary-eyed (understatement) when Southwest sends me an email regarding my flight in August. But if not, all the better; we’re really in this together then. This is the growing up we were all-too-eager to face, and it’s time to face it. And while it’s new, exciting, overwhelming, and beautiful, it’s also hard. And that’s okay. We know how to do hard.


The Devil Wears Hopkins


Name: Lauren Padilla

Year: Class of 2019

Hometown: Longmeadow, MA

Intended Path of Study: International Studies

The Devil Wears Hopkins

Yesterday, my mom and I got into a fight. The catalyst, as usual, was my excessive packing habits. Staring at the heaps of boxes destined for Hopkins, my mom informed me not so subtly that I needed to leave some belongings behind. She gestured at the stack of sketchbooks piled on top of a suitcase. I resisted. She pointed to the box of vintage dresses I had stacked in the corner. I protested. Finally, she waved an arm at my sewing machine. I informed her it was essential to my existence. She then gave up and left my room.

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Okay, deep (deep) down inside I’ll admit that my mom was right and that my reaction was a bit dramatic. With a full course load, I’m sure I won’t have much free time for sketching. While attending college I know I won’t have much occasion to wear a cocktail dress, let alone a 1950s taffeta gown. And, honestly, even though I tell myself I will, I probably won’t have the energy to create a collection of clothes in my spare time. Still, I can’t imagine making my journey without any of those items; it would be like leaving part of me behind. After all, it is essentially because of them that I’m attending Johns Hopkins this fall.

I know what you’re thinking. Fashion and Hopkins? But, just keep reading and I promise you, it will make sense eventually.

Since as long as I can remember, style has been an integral part of my life. To give you a better understanding of the extent of my fashion obsession, here’s a little anecdote. You know how most children have a comfort object? A blanket or teddy bear or stuffed unicorn (bonus points for those who understood my Despicable Me reference)? Well, my item of choice was a velvet jumper. Yes, my comfort object was an article of clothing.

Guess which one is me. Hint: the pink tutu

Guess which one is me. Hint: the pink tutu

I spent the first part of my childhood in Oahu. Although it’s not exactly the style capitol of the world, growing up in Hawaii did nurture my love of fashion; the diverse atmosphere truly helped foster my personal interests and identity. Unfortunately, after moving to my current hometown of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, I discovered the environment was entirely different. In Longmeadow, the vast majority of my new peers were the children of traditional, white, two-parent families; almost all were interested in either sports or music. As the adopted daughter of a multicultural single mother, I immediately felt myself an oddity; my interest in fashion only heightened my sense of isolation. So, for a while I pushed fashion aside where it remained, more or less, a hobby.

Then, in 2006, a wonderful thing happened: The Devil Wear Prada came to the silver screen. For months, I begged my mom to let me see the film. One fateful night, she gave in. From the first moment I saw Meryl Streep sauntering past those immaculate, never-ending closets in her oversize sunglasses and Chanel dresses, I was smitten. Immediately after the ending credits appeared, I turned to my mother and announced that I was going to become a fashion editor.

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It sounds ridiculous, but after that moment, something clicked. Seeing that movie made me realize that creative, unconventional jobs existed, and that, despite what other Longmeadow people said, working in the fashion industry could be a serious career. I finally recognized that if I was going to pursue fashion, I would have to make my own opportunities. I taught myself to sketch and sew and design; I traveled into the city and took summer classes in fashion. Eventually, I began writing my own fashion column and creating my own fabric prints and pieces. Through all of it, I looked forward to the day when I could leave my homogenous town and live somewhere diverse and interesting, surrounded by other aspiring fashion gurus. When it came time for me to start selecting colleges, I had all sights set on New York City.

Things I Do in My Spare Time: make dresses out of hot glue

Things I Do in My Spare Time: make dresses out of hot glue

Much to my dismay, five NYC college tours later, I found myself more confused than ever—none of the schools had “clicked”. For the past decade, I had imagined myself spending the next four years of my life in the Big Apple. The following Saturday, disheartened and more perplexed than ever, I dragged myself back to Massachusetts.

Whenever I’m feeling terrible, I find the best solution is to slip into a new outfit. I may feel awful on the inside, but at least I can look quasi pulled-together from the outside. So, the next morning, I woke up early, channeled my inner Edna Mode, and designed myself a new dress. Little did I know that said dress would ultimately lead me to Hopkins.

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On Monday, I sported my finished creation to school. Usually, when I whip up a new garment, I feel immediately refreshed. That morning, however, something was different. I was still distressed. Had my method finally failed? What was happening to the world? At the end of the day, I felt even more anxious; I wanted to crawl into a hole. Not only was my life plan crumbling to pieces, but my foolproof method of uplifting myself was flawed. Apparently, I was so deep in reflection that I didn’t hear the clicking of high heels behind me. All of a sudden, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Ms. K. For those of you (most of you) who never attended Longmeadow High School, Ms. K is a sort of urban legend. She’s absolutely crazy (her personality matches that of High School Musical’s Ms. Darbus perfectly), but regardless, everyone loves her.

An accurate representation of Ms. K

An accurate representation of Ms. K

With her signature smile and theatrical laugh, Ms. K proceeded to compliment my design. She then looked me up and down once and asserted without any semblance of hesitation that she knew exactly who I wanted to be (I had never interacted with her up until this point). Ms. K proclaimed that she knew a woman in the fashion industry who had gone to school with her daughter. Like a crazed squirrel, she then darted across the hall, scribbled the name “Eva Chen” onto a piece of paper, and told me to google her when I got home.

Flattered (and slightly concerned), I did as I was told. After seeing her picture online, I immediately recognized Eva Chen; I had read several of her articles in Teen Vogue years ago. Now, however, she was serving as the Editor-in-Chief of Lucky Magazine. Intrigued, I decided to read further. A few minutes later, I stumbled upon one of her recent interviews and began reading. About midway through, the interviewer asked the editor to elaborate on her educational background. FIT. Maybe NYU. Every editor goes to one of the two. Both my guesses were wrong. Eva Chen had attended Johns Hopkins University. And, according to the interview, she had loved every second of it. Hmmm…..Johns Hopkins? But, that’s a med school…isn’t it? One google led to another, and pretty soon I had discovered that Johns Hopkins had far more to offer than just its medical programs. Writing Seminars? Creative Marketing? Internships at Vogue and The New York Times?

Eva Chen

Eva Chen

That night, I “temporarily” added Hopkins to my list of potential schools. I never took it off.

About a week before the release of JHU decisions, I had attended a conference called Teen Vogue Fashion University at the Condé Nast Headquarters in New York City. The entire experience was surreal—I had the chance to breathe and walk and talk in the building that I had dreamed about my whole life. At the end of one of the seminars, I had the opportunity to speak with one of Teen Vogue’s senior editors. I explained my predicament. Fashion school or traditional school? Understandingly, he told me to choose whichever option was better for me, assuring that either background could make a great editor.

“Everything will fall into place,” he stated. I tried to suppress my laughter. Okay, I know it sounds awful—one of my heroes is trying to give me a piece of heartfelt advice, and I’m standing there laughing. But, I promise that it’s not as bad as it seems. It’s just that his words really reminded me a Carrie Bradshaw quote I had seen a few weeks ago….

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Before I knew it, March 27 had arrived. Anxiously, I sat at my computer, Hopkins decision site up and ready, waiting for the clock to strike three. As I sat there, I repeated the editor’s words to myself. Everything will fall into place. Despite my attempt to pacify my nerves, thoughts continued to race through my mind. The preceding weeks had held nothing but increasing disappointment; internally I was preparing myself for yet another. Will Hopkins, out of all schools, really accept some girl who wrote an admissions essay comparing her life to her closet? Your scores aren’t nearly as good as they should be. You have B’s on your transcript. Suddenly, I looked down. It was three o’clock. Hesitantly, I logged into the portal, shut my eyes, and held my breath. YES! What?! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Immediately, I jumped out of my seat.

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One month later, I found myself on campus for an admitted students day. I was in absolute awe—the campus was beautiful, the other students were fantastic, and the educational opportunities were amazing. At the end of the day, I was ready to commit to life as a Blue Jay. And that, my friends, is how fashion met the Hopkins.

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Tyrannosaurus Wrecks


Name: Jonathan Mo

Year: Class of 2019

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Intended Path of Study: Neuroscience and Saxophone Performance

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks

“So why’d you bring your calculus textbook to Haiti?!”

As I’m helplessly sifting through long forgotten methods and rules of limits and optimization, I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the question. The truth is, I have a math placement exam coming up before I leave back to California, and there’s NO way that I’m taking first year calculus ever again.

It was the middle of June, and I was with a group of my friends on a medical trip to Jacmel, Haiti. Whenever we weren’t working at the clinic, we had a lot of down time so everyone usually just socialized, hung around, or played with cards. But of course there was killjoy me, trying to frantically study in the corner with pencil and paper in hand, hopelessly mulling over mathematical gibberish.

Three days later, the day the placement exam is due, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. It’s 9 PM (the only time at which I’ll have an undisturbed 3-hour block to take the test), and I’m in a rundown outdoor lobby with a fully charged laptop and an alert mind. I open up Blackboard and suddenly:

Screw you, T-Rex.

Screw you, T-Rex.

Screw you, T-Rex.

I close Chrome and retry.

Unable to connect to the Internet.

Ok, fine. Let’s try again. And again. And again.

That night, I had the most wonderful time playing T-Rex Runner for hours on end. And as I watched the test deadline slowly slip away, I falsely reassure myself that I’m okay, because at least I had a damn good time playing T-Rex Runner for the past three hours.

Where is Chris Pratt to ward off the dinosaurs when you need him?

Where is Chris Pratt to ward off the dinosaurs when you need him?

So the next morning, I e-mail my academic counselor (who, by the way, is amazingly helpful and all-around awesome) and I’m told that June 22nd isn’t a hard deadline.

What a relief.

The next time I open up Blackboard is another four days later in the comfort of my own home and with stable Internet at 4:45 PM. No dinosaurs? Good. You’ve done your job, Chris Pratt.

A series of mathematical questions pop up before my eyes, and I’m feeling pretty good! The answer to this one’s C, and this one’s E.

I have no words. (I started the test at 7:45 EDT...)

I have no words.
(I started the test at 7:45 EDT…)

But after about three minutes later, the above screen pops up and I’m stunned out of my mind.

What. just. happened.

To this day, I still don’t know what happened after those short three minutes. All I know is that I must have gotten those two lone questions I answered wrong, because I ended up getting a solid 0/45. But despite my anticlimactic failures and over-the-top anxiety, everything still ended up being okay because I finally found out that the test score was just a ‘recommendation’.

Moving forward from this seemingly petty experience has told me a little bit more about how I should be approaching all the new things to come in the Fall:

Most importantly, I need to relax. There’s no need to obsess over every little thing, because there are way too many little things to obsess over. And if I do, I’ll overwhelm and tear myself apart. (I think this particularly applies to frantically checking every single notification I get from the Class of 2019 group, but they end up being pictures of memes or Nicholas Cage.) There’s no doubt that everyone is feeling at least a little antsy, because after all, none of us know what we’re really doing. We’re all just a bunch of upcoming adults struggling to figure it out along the way, right?

Second, while I should probably have a better plan of action before I dive head-first into the unknown, it might be better to take some things as they come. It’s interesting how we know that some things are completely out of our control, yet we still beat ourselves up over it. Things (usually) have a way of working themselves out, and while hardships are temporary, the habits we create when we face them are near permanent. Sometimes we can only do all we can do and accept that that’s our best.

At the end of the day, I’ve come to learn that it’s all about the perception of our actions, and how we take them to be. So to the many T-Rex’s I’m sure I’ll come to encounter in the near and far future, let’s go for a run.

The Art of Moving On


Name: Indu Radhakrishnan

Year: Class of 2019

Hometown: Ashburn, VA

Intended Path of Study: Public Health

The Art of Moving On

“Here,” my mother says, tearing the plastic wrap off a pack of flattened cardboard boxes. She hands me one before unceremoniously shoving a bundle of heavy-duty trash bags under my other arm, looking me up and down, and sighing exasperatedly. Noting my bewildered expression, she knocks on my forehead with force, as if trying to get through my thick skull.

“Ah!” I rub my forehead and pout. “Amma, why are you mad? I didn’t do anything…”

“Exactly! You never do anything I ask you to do!” Her voice is tinged with frustration as she admonishes me. “You haven’t cleaned your room in weeks! Are you a pig? How can you live in such a mess?”

The box, she says, is for any mementos from high school that I want to keep. The trash bags are for everything else.

“If your room isn’t spotless by the time you leave for college, I will be the one to clean it.” I glance up at her and I know that she means it. I shudder at the thought of my mother tampering with my sanctuary and hang my head, defeated by her persistence, as always.

“Okay, okay, fiiiiiiiiiine, I’ll do it.”

Once I’m safe, hidden behind my bedroom door, I exhale and survey my room. It truly is in shambles, books and clothes strewn about, stacks of school work and notes scattered on the floor.

How exactly am I supposed to do this?

I start with the school work and the notes, figuring that they would be the easiest to part with. BC Calculus was the first to go, then biology, then government – all of it (except for a few pages with particularly stellar doodles, withering asides, and useful notes scrawled on them), I drop into the recycling bin with relish.

Maybe cleaning isn’t so hard, after all.

I handle the laundry next, bleaching my karate gi and sorting the rest of the clothes into piles – this is for donation, that’s coming with me to Hopkins next year, this is going to be torn up and used as rags by my mother, surely…

Sorting through the clothes is tougher than sifting through my old homework assignments – the logos and designs on the shirts are like little time capsules: a gray shirt with “Enshin Karate” down the side is from a summer wrangling unruly summer camp kids, a maroon and gold “Class of 2015” shirt is from my high school orientation, a sweatshirt with “iykwim” emblazoned across the front harkens back to an out-of-use inside joke, a striped dress shirt is part of my favorite debate outfit. That striped shirt is what I wore to my Johns Hopkins alumni interview, too – it has the uncanny ability to make me feel powerful and confident. Incidentally, it’s white and blue. Maybe it had some subconscious influence on my interviewer. I hold it up in front of me and chuckle, recalling the clammy palms before the interview and the immense sigh of relief afterwards. I put it in the Hopkins pile, of course.

Other articles are not quite as fortunate. The donation pile, by far the largest mound, is full of my older sister’s hand-me-downs and clothes that my mother bought for me before she gave up on making me dress prettily. The rag pile is mostly just clothes that are in terrible condition, worn out from overuse or from too many rounds of sparring and grappling.

This is going much better than I expected…

I take out any trash and other miscellaneous items that have found their way into my room before turning to face the dreaded enemy, the reason why I avoided cleaning in the first place.

The cardboard box sits in the center of room and mocks me. More than the box itself, the questions that it poses me are overwhelming.

How much life can you live in four years, it asks. And how do you fit it all into a 16’’ x 16’’ x 15’’ box?

I have never been attached to material things in the way that people tend to be – the price of something, the prestige of something, none of that matters. The sentimental value of something is what I prize above all else. Alain Ducasse might be one of the world’s greatest chefs, but my mother will always have an impossible four Michelin stars in my book. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” may be one of the world’s most acclaimed pieces of music, but I will always think that my sister’s off-key rendition of “The Rainbow Connection” from the Muppets is infinitely sweeter. Despite the fact that I can appreciate the technical excellence that lends Rembrandt’s “Portrait of Jan Six” its value, my favorite painting hangs on the wall beside my bed. It’s an authentic Sreenivas Radhakrishnan, circa 2001, a painting of a winter sunset. I still remember sitting cross-legged on my parents’ bed on summer mornings, watching my father painstakingly blend the colors, wondering how he could be so sure of the strokes.

Looking around my room, I see memories rather than possessions, and I find that my eyes are watering. These things, material as they may be, mean so much to me. My room, a place where I laughed and cried and grew for so many years… My room has to be packed into a cardboard box.

This is not a new feeling, by any means. I remember when my family relocated from my birthplace in New Jersey to India. I was five at the time; it was my first move and I was completely unfamiliar with the concept of moving. I figured that I’d be able to go back to Scotch Plains whenever I felt like having a playdate with my friend Markie, or that Sneha’s parents would call my parents and put her on a plane to India whenever I felt like missed her. I remember playing with packing tape and carelessly putting things in boxes, not realizing that everything that wasn’t going in a box was going to be donated, given to a friend, or thrown away.

When, after a year in India, we packed for our return to the States, I was older and wiser. I knew that my friends and I would never see each other again. I knew that I couldn’t bring Pooja or Anju with me. I knew that someone else would soon inhabit the flat that I had lived in, someone else would stand on that balcony and watch the Diwali fireworks, someone else would make domino effects and block towers on the marble floors. I knew that the things I put in the boxes had to be my most important and treasured toys and books.

After that, we moved three more times, and each time was a lesson in space maximization and material minimization. In one apartment, we never even bothered to buy beds or chairs, eating all of our meals cross-legged around a small coffee table, the one piece of furniture that we owned. In another townhouse, we didn’t get around to unpacking all of our boxes (the few we had left) because we were off to the next city within months.

We finally settled here, in Northern Virginia, where I went through all of middle school and high school. Boxes were no longer omnipresent, save for a few storage bins in the garage. My older sister went off to college, my little brother entered elementary school, we put down some roots, we even got a dog. We started calling our little townhouse “home.” I thought that my itinerant days were behind me.

And yet, here I am, confronting my old nemesis once again. I realize that I have been staring at it for close to twenty minutes and that it is still empty. I start with the debate trophies and the assorted plaques and certificates that have been gathering dust, quietly reliving the sense of pride that I felt swelling in my chest when I received each one. Mementos and birthday cards from my closest friends are tucked into one corner; my cap and gown are placed in the other. Copies of my graduation speech and various school newspapers featuring my articles are thrown in.

There is a sense of catharsis to all of it, and I savor the fleeting moments of nostalgia. I am surprised when I am done – the box is not nearly as full as I expected it to be. Everything looks bigger outside of the box, my mind subconsciously seeing feelings, memories, adding weight. But once they are in the box, I see that they are not quite as big as I thought.

They fit neatly together, these years of life. As I tape the top, I find that I have changed my mind about the box. Now that it carries such precious cargo, I cannot help but look upon it more fondly.

With the past sealed away, I survey my mostly empty room and imagine its next occupant – perhaps my brother will claim it, or my father will make it into an office, or it will be turned into a guest room.

And me? Well, I will be occupying a new space, will be making new memories. I will be at Johns Hopkins, my dream school. I will be laughing and crying and growing somewhere else, somewhere new. I will not be taking the box with me – it will find a place beside my sister’s high school box, somewhere in the garage. But I know that the box will be out there, that my room will find some use, and that moving on is not the same as leaving behind.

Acronyms, Brightbulbs, and Chocolate Cake


Name: Vivian Tsai

Year: Class of 2019

Hometown: Holmdel, NJ

Intended Path of Study: Computer Science

Acronyms, Brightbulbs, and Chocolate Cake

When I accepted my place at Johns Hopkins, I imagined I’d be embarking on a new and wonderful adventure come September. Little did I know said adventure would actually start over the summer (well, sort of. Let’s call it a prequel adventure).

So, class registration.

I picked out my fall classes in a tiny, un-air-conditioned little room in an apartment that overlooked Taipei (my parents, brother, and I were visiting relatives in Taiwan). This meant that the computer I was using kept switching to Chinese whenever I wanted to type something… which meant that my Word document ended up being harassed by a bunch of foreign characters. This also meant I had to spend a good chunk of time reassuring my cousin, who hasn’t yet acquired the vocabulary to decipher “Integrated Student Information System” but knows enough English to recognize the acronym for an extremist group when she sees it.

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Anyway, I may have gone a little bit overboard with preparing for class registration. By this I mean (i) panicking because there were so many interesting classes! (ii) panicking that I wouldn’t get the classes I finally settled on, (iii) coming up with not only Plan B but also Plans C through Z* in case my schedule didn’t work out, (iv) panicking when I discovered my shopping cart had a space limit (what about the backup classes for Plan X?), and (v) just panicking in general. It did not help that my older cousin’s response to my perpetual panicking was:

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Then there was the process of actually registering for classes.

Fortunately for me, my family and I were vacationing in Japan at that time, which meant that my call time was 8:00pm and not some ungodly hour of the morning (sorry, Pacific Central kids. Please don’t kill me) – although for the record, I too have suffered my share of alarms set at five-minute intervals (ahem second semester senior year). Also fortunately for me, I snuck a preview peek at the itinerary and found that at the time of registration, we would not be riding on a tour bus or hiking in the mountains but instead enjoying “free time” at a hotel resort place with Wifi.

Unfortunately, my family then unexpectedly chose to attend a fancy dinner buffet thing at the resort at the same exact time.

Because I was already freaking out half an hour before registration, I refused to take my eyes off for even a second. This meant that I ended up hopping around trying to balance a laptop, an IQ-challenged phone, and a slippery wireless mouse while riding in an elevator with extremely polite but most definitely confused people.

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Side note: for those of you who are picturing a nice sleek MacBook Pro, let it be known that our family laptop is a dinosaur of a device whose (literal) thickness rivals that of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince* and who farts constantly.

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At any rate, I eventually found myself sitting at a fancy dinner table with my eyes still glued to the laptop screen and my head still knee-deep in panic mode.

I should probably mention that a large portion of the reason I was so hyped up about registration was because I had not actually decided what writing course to take yet. So I spent the twenty minutes prior to 7:00am EST frantically trying to weigh pros and cons on a very complex imaginary scale while people shoved food at me (food that looked delicious even from a peripheral point of view (or a daze. Ignoring food is difficult, but somehow I managed to block it all out)).

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And then my laptop clock, still set to Eastern Standard Time, struck 7:00am.

I clicked Register.

I waited.


…and then I got all the classes I’d picked. The end.

So class registration was ultimately one of the most anticlimactic experiences ever. And I may or may not have taken advantage of this situation.

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Except there is a very short epilogue to this prologue to my Hopkins adventures – because post-class registration, reality started to settle in.

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And so I started to get kind of nervous, particularly about the making friends part of college. See, I’ve lived in the same little suburban town for my entire life, and so starting off with zero friends has not been a problem for a very long while. This led me to the Whatifs, my least favorite friends.

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Fortunately, after a generous helping of worrisome thoughts, all these Whatifs were halted by a sudden lightbulb of a thought (an extremely bright lightbulb. A brightbulb, if you will) that said:

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It’s still pretty nerve-wracking to be going off to college and all that. But every time I get the teensiest bit uneasy, I try to remember this brightbulb of an idea and remind myself that I’ve already survived class registration, and I once again become excited for the real adventure.

Actual fin.

* I’m not actually that insane; I like hyperboles.

** Not figurative thickness; J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books are worlds more intellectual than that laptop.

The Bluejay That Almost Wasn’t


Name: Catherine Orlando

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Harrison, NY

Intended Path of Study: Neuroscience

The Bluejay That Almost Wasn’t

“I’m really starting to worry that you won’t fit.”

This one-liner has been playing on repeat on my house since the first college item was purchased. First, the implication is not that all of my worldly possessions won’t fit, it’s that me, my person, won’t fit. Second, the first item was a 3.5″ x 4″ wallet, so I’m not exactly sure why this item in particular had my family so worried about my ‘fit.’

Clearly I can fit into small spaces with adequate food and water for survival.

Clearly I can fit into small spaces with adequate food and water for survival.

These jokes led to seriously real closet clean outs. The first to go? Tee shirts from other college campuses. I mean why keep them? Going to the dream school, there will be plenty of tee shirts there, why keep a shirt from a school I didn’t even like all that much? But I stumble upon a few, from college road trips, that remind me of one thing:

Hopkins is the school that almost wasn’t.

Now, I know what you’re thinking–Catie found a shirt from Yale and well, Yale was her first choice Hopkins was her second, Yale denied her and Hopkins didn’t. Nope. Or, Catie found a shirt from Stanford and thought about what a tough decision it was after they both accepted her. Incorrect (I did not even apply to Stanford, for the record). Or maybe, she found a Duke sweatshirt and well–regardless, none of these things happened. I like to think that my story is much more humorous (in retrospect at least) and slightly less commonplace.

University of Pennsylvania. You go on a tour their and the guides wear microphones  on their jacket lapels because it’s an Ivy and every tour is jam packed, and they babble about that toast story—actually a good one if you haven’t heard it, but not my story, you won’t hear it here. My parents always pushed me towards the front of the crowd, “you’re young! Hustle to the front and tell us all that you hear,” so of course I was doing that on the 12th (12th?) college trip on a 2 week spring break. Fun vacation, right?

I get a call from my father (here, for a time, it gets moderately not so funny, but bear with me) “come back,” he says, “I’m sick.” I’m baffled. Sick? I turn and I walk back 100, 200 yards, I find him on a bench, and my mother at the famed blue light system. I go to her first. She’s frantic. “My husband needs an ambulance, he’s having a heart attack,” of course this is all news to me, but I’m moderately okay at this point, people survive heart attacks all the time, and more importantly the blue light system will pull us through! (Keep in mind, I was going on two weeks of daily preaching of the glory of the blue light system).

I go to him. He’s calm, “I’m really fine.” Well now.

What happens next is funny (not funny then, funny now, only in retrospect).  It’s been five minutes, the blue light has honestly failed us (if I were dying, I’d be dead!) and a security guard saunters out of a building, students are watching, I hate being a spectacle. “You need an ambulance?” The degree to which this guy was probably naturally aloof wasn’t helping him, because my mother, as I mentioned, was frantic, and he was not cutting it. “A truck is coming.”

A truck!

We turn, and there in the middle of UPenn’s quad is a fire truck, my dad’s name on it. Three firemen, again aloof, no sense of urgency, come on out, defibrillator in hand, and walk our way.

Aerial view oriented diagram of exactly what happened to us and where the truck was.

Aerial view oriented diagram of exactly what happened to us and where the truck was.

I’m pacing, I’m nervous, they’re making jokes. “You’re having a heart attack because your daughter’s going to college.” “You’re having a heart attack because you saw the bill!” “You’re having a heart attack because the Rangers can’t beat the Flyers this year!” (We are big New York Rangers fans). I was appalled, horrified, and only moderately amused.

Long story short, a day in the hospital to find there was no heart attack, maybe an arrhythmia, eliminated any chance of getting to Hopkins the next day, our last school to visit on spring break. And so we forgot Hopkins for some time.

August in New York isn’t hot, it’s encasing—it’s like walking through syrup every time you step outside. And it was only in this August heat that Johns Hopkins was remembered for the first time since my father’s heart ‘episode.’

Here I am, walking through syrup (not exactly what I meant earlier).

Here I am, walking through syrup (not exactly what I meant earlier).

Now when you’re applying to school you have parents and a counselor and teachers and friends and tutors all with opinions, so when the subject of Hopkins was breached with my dear college counselor, she sternly objected to it. “You need three SAT2s and you’ve only taken one and you’ve only studied for a second. You can’t apply there, don’t bother visiting.”

And just like that, my entire future could’ve been different. But I thought this was odd, it wasn’t one of he the schools well known for needing three subject tests, so we called admissions. “Oh no, you don’t need three, three is the maximum! Kids used to submit too many.”

So. Now arose a different problem, a crisis of self-esteem if you will. How can I possibly get into a school where kids are submitting ten SAT2s and I can barely take two? Why bother visiting when I won’t get in?

I have now, at this point in the story, my mother to thank for pushing the visit. We went, we loved it–everyone was nice; they all loved science and goofy anecdotes as much as I did and the general college details (urban setting, mid-size, etc.) were all right! And I decided I would ED to Cornell.


Not what any of you were expecting right? I know, I’m a loose canon. Gotta keep y’all on your toes.

So Cornell. I’d only visited a year before, and decided on a whim, really, and then I was set. I was all Cornell all the time. I wrote my supplement in a day, we visited again, I did research upon research. I was ready to be part of the Big Red.

But Hopkins was always there, in the back of my mind (an unscratchable itch, if you will). I still went to info sessions nearby (you have to show interest!) and at one point I found myself praying I would get denied by Cornell in ED, just so I could apply to JHU regular decision. Maybe a week before November 8th (not November 1st—the common app caused delays, remember?) everything changed at an information session in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Midway through I began reworking my Cornell supp, to see if it could answer Hopkins’ question. I started doing necessary research to add to my essay, I had an essay, and then I turned to my parents and said, “I have a better essay, it’s not for Cornell.”

And we were whisked into action and changing things and changing mentalities and being sure and what a midnight decision this was and was I sure I was so gung-ho on Cornell I’ve only see Hopkins once and we have to get an interview even if it’s after the application deadline then you can see it twice and…

On the morning of December 13th, 2013 (Friday the 13th, thanks, admissions for that extra dose of panic) I received an email from a Hopkins alumnus requesting an interview with me. I showed it to my parents and thought that it must’ve meant I wasn’t in (now I don’t really know why this was the logical conclusion but I thought it was a sign for sure).

Now, I don’t need to describe in full detail getting in and flailing and falling over and crying (I’m a spaz, picture a gangly spaz doing spazzy things while crying) because, well, y’all already know I’m in! There’s no plot twist at the end of this blog post, and you know the ending of the story before it begins.

But what you still don’t know is what I found hiding in my closet that reminded me of how close I came to not being a part of the JHU class of 2018. And I find, out of all the college paraphernalia, the UPenn shirt the most difficult to part with, as it is the beginning of my Hopkins story, the beginning of my Hopkins adventure, and very nearly the end. Ironic that a memento of the first place where the universe conspired against my going to Johns Hopkins, is found as I pack for my future in Baltimore.

The beginning and the end (I did eventually pick up some Hopkins gear as well–go Bluejays!).

The beginning and the end (I did eventually pick up some Hopkins gear as well–go Bluejays!).

Hello, my name is…


Name: Huixin Liu

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Sugar Land, TX

Intended Path of Study: International Studies

Hello, my name is…

When I got my college letters, I thought it would be the hardest choice of my life. Though I knew near from the outset that I wanted to be at Hopkins, I had to conquer a lot of doubt from my parents, my friends, and myself before I gathered the conviction to commit. When I finally submitted the form, I felt as if an immense weight composed of tense conversations and doubtful queries was ripped clear from my body. For the first time in an entire month, I felt at peace. I thought I had made the hardest decision ever in my life.

You know its official when your mother redecorates the alcove.

I was wrong. Names are so much harder.

I was born in Tianjin, China. My aunt was the one who found my name. She submitted my birth details to a certain agency that used my information to calculate the most appropriate name possible. They came up with two options, 刘博 (Liu Buo), and 刘惠昕 (Liu Huixin).

My parents chose the latter, simply because it sounded more feminine, and I’ve been Huixin ever since.

I was an adorable (and fat) baby.

Well, that’s not quite true. In China, I was 惠昕. It’s a rather pretty name, pronounced “Hwei-shin,” holding meaning about things like “kindness,” and “blessing.” It’s not overwhelmingly common, but it’s not strange, either. Not quite the American “Mary,” or “Jennifer,” but no “Apple,” either. It’s a good name.

When I immigrated to the States, I became Huixin. It’s just the pinyin of my Chinese name, but it didn’t stay just a simple romanization. After years of trying and years of being called multiple incorrect versions of one name I quit trying and began asking everyone to call me by the most popular mispronunciation, “Hickson.” Yes, it rhymes with Nixon. Yes, it’s also a rather amusing way to combine both President Jackson and his nickname, “Old Hickory,” into a convenient homage. Yeah, it’s not just a simple romanization, it’s a complete wrenching of sound and meaning.

Yet, I couldn’t let go of it.

My parents have made intermittent efforts to get me to consider changing my name, but I’ve always refused, to their consternation. I wasn’t making the popular choice. Very few of my Chinese friends have kept their Chinese names. I don’t know why they do it, and I do not have a desire to make any assumptions. I only know why I kept my name. I kept my name out of a sort of desire to keep part of myself, to remain true to my origins after moving to a place that changed my life, my habits, and my beliefs so thoroughly. I kept it as an homage, as proof of my past.

However, I’ve recently realized that my name and I are not doing each other justice.

I don’t deserve a name that runs like a jagged piece of glass through every introduction I experience. I don’t deserve to have to hear former President Nixon brought up constantly in conjunction with my name. And I certainly do not deserve the certain snide remarks of friends and authority figures alike wondering aloud to me about why I didn’t get a “normal, American,” name.

My name doesn’t deserve me, either. My name doesn’t deserve someone who actively masks and defaces it for the sake of convenience. My name doesn’t deserve someone who, at the start of every first roll call, rolls her eyes and responds with the wretched mispronunciation in a curt tone that suggests that her name is nothing more than a burden, an annoyance. My name, the name that means “kindness” and “blessing” underneath it all, certainly deserves kindness towards it too.

And this is why, after over a decade as Huixin, I’ve made the hardest decision of my life. I’m finally going to change the name that has followed me for so long through thick and thin, through all the highs and lows. I’m changing my name to give the both of us a chance to be better to ourselves, and to each other.

Unfortunately, this is an incomplete Extreme Makeover episode, and I have no final satisfying name-reveal complete with sparkles and heartfelt music. This is because I still haven’t figured out my new name.

There’s a lot of things to consider for my new name. It can’t be the name of a friend in my close friend circle, as it would be too jarring. It can’t be a name my parents cannot pronounce, as they’ll be introducing me as that in polite company for the rest of their lives. I really want it to start with an H, just so I have a connection. And really, at the end of the day, I just have to really be able to see myself in it. I now truly understand why there are so many baby name resources out there, as I certainly need all of them and several days of further discussion before I finally fall on the right name. But, you know what, I’m not scared!

I used to think that so much of my identity revolved around my name, around its story, around its difficulties. It doesn’t! Sure, my name is a part of my identity, and it has probably played more of a role in my life than names generally should be playing. However, I’ve realized that my name isn’t the end-all be-all foundation of my personality. I made “Hickson;” “Hickson” did not make me, and no matter what I end up calling myself at the end of the day, I’ll still just be me, only with less X’s.

So, if you see me on campus this fall, feel free to say hi. I’ll be more than ready to say back, “Hello, my name is…”

But don’t ask me right now, I have no clue.

The Secret Waitlist


Name: Joanna Schneider

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Little Neck, NY

Intended Path of Study: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Vocal Performance

The Secret Waitlist

On May 16, 2014, at exactly 11:00AM, my phone buzzed once, but I didn’t hear it or feel it.

So maybe it didn’t actually happen.

I’ve always told people that I like to live in this “place of not knowing.” It reminds me of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s like the old cliché, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it really make a sound? It’s even a bit similar to the theory of Schrödinger’s cat (but let’s not debate that one because a cat can’t be alive and dead at the same time). I just like the idea of possibilities, hoping for the best, and living in ignorant bliss for a little while. It can work for the college application process, the SAT, a risky text message awaiting response, you name it.

When I was possessed to check my phone during the change between 5th and 6th periods on May 16th, I didn’t know that I was living in that place of not knowing. I was really just looking for something to pass the time, so I swiped my finger down the e-mail application to update it, and with one glorious buzz that signified an incoming message, my life changed.

That sentence seems a bit melodramatic, but there’s a backstory, and it really did change my life.

Now before you jump to conclusions, I was not put on the wait list at Hopkins. On Friday, March 28, I woke up on the most harrowing day of my life with 20,000 other hopeful applicants, and my voice was 100% gone. Not only was this the day that Hopkins released its decision, but it was also the opening night of my school’s annual opera. I was completely unable to sing and I couldn’t voice my terror to anyone. The stress was so exhausting that I fell asleep on my friend’s couch after a half day at school, but not before setting an alarm for 2:58PM so I could get log on to the Johns Hopkins decision site at 3:00PM. I accidentally logged in a minute early, but instead of the error screen I was expecting, I saw the biggest, happiest, most perfect “Yes!”

Some variation of this face and dance combination was happening for hours.

I was filled to bursting and honestly did not think that life could get any better when I let out the strangest, most blood-curdling victory scream of my life. It signified the end of a horrible period of stress and sadness and loneliness to make way for joy and relief. That was also the moment that I realized my voice was back. I cried tears of joy with my two best friends and called my mother, my voice now hoarse from screaming. We exchanged happy tears and promptly told everybody we knew (which is only natural, as I quite possibly have the loudest family on the planet). Only a handful of teenagers across the country shared my Hopkins-induced happiness that day, and for that I could not have been more grateful.

Before you think that this all sounds like a fairytale ending, here’s where it gets interesting. I was not just waiting for a decision from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences or the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University — I was also waiting for my decision from Peabody Conservatory. I have been singing classical music — yes, opera — for almost ten years, and I’m one of those crazy kids who refused to decide between a life of music or academia, so I applied for the Double Degree program.

As if applying to college hadn’t already been hard enough.

On April 1st, I received an e-mail notifying me that I was accepted into Peabody Conservatory and another that promptly followed it, rejecting me from the program that would allow me to combine the two.


I had been accepted to Homewood and Peabody, but I couldn’t do both. I hadn’t been expecting to get in to my two dream schools, but I also wasn’t expecting to get so close.

That was when I realized I had to make the choice for the first time in my life. I was lucky enough to attend an arts high school, where it was completely normal to fangirl over both Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Young. It’s been a balancing game between music and science for as long as I can remember and here was where it would abruptly end. It was entirely out of my hands, and in the end, I decided to accept my place on the Homewood campus.

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to be accepted into Hopkins in any capacity, but the thought of not singing in a choir every day and never having to learn how to pronounce the lied of a German art song again made me feel hollow. SOHOP, the beauty of the Homewood campus, and my music teachers were all reminders of the limitless possibilities that the future held. I was finally beginning to come to terms with my decision when May 16th rolled around.

Unassuming, insignificant little May 16th.

The subject line of the e-mail read “Acceptance to JHU Double Degree.” I tapped it with one shaky finger. The message was short and simple.molly1

It was too surreal to believe.

It was too surreal to believe.

I flew out of my math class, my friend Rachel following suit in mid-text with my friend Izzy, who appeared moments later. I ran a lap around the floor and collapsed in a stairwell to catch my breath. I ran back to class where my teacher was still setting up the projector to put on Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein” like it was a normal day. My friend Jared turned to me to ask what happened.

Igor knew how I was feeling.

“I got accepted into the Double Degree Program,” I managed to squeak.

“What? Congrats! I didn’t know you were on a wait list!” he replied.

“I wasn’t.”

And it was the most wonderful reward after a month and a half of living in that place of not knowing (without knowing it).

Superstition, Biomedical Engineering, and America’s National Pastime


Name: Tony Wang

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Intended Path of Study: Biomedical Engineering

Superstition, Biomedical Engineering, and America’s National Pastime

On December 13th, I got admitted to Johns Hopkins University for biomedical engineering, my top choice program, and it was probably the happiest moment in my life so far. While most people only managed to witness me bursting into Chemistry class, out of breath, clenching my phone, or walking around the school with friends congratulating me on my acceptance, I want to share some of the thoughts I had while waiting for that one letter.

I love baseball. I’ve never played an actual game of baseball, nor do I watch or follow it religiously. The extent of my baseball prowess is the ability to throw a ball around with a couple of friends in the goose-poop-infested backfield of my school. However, I find it one of the most fascinating sports in the world. I think my affinity for baseball begins with the fact that the star major league hitters, the best of the best, only hit the ball about 33% of the time. Wait, I can sign million dollar contracts with billion dollar franchises just by hitting the ball a third of the time? If I only needed to make 33% of my free throws to become the face of an NBA franchise, I’d be the next Lebron James.

For those of you who might not be very familiar with baseball, the role of a batter is riddled with variables and uncertainty. Even when a batter crushes a ball that gets pitched at them, there’s still a chance that a fielder just happened to be right where the ball is heading. Likewise, even when a batter hits poorly, there’s still a chance of a fielding error and he’ll make it scot-free. Unless it’s a homerun, anything goes in baseball. And it’s precisely because of this unpredictable nature that baseball players are some of the most superstitious people in the world.

Almost all baseball players, pitchers and hitters, have some sort of ritual or routine that they follow. Some will wake up at a certain time, eat a certain meal, wear the same jock strap they did during the last winning game, tap their bat twice on both sides of the plate, etc. I submitted my application on November 8th and every night, for the next 35 days, I would recite to myself 3 times “I’m going to get in,” before going to bed. As I was letting all these thoughts swirl through my head, I would plan my decision day out, down to my very reaction if I got accepted. Walking home from the bus stop every day, I would also chant the same thing, pumping myself up and jumping up and down, much to the amusement of neighbors passing by. Lucky underwear became uniform for the next 5 weeks. Never in my life did I want something so bad, so I stayed diligent with my rituals.

Baseball players also believe in taboos, which are things that they would abstain from or avoid in order to prevent bad luck. Some refuse to eat certain foods, refrain from shaving, or avoid certain numbers or phrases. I remember as a kid, my parents and I were driving through a neighborhood that was populated mostly by Chinese immigrants. As we continued down the street, I noticed that there was no house number 4, 14, 24, or 34. In their place were house numbers 3A, 13A, 23A and 33A. I asked my parents why and they said it’s because the number 4 in Chinese is bad luck because it sounds like the word “death”. I scoffed at their ludicrous belief and immediately regretted it as I got lectured for the rest of the car ride. But during this period of weakness, what I considered absolutely baloney became an immutable law of nature.

I consider myself a man of science. I’m not easily swayed by ghosts or the supernatural, nor do I generally believe in superstition. However, everything that happened during this period became a sign of my impending fate. My first heart attack came when I received an email from Johns Hopkins saying that they would be releasing the decision on December 13thinstead of December 15th. Friday the 13th. To me, this was like hearing that they didn’t even receive my application. What chance do I possibly have at getting in now that the decision would come out on the unluckiest day ever?

I was also declined an interview due to no alumni being available to conduct one. Even though it says very clearly on their website that interviews are not mandatory and most people get accepted without one, this was as bad as a rejection. I eventually did some more research and found out that the interview was more of an extension of their tours, giving applicants a chance to learn more about Hopkins from an alumnus, which eased my pain a little. But deep down, there was still that doubt. I mean, how am I supposed to get accepted as a student when I’m not even worthy of a measly interview?

The morning of the decision release day, I had a dream where 3:00pm, came by but I didn’t check my decision because I was still in chemistry class. I would be trying my hardest to pay attention to the board, when I got a text message from my mom that read, “I’m so sorry Tony, you didn’t get in. It’s okay, I’m still proud of you.” I woke up in my panic to find that it was just a dream. My mom was waiting for me at the breakfast table when I came downstairs and she asked me if she could have the login to my decision release so that she could check for me. OBVIOUSLY, that dream was some sort of omen, and so, I told her I couldn’t. She said she understood, gave me a hug, and drove me to school.

Naturally, all of my rituals and taboos were my only weapons in my fight against this unseen creature known as “bad luck”. But my rationality would kick in ever so often and I would always think to myself, why am I doing all this? Does any of this actually work? Why am I trying so hard at things that won’t do me any good? I asked myself, what can I do that would actually help my chances? And then it hit me.

My life doctrine has always been to live life without regret. Almost all of the risks that I have taken in my life were a result of that belief, that the pain of “what if” would be far worse than any other outcome. And yet, I had contradicted myself entirely. I put so much effort into all of my superstitions because I wanted this so badly. But why didn’t I study harder for my SATs? Why didn’t I try harder for my IB exams in May? Why didn’t I start researching earlier? If I really wanted this so badly, why didn’t I do everything that I could have while I had the chance? All of these regrets that I had during my high school career hit me. Hard. Now it was too late, so why should I believe in all this superstitious crap?

I started to think about baseball again, which prompted a smile. I can’t change the past, but maybe I can change the present with my routines and rituals. I did it for the same reason that baseball players did. In a world filled with chaos and uncertainty, filled with competition and admissions officers who are trying to extrapolate our life stories out of 500 word essays, why shouldn’t we try to gain a little more control of our lives? Why can’t we believe in something that gives us hope after we send out our applications into an infinite black hole, which spits back a letter that changes the next decade of our lives after 5 weeks of gestation? And so for the next 5 weeks, I continued with all of my routines and rituals because I wanted to get in so badly that I’d do it by wit alone.

Getting admitted to Hopkins was just one step in the journey, and this isn’t going to be the last time I’ll have to wait on an admission decision like that. So to those of you who will be applying to med school, grad school, business school and many more, it might not be a bad idea to avoid some black cats and the number 13. When you feel as powerless as I did, as if the whole world is against you, it’s nice to feel like you can still do something to improve your chances.

As for me, I’ve learned a lot about myself over those past few weeks. I don’t see this acceptance as an excuse to coast through the rest of the year. This was a wakeup call, that I’m not living life the way that I intended to. I have plenty more hurdles to overcome in my life and next time, I might not be as “lucky” as I was this time. So for the rest of the summer, I’ll be preparing myself for a grueling first semester at Johns Hopkins. And who knows? Maybe I’ll learn how to hit a baseball too.

Hopkins: A Conversion Story


Name: Molly Young

Year: Class of 2018

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Intended Path of Study: Writing Seminars

Hopkins: A Conversion Story

I didn’t know I wanted to go to Johns Hopkins.

No one in my family had gone there, it sounded a bit too prestigious for my resume, AND like every other person who has only ever heard the University’s name in passing, I assumed you were supposed to be a pre-med science devotee if you really wanted to go there. Have I made you wince yet? Please bear with me, dear reader, as I slowly bring you around to my far-more-enlightened present, in which I could not be more excited about being a Hopkins Blue Jay.

All my life, I’ve watched my older siblings grow up, excel in school, and eventually find their places in the professional world. A doctor, an engineer, and a quantitative statistician (aka the swankiest of all the titles for a financial advisor.) What do all of these jobs have in common? For one thing, math…science…MORE MATH AND SCIENCE. To be shamelessly melodramatic, just writing the word “quantitative” makes me feel…well…


In all fairness, my siblings are totally awesome individuals whose mathematical and scientific endeavors I respect — from a safe distance. Overall, we’re a very nerdy bunch. WE all love Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Jane Austen, BBC America, PBS, you name it. We all like to imitate just about any movie star out there, and when the beat drops, you will find us unabashedly freestyling across the dance floor despite our relative lack of dance training as a group. But then they have all these interests about medical stuff and MATH stuff and building bridges and other such stuff, and that’s where you’ll catch me awkwardly electric sliding out of the situation, with my dignity and hopes for being a humanities major clutched tightly to my chest.

Perhaps that was a bit melodramatic. My family has always been extremely supportive of my passions, and I’ve never been pushed to “become” the next version of any of my siblings. While benefiting from their example and advice, I’ve also been encouraged to carve my own path. And that’s where Hopkins comes in.

Naturally, my sister (the doctor and Jane Austen enthusiast) originally suggested Hopkins to me last summer when we met up in Baltimore during a health conference she was attending. Side note: if you’re ever running low on pens, notepads or water bottles, GO TO A HEALTH CONFERENCE. Just sneak in. Get one of everything. Never go school supplies shopping again.

Anyways, I brushed off the suggestion with something like “Right, ok. I’d never get in,” and “HAH. Don’t wanna be a doctor.” (Don’t give up on me yet, reader. DON’T YOU DARE.) She rolled her eyes, and calmly said, “Well, Hopkins is a great school. You should think about it…” Praise to the forces that be for older sisters like this one. This beautiful ethnic sunflower. This intellectually stimulating butterfly. This splendiferous shot of — I just really love my sister.

On the left, living dangerously. On the right, staking our claim of Young family land in Yosemite National Park. It’s ALL ours now.

Long story (somewhat) shorter, I looked into Hopkins, poked around the website and suddenly felt the need to monologue to the comoputer in the climax-of-a-RomCom kind of way. You know the one. “I love the way you brush your hair, the way you overcook your pasta, the way you wildly gesticulate when you speak, the smell of your shampoo. I’ve loved it for the past 8 years, but I’m JUST realizing it now. Marry me.”

Except mine was more like, “Writing Seminars…History…International Studies? Theater minors and Music at Peabody? I was so blind, curse my foolish ways!”

Fast forward several months and a full 24 hours after the acceptance decisions were posted. It’s Saturday morning. You’ll find my sister and me sitting at the table, both a little bleary-eyed. I nervously opened the decision “portal”, as they called it in a successful attempt to make me feel like I was in some sort of sci-fi thriller, potentially hurtling into “the portal of despair”.

Instead, my sister squealed in a “YES! THE EAGLES HAVE COME TO SAVE US!” kind of way (see aforementioned comment about the family Lord of the Rings obsession).

The eagles coming to save the Gandalf Gang, metaphorically parallel to the idea of the Blue Jays saving me from the Portal of Despair.

The eagles coming to save the Gandalf Gang, metaphorically parallel to the idea of the Blue Jays saving me from the Portal of Despair.

I got in. Fast forward another month or so, and I’m fresh off of my final college tour, Johns Hopkins. For the first time, I was feeling like a bona fide college kid as I strolled along on those red brick paths, straying away from my family on several occasions and essentially Live Action Role Playing that I was just casually walking to my next class. Total college student here. Psh. I had a backpack and everything.

A beautiful day for a tour. Notice the golf cart in the bottom left corner. I assume all Hopkins students receive one during orientation to drive around campus? Yes? Splendid.

A beautiful day for a tour. Notice the golf cart in the bottom left corner. I assume all Hopkins students receive one during orientation to drive around campus? Yes? Splendid.

That day really felt like high school’s end for me. I left campus thinking, “This is my school.” Here I was, floating in some weirdly awesome version of limbo — at once fulfilled, and yet full of great expectations (melodrama part 2). I had spent the day on a picturesque colonial-style campus, interacting with down-to-earth Hopkinss students, several of whom were loving their experience as humanities majors (cue Molly swooning). Also, they gave us a DELICIOUS lunch (swooning again). Most importantly, I felt grateful for the awesome and humbling prospect of joining the Johns Hopkins Class of 2018. It’s always such a dorky adrenaline rush to type out that last part.

You see? I told you it would all turn around. Hopefully, my conversion story inspires millions of people around the world to discover that Johns Hopkins is way more than “that school for doctors”. Frankly, I’m just glad my family gets a kick out of it. I smile in the face of the standard “Hopkins? I had no idea you wanted to be a doctor!” response. “Oh, you,” I reply to my unsuspecting counterpart, “I, too, was once as naive as you are now. Allow me to school you in the ways of the Blue Jay.” My name is Molly Young, and I live in the pursuit of good music, great food, and the Fountain of Youth (I kid. My last name keeps me fresh as a daisy for all eternity.) I’m passionate about my beloved humanities, and I’m pretty darn excited about getting to campus this August. I’m a Hopkins convert if there ever was one.

And I think that’s just grand.

I'm on the left, backstage at the high school variety show, unafraid and unashamed of embracing the real me. Who is evidently full of "intrigue".

I’m on the left, backstage at the high school variety show, unafraid and unashamed of embracing the real me. Who is evidently full of “intrigue”.