What is it Like to Attend Johns Hopkins University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Ashlee is a New York City tutor who specializes in many subjects including Pre-Calculus tutoring, Statistics tutoring, and French tutoring. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2011 where she studied Psychology and French Literature. Check out her review of her alma mater:

VT:  Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Ashlee: The undergraduate campus at Hopkins, Homewood, is like a little oasis in the middle of Baltimore. There are many transportation methods, including public buses, the free “Charm City Circulator,” the Hopkins “JHMI” (which runs back and forth between Homewood and the Med School campus), Zipcars, taxis, etc. I personally didn’t have a car or bike at school, but I did have a Zipcar account, just in case I needed to go somewhere. Some of my friends had cars, but it wasn’t a necessity. The campus itself is safe, as is the nearby area, but you have to remember that JHU is located in Baltimore, which is an urban environment, and so you should be aware of your surroundings, lock your doors/windows if you end up living in a row house, lock your car, don’t walk home late by yourself, etc. I personally had no problems during my time in Baltimore, but it never hurts to be aware of your environment! 

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Ashlee: As with many schools, some professors are more available than others. I was lucky in that the vast majority of my professors and teaching assistants were readily available to meet, and all held regular office hours. Professor office hours tend to be under utilized by students, and so I would suggest stopping by, introducing yourself, and asking questions about the material. The TA’s are very helpful, and I found that they are sometimes able to better explain the material if you’re super confused, since they’re still close to the learning process. The academic advisors vary in how often you will see them or interact with them. My academic advisors were a little bit more hands off, but they would respond to emails in a timely manner, and were definitely willing to meet if you felt as though you had to meet in person. Professors, TA’s, and academic assistants all tend to be available, but it is really up to the students to take advantage of this availability! 

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Ashlee: At JHU, you live in campus housing during your freshman and sophomore years. I personally lived in AMR 1 during my first year, and Homewood during my second year. There are a variety of different dorms for each year, which allows you to have the dorm experience that you would like. 

  • Freshman year, students live in AMR 1, AMR 2, Building A, Building B, or Wolman. The AMR’s are traditional dorms, with shared bathrooms for the hall. I chose to live in the AMR’s because I wanted that traditional dorm experience, and because they were considered the more “social” dorms, as you were constantly running into different people in the halls and bathrooms. Buildings A and B, and Wolman are more apartment/suite style, with a couple of shared rooms sharing a bathroom and kitchenette.  Many students in the AMR’s, and Buildings A and B eat at the FFC (Fresh Food Café), which is the dining hall. Many of my friends in Wolman tended to cook, as they were not located as nearby the FFC as the other dorms.
  • Sophomore year, students are offered the possibilities of living in Charles Commons, McCoy, Homewood, and the Bradford. Although the suites vary in the number of rooms, I’ll describe the room layouts that I most often saw. Charles Commons is the newest dorm, with most suites being made up of four single bedrooms, two shared bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchenette. There is a small gym with cardio equipment. Many people choose to live in Charles Commons, as it’s very centrally located. McCoy is more similar to the layout of Wolman, with two shared bedrooms or one shared bedroom and a single, with a bathroom and a kitchenette. Homewood, where I lived, is apartment-style. My apartment was three single rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living/dining area. However, Homewood is a little bit of a walk to parts of campus like the gym, as it is toward the south end of campus, but it too has a small gym. Bradford also is more apartment-style, with a few single rooms being connected by a common living area and kitchen area.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Ashlee: Many students, including myself, enter JHU as a pre-med, studying some sort of science. For pre-meds, Neuroscience was a popular major, as was Biology, Chemistry, etc. I entered JHU as a Neuroscience and French double major, but once deciding that I didn’t want to go to medical school, tried Mechanical Engineering with French, and then finally Psychology and French, which are the degrees in which I received my Bachelor’s. I chose to study French because I have been taking French since the 3rd grade, and didn’t want to lose the language. I was lucky, in that I tested into a high level of French, so I was able to take very interesting literature classes, and didn’t have to take grammar-based classes, which also made it very quick for me to fulfill the requirements. Psychology, which is a very popular major at Hopkins, is well supported by the university. There are many opportunities to get involved in research, and the classes cover many different topics. The various Engineering majors are also very popular and well supported. Biomedical Engineering is the only major that you must independently apply to. Other very popular majors are International Relations and Writing Seminars. 

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Ashlee: I found it very easy to meet people and make friends as a freshman, especially during the various Orientation events. I also met many people in the FFC and just walking around the AMR’s. Social life at JHU is really what you make of it. There are many people at JHU that are very social, but there are also people who spend the vast majority of their time in the library. Luckily, everyone knows that work comes first, and so it is completely possible to have a social life, but still do well academically. Greek life is fairly popular, with 4 Panhellenic sororities, 11 fraternities, and 7 multicultural sororities/fraternities. I was in a sorority, and found it to be an amazing experience that allowed me to meet some of my best friends. Greek life at Hopkins is definitely not the stereotypical Greek life, with the sororities and fraternities usually having some of the highest GPA’s on campus, with average GPA’s higher than the JHU average. Many Greeks not only socialize together on the weekends and at mixers or date parties, but they also study together throughout the week and for exams. There are many friendships that span between the sororities and fraternities, so you don’t have to worry that you’ll lose friends if you join different organization. I highly recommend that students join Greek life, as the majority of the people I know from Greek life found that it is a wonderful support system, both socially and academically. 

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Ashlee: I personally never used the Career Center, so I can’t weigh in on that, but I have friends that had varying success with going to the Career Center. Many reputable companies recruit on campus, during well-attended job fairs, with many students successfully acquiring jobs!

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious? 

Ashlee: Hopkins recently opened the Brody Learning Center, which is a study space, and looks beautiful! The MSE library is also a very popular spot, as is the “Hut” (Hutzler Reading Room, in Gilman Hall). Around midterms and finals, the study spaces are always crowded, but it’s possible to get a spot. My favorite spot to study was the Hut, as there is a lot of natural light. I’m sure that I would have also loved the Brody Learning Center, had it existed a few years ago, which also has a lot of natural light. The dorm lounges are nice, with all of them having couches, and most of them having TV’s.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?  

Ashlee: JHU is located in the city of Baltimore. I personally adore the area near JHU, which is called Charles Village, the Inner Harbor, Mount Vernon, Fells Point, Fed Hill, Hampden, and Towson. There are many safe and quirky neighborhoods throughout Baltimore, and each has their own charm! Baltimore has fantastic food, concerts, sports (Go Ravens!), dancing, an aquarium, museums, shopping, etc. There are many things that you can do throughout the city, as well as many events that happen on campus. Many students do go downtown to the Inner Harbor, whether to sightsee, go to the aquarium, or to go to the various stores in the area. There is a water-taxi that will take you to the surrounding neighborhoods in the area, which is always fun. Powerplant Live, a concert venue, is also located downtown. The Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art (which is located on the south side of campus!) all have fantastic exhibits. You can also easily visit Fort McHenry if you’re a history buff. Some students stick to the campus, but many students immerse themselves further into Baltimore, which I found to be a wonderful experience. 

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Ashlee: The student body is fairly small, especially in comparison to a larger state school. I believe the undergraduate student body usually is approximately 5,000 students. Class sizes vary drastically, with some pre-med requirement classes, like the introductory sciences, having a couple of hundred students in a lecture class, with seminar classes being as low as 5-10 students. I definitely enjoyed the smaller classes more than the larger lecture classes, but that’s because they’re more interactive than a class like General Chemistry 1. Class size also depends on which major that you’re in, with classes in subjects like languages and writing being smaller, and sciences and math being larger. The upper level classes tend to be on the smaller side.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most. 

Ashlee: A class that I greatly enjoyed was “Introduction to Engineering,” which is a class that Engineers usually take during their first semester. The final project consists of building a spaghetti bridge using only raw spaghetti and epoxy. It was such a fun experience, and the hands on nature allowed me to really learn the concepts that we had been discussing. Another memorable experience was my French thesis, which is required for the French degree. I initially doubted that I would be able to write as much as I did, but the process was clearly laid out, and I found myself having no problem. The thesis is written entirely in French, and it is such a satisfying experience to take it from the seed of an idea, to handing in a 70-page thesis that I was very satisfied with. These are just two of my experiences, but I had many more positive experiences than I can even explain. I loved my time at JHU, and religiously attend both Young Alumni Weekend, in the Fall semester, and Homecoming/Alumni Weekend, in the Spring semester! 

Check out Ashlee’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.