My Experience at Johns Hopkins University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Abigail is currently a sophomore studying history at Johns Hopkins University. She specializes in French tutoring, social studies tutoring, and a number of other subjects. See what she had to say about her experience as a student at Johns Hopkins University:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Abigail: Johns Hopkins is located in Baltimore. However, the campus is completely enclosed and no cars are allowed to drive on JHU property. This makes the campus, with its brick pathways and ample green space, feel much more suburban. JHU is secured by the blue light emergency system and 24/7 security guards in every residential hall and spread throughout campus. Buses are provided both by the university and the city of Baltimore to travel throughout the city, although they do not always arrive on time.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at Johns Hopkins University?

Abigail: All of my teaching assistants have been extremely helpful and flexible. They’ve arranged to meet with me outside of class to review essays or, in the case of my language teachers, practice speaking. Classes may have hundreds of students but sections are never larger than twenty, so TAs will usually know you personally and work with you directly.

Professors are much less available. Some classes have several hundred students, so the professor doesn’t know individual students well. Some professors only spend a few hours on campus a week and are difficult to meet with outside of class. Many professors have difficulty using technology and are much harder to contact through email.

Hopkins students have multiple academic advisers, including pre-professional advisors for pre-med and pre-law students. We meet regularly with these advisors, and it is fairly easy to schedule extra meetings if necessary. Advisers can give general advice about class selection and degree requirements.

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

Abigail: Three of the freshman residence halls (AMRS I-III) are on campus. The rest of the residence halls are in walking distance, in an area patrolled 24/7 by Hopkins security and covered by the blue light system. The rooms at Hopkins are a fairly standard size. Students can choose dorms with a shared public restroom used by the entire floor or suites with private bathrooms used only by the suite. RAs regularly plan social activities for the dorms and many students become very close to their dormmates.

Students have a certain number of meals each week they can eat at the dining hall (the FFC), as well as an allocation for the semester of “dining dollars” that can be used to purchase food from the Charles Street Market. Hopkins does provide options for Kosher, vegetarian, vegan,and gluten-free dining, but their options are often limited and, in my opinion, fail to take into consideration what a full meal would be (for example, providing only rice and vegetables for vegetarians).

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Abigail: Hopkins is heavily skewed toward science majors, especially people pursuing pre-med. The largest humanities majors are International Studies and Writing Seminars. I’m studying history. Though the university’s academic reputation as a whole is extremely strong, I often wish I had chosen another university because the history department offers such limited choices in terms of classes, internships, research, and other opportunities.

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?

Abigail: Greek life is very limited. Most people make friends through classes and clubs.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services?

Abigail: The Career Center is very helpful for certain professions but not for others. Pre-med students, for example, receive extensive mentoring, and an extremely high percentage of them are accepted to medical schools. But for a humanities major, I don't think there are nearly as many opportunities for internships or jobs. It depends on your major and career path.

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges at Johns Hopkins University?

Abigail: The library has group-study areas but also a silent floor, in addition to private study rooms, so however you learn best there’s space for you. The library generally isn’t too crowded and is a very pleasant place to work.

The dorm lounges are usually quiet and fairly empty, because most people prefer to study in the library.

Describe the surrounding town.

Abigail: There are some fun areas of Baltimore like the Inner Harbor and Little Italy with lots of shops and restaurants. Generally, however, there isn’t a whole lot for a college student to do in the city, and getting around can be hard because Baltimore public transportation is somewhat unreliable. Students usually stay on campus.

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

Abigail: There are only about 5,000 students at Hopkins. Most of my classes have less than 20 students in them, which provides an opportunity to work more closely with the professor and have your questions answered. Even larger lectures, which can have several hundred students, break apart once a week into sections. Sections are led by grad student TAs and usually have about ten students each. This gives students a chance to have their questions answered and review specific material they had questions about, as well as get feedback on essays and projects.

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

Abigail: During fall semester, I was very disappointed because several of my classes were not led by professors at all; the only teacher was a graduate student TA. My French TA, however, went above and beyond to help me improve my French. I met with her once a week outside of class. She reviewed my essays with me and gave me a more in-depth explanation of my grammatical errors. She also practiced speaking in French with me so I could improve my pronunciation. Very few students took advantage of her office hours, so I could usually meet with her one-on-one. With the extra practice, I was able to skip the second semester of Advanced French.


Check out Abigail’s tutoring profile.

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