How to Write the Johns Hopkins University Essay 2023-2024
Johns Hopkins University has just one supplemental essay, which all applicants are required to respond to. However, while other schools you’re applying to may have more supplements, you want to make sure you dedicate enough time to this essay, as Hopkins is one of the most competitive schools in the country, especially for students interested in medicine.
In this post, we’ll break down how to brainstorm for and actually write your Hopkins essay, as well as common mistakes you want to be sure to avoid.
Read these Johns Hopkins essay examples to inspire your writing.
Johns Hopkins Supplemental Essay Prompt
Tell us about an aspect of your identity (e.g. race, gender, sexuality, religion, community, etc.) or a life experience that has shaped you as an individual and how that influenced what you’d like to pursue in college at Hopkins. (This can be a future goal or experience that is either academic, extracurricular, or social). (200-350 words)
Brainstorming Your Topic
This prompt is a version of the common Diversity Essay, with the added layer of explicitly connecting your identity to one of your goals for your time at Hopkins.
The first thing to note is that the way colleges factor race into their admissions processes will be different this year, after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in June.
Colleges can still consider race on an individual level, however, so if you would like to respond to this prompt by talking about how your racial background has impacted you, you are welcome to do so.
You are also welcome to write about a wide range of other aspects of your identity. As the prompt itself highlights, an individual is more than just their race, gender, sexuality, and other attributes that typically come to mind when you hear the word “diversity.” We are also shaped by the communities we’re in, the hobbies we enjoy, our interests, and so on. So, if you are having a hard time coming up with a topic for this prompt, shift to that line of thinking. Here are some examples of less traditional topics that could work:
- The people you see every day while walking your dog before school
- A group sea kayaking trip you did one summer
- Your passion for the color purple
The main requirement for your topic is that it has “shaped you as an individual,” per Hopkins’ request. There is one other thing you want to consider, though. Namely, can you connect this aspect of your identity to one of your goals for Hopkins?
Note that this connection doesn’t have to be direct. If your parents immigrated to the United States from Korea, you don’t have to write about wanting to do research on international migration with Professor Erin Chung. You can, of course, if you genuinely are interested in that line of research. But the connection you make can also be more nuanced.
For example, say that some of your relatives still in Korea don’t speak English, but you have developed a relationship with them through visits to museums and famous architectural sites, as you have a shared love of art. These experiences have shown you the unifying power of art, which is a phenomenon you’d like to explore more through Hopkins’ Renaissance Art History study abroad program in Florence.
Although this connection may not be one your reader was expecting, it works, as you explain it in a clear, easy-to-follow way. Plus, this essay is on the longer side for a supplement. You have 350 words at your disposal, so you have plenty of space to draw more sophisticated connections.
Tips for Writing Your Essay
If you have done your brainstorming well, writing the actual essay should be pretty straightforward: you want to describe the aspect of your identity you’re focusing on, and then connect it to the goal you’ve chosen to highlight. As just noted above, you have room to work with, so there’s no need to rush anything.
The only real rule here is that the connection you’re drawing is explained clearly. For a rather extreme example, if you just said “I have family in Korea, which makes me want to study abroad in Florence,” your reader would have no idea what you’re talking about. So, just make sure you’re able to articulate the link you see, so admissions officers understand how we got from A to B.
If you’re having a hard time with that, maybe take a step back from your essay, and come back the next day with a clear head. Sometimes, spending too much time on an essay will bog you down, and make it hard to see where to go next.
If you’re still having trouble the next day, you might want to return to the brainstorming stage, and either focus on a different aspect of your identity, or connect it to a different goal you have for college. There’s no shame in hitting rewind. Most students do at some point in their essay-writing process, as even topics that seem perfect at first can prove to be not quite right once you start trying to actually write about them.
Finally, like with any college essay, your writing will be stronger if you show, rather than tell. That means you want to rely on specific anecdotes and experiences to support your points, as that will make your essay more engaging. You can compare the two approaches below:
Telling: “I have quite a few family members still in Korea. Most of them live in Seoul, but some of them live in more remote areas.”
Showing: “I press my nose against the car window to get one last look at the glittering skyscrapers of Seoul, before my dad turns onto the winding, tree-lined road which leads to my uncle’s house.”
The information communicated is basically the same, but the showing approach paints us a picture, rather than reading us a list of facts like the telling approach. Because we are immersed in the student’s story, we feel much closer to them, and the whole point of college essays is to get admissions officers to understand who you are.
Mistakes to Avoid
The biggest potential pitfall here is answering the second half of the prompt (the “how that influenced what you’d like to pursue in college at Hopkins” part) in a way that isn’t specific enough to Hopkins. This subset of the prompt is essentially a mini “Why This College?” essay, which means you don’t want to just share a goal you have for college in general, but rather something you hope to achieve at Hopkins specifically.
The examples above show the level of specificity you want to get to. Contrast those examples with vague versions of the same goals: “At Hopkins, I hope to research migration from Asia,” or “At Hopkins, I hope to do a study abroad program that will allow me to pursue my interest in art.” These goals would be fine to share with a family member at Thanksgiving, but for Hopkins admissions officers, they’re too general, as these are things you could do in some form at plenty of other schools around the country.
By going a level deeper, to a particular professor who does the kind of research you’re interested in, and a particular program that will allow you to study art, you show Hopkins admissions officers that you’ve really done your homework on their school, which gives them confidence you’re ready to hit the ground running when you arrive on campus.
If you’re not sure about how to get to this level of specificity, hop onto Hopkins’ website, and skim their course offerings, faculty directory, study abroad programs, club pages, and so on. Odds are, you’ll see something there that aligns with the general goal you’ve identified for yourself, which will take you from the big picture to the narrower focus you want.
Where to Get Your Johns Hopkins Essay Edited
Do you want feedback on your Johns Hopkins essay? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!