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How to Write the Johns Hopkins University Supplemental Essay 2019-2020

Johns Hopkins University is the oldest research university in the United States. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, it is home to just over 6,000 undergraduate students and more than 19,000 graduate students. Although renowned for its School of Medicine, its undergraduate campus is also highly prestigious.


Undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins University is largely research-based. Nearly 80% of undergraduates perform some kind of independent research throughout their college careers. Johns Hopkins University is also home to the oldest continuously running university press in the United States.


In the 2018-2019 cycle, Johns Hopkins University admitted 9.2% of all applicants. While this this low acceptance rate might be intimidating, there are still ways to improve your odds of acceptance. One of the best ways to stand out is through the essay. Johns Hopkins only requires one supplemental essay for all applicants, so it’s important that you do this one justice. In this post, we’ll break down this essay prompt, as well as the specialized program prompts.


Want to learn what Johns Hopkins University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Johns Hopkins University needs to know.


Make sure to check out How to Write the Common Application Essays 2019-2020.


For ALL Applicants: Johns Hopkins Supplemental Essay Prompt


In addition to submitting the Common Application, Coalition Application, or Universal College Application, Johns Hopkins University requires applicants to write a supplementary essay. The writing supplement consists of just one essay with a required length of 300-400 words. The prompt included below asks you to recount a time when you collaborated with others and to share your thoughts on the experience. Want to know your chances at Johns Hopkins? Calculate your chances for free right now.

Write a brief essay (300-400 words) in which you respond to the following question: Successful students at Johns Hopkins make the biggest impact by collaborating with others, including peers, mentors, and professors. Talk about a time, in or outside the classroom, when you worked with others and what you learned from the experience.

Although this prompt is fairly straightforward, you should tackle it from a personalized and insightful angle. Choose a moment that you feel really enhanced your teamwork skills.


For example, maybe you worked at a local non-profit and discovered through collaborating with your co-workers that people have different working styles. Or maybe you planned and implemented your senior class project with a group of peers that were less than respectful. Whatever you decide, make sure that it is a story in which you have plenty to say in order to deepen your response.

An Effective, Step-By-Step Approach to Your Essay Response

Note that there are many ways to draft a successful response to this prompt; this guide merely presents one potential way to answer the question.



Start your essay response by introducing the moment you are going to reflect on. To hook the reader in a compelling way, you could start with dialogue from you or another person involved. Alternatively, you can choose to begin the essay with a short, impactful sentence.


Regardless, use action words and vivid language to really encapsulate the experience. The goal is to make the admissions committee feel as if they were really there with you. For example:

Four and one, two, three, cha cha cha… four and one, two, three.


My first ballroom competition went by in a blur. Amid the pulsing beat, all I could really remember were flashes. The twirl of my red dress. The tilt of my neck. However, I can recall the countless hours I spent practicing the dance routines with my partner perfectly.


As you continue your essay, develop the feelings and thoughts you experienced as a result of working with others. Further, discuss how you usually dealt with collaboration in the past and if this specific time was more or less challenging for you — show how this specific moment was different.



Before getting involved with ballroom dance, I had never thought of it as a sport. Only after my first practice did I realize how physically and mentally exhausting it is. Even though my dance partner was — and still is — patient with me, it was frustrating to keep making mistakes. To dance properly, there are so many things you have to pay attention to: the tempo, the position of your feet, your posture, and especially your partner’s cues. It was difficult learning to follow his movements.


Lastly, explain why this moment stood out to you, and then reflect on what you think it means. How did the moment change you? Are you a better team player now? Did you learn something about yourself in the process? Really focus on how this moment led to your development; it is important to make the connection clear. Instead of simply starting a new paragraph stating that you are a completely different person, show it through an explicit link.



I am grateful to have joined ballroom dance club for so many reasons. Being a dancer has taught me poise, grace, and strength. But perhaps most importantly, it has challenged me by making me vulnerable to others — especially my dance partner. Not only did I have to become comfortable with being physically close to him, but I had to learn to mirror his movements in a way that looks natural. Even though no words are spoken as part of a dance, it is still an art that requires constant communication.

If possible, also connect your newfound wisdom to your success at college. Show how what you learned during your collaborative experience will help you be a better student. Maybe you’ll work more efficiently on homework because you are able to ask others for advice.


Whatever the case, make it clear that what you learned will stay with you in the future, and especially at Johns Hopkins. The admissions committee wants to know what about the university in particular draws you to it and how it will help you succeed, so don’t be afraid to include specific opportunities that align with your topic.



Through ballroom dance, I have learned to see things from a different perspective. I am better aware of interactions, better able to read other people and better at putting myself out there. I feel more confident now than ever before.

Remember that you only have 400 words for this prompt. Even though it is important to be detailed and descriptive, it is also necessary to stay within the word limit. In order to be succinct while also using rich language, try cutting out unnecessary adjectives and opting for a more varied word choice instead.

Final Reminders

On their website, Johns Hopkins University writes that essays can be one of the most important components of your application.” The university stresses the importance of being able to really show the admissions committee what is important to you and to share more about your background. Thus, it is crucial that you include something that really sets you apart in your supplemental essay. Imagine that you were able to meet the admissions committee in person: What would you most want to tell them? Use this hypothetical conversation to inspire a topic for your essay.


If you’d like more inspiration for your Johns Hopkins University writing supplement, you can view previous “essays that worked” on their website. The topics of these essays range from ambidexterity to music to a piece of furniture in a coffee shop. However, they all are able to give insight into the respective author’s character.


Specialized Program Prompts


Woodrow Wilson Program Prompt

No prompt available yet.

Masters in Global Health Studies Prompt

Identify a global health issue and outline a solution to a key underlying problem. (300 words)

The Global Health Studies Masters program allows “qualified students displaying a strong interest in public health” to pursue a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s with the Bloomberg School of Public Health. If not admitted as a high school senior, you will have the option to reapply to the program as a junior at Johns Hopkins, provided that you declare a major in public health.  


Global health is a broad umbrella that can cover diverse issues such as climate change, infectious disease outbreaks, childhood mortality in developing countries, access to contraception, and HIV/AIDS among others. The first step in tackling this prompt is to select a global health issue that you have some familiarity with. You will note that the prompt asks you to propose a solution to the problem of your choice, so it is important that you pick a topic that you’ve had some exposure to. 


If you’ve previously worked on a big research project in school or helped to conduct summer research at a lab or university, use that subject as your jumping off point. For example, say you wrote a social science paper about abortion access in the underprivileged areas of your city. You could compare your local findings to international data on abortion access and learn about the ways in which nongovernmental organizations and governments enable or thwart that access. Or, you could use your biology project about the spread of Ebola to figure out what various nations have done to contain major Ebola outbreaks in recent years. 


While it helps to have had some prior experience studying a global health problem, it is by no means a prerequisite. Channel your curiosity and seek out books or documentaries about a topic that fascinates you and draw your inspiration for this essay there. 


The crucial thing to remember is that you will need to brush up on your global health problem of choice before giving your recommendations. Browse scientific and public policy articles that have been written about your chosen subject matter and figure out which solutions have already been proposed. You’re by no means expected to reinvent the wheel or come up with an ingenious policy solution that will shock the global health community as a high school student. In fact, showing that you’ve done your research and that you’re already familiar with the existing literature on the subject matter will only highlight your dedication to the study of global health. 


Keep in mind that you only have 300 words to work with. Use the first 100-150 to outline the problem at hand, and be sure to explain why it matters, why the world should care about it, and why you care about it. Then, provide a brief suggestion on how this problem could be remedied. Don’t list off ten different ways to cure Ebola. Instead, focus on ONE specific strategy and give some detail to explain how it can be adopted. Given the brevity of the response, depth is always better than breadth. 


Masters in International Studies Prompt

 Pick a global leader and discuss how he/she has shaped how you view the world. (300 words)


The Masters in International Studies allows students to pursue a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s degree in international studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC. If not accepted as a high school student, you will also have the option to apply again as a Johns Hopkins sophomore. 


When choosing the global leader you’re going to discuss, be sure not to select someone well-known purely for their name recognition. Remember, you likely won’t be the only one to think of Angela Merkel and point to her handling of the European immigration crisis as an example of good (or bad) policymaking. Try to select someone whose actions you actively draw inspiration from, and who have had a tangible effect on your choice of academic interests, extracurriculars, or future career path. 


Remember, “global leader” does not have to mean head-of-state. Aung San Suu Kyi, prior to her rise to power in Myanmar, spent most of her life under house arrest, but she was undoubtedly recognized worldwide as the leader of Myanmar’s–and perhaps the region’s–pro-democracy movement. Malala Yousafzai, barely out of her teens, is the face of the global fight for a girl’s right to an education under radical Islamist rule. Jack Dorsey is the CEO of one of the most influential social media conglomerates in the world, and he’s never been elected to any public office. If you’re struggling to think beyond the head-of-state box, you can browse places like TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2019 for inspiration.


Once you’ve picked your leader and briefly explain their significance (in about 100-150 words), you need to tell the reader how the person in question influenced you specifically. For example, if you’re talking about Malala, you could explain that her advocacy has inspired you to join a community service group in your town that offers free tutoring to young girls in underprivileged communities. If Jack Dorsey is your pick, you can write about how his insights prompted you to start your own small social media marketing business designed to promote small businesses in your area and enable them to compete against large companies. You need to articulate what it is about your leader’s philosophy, way of life, or professional accomplishments that inspires you. Make sure to also look ahead and elaborate upon how this leader inspires you in your own future career. 


For a competitive five-year program, the admissions committee is looking for someone who can demonstrate their critical thinking skills and an ability to think beyond the surface-level idea of leadership. They want applicants to really reflect on individuals that have had a profound impact on the world in recent years. Who you choose to write about matters, but what matters even more is whether you can articulate why the reader should find them important, too.


Peabody Institute Prompt (OPTIONAL)

We would like to hear about any personal or academic issues which might come into play as we process your application.

This prompt is similar to the additional comments section of the Common Application: it gives you the space to account for any discrepancies in your academic record or other particularities that may give the admissions committee pause when reviewing your application. 


For instance, if you experienced a serious health issue that prevented you from practicing or performing your music for an extended period of time, you should take this opportunity to elaborate on that experience. Any drastic change in academic performance (for example, going from an A to a B- average in one semester) should also be explained here. There are any number of extenuating circumstances that may have affected your grades⁠—death in the family, major drop in family income or homelessness, moving to a different country, suspension. 


Don’t be afraid to provide the context that the admissions officer needs to best understand your circumstances. You are of course under no obligation to share any intimate details of your life that you don’t feel comfortable sharing. Keep in mind, however, that it is always better to preemptively address the questions that may arise than to hope an issue will pass unnoticed. 


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