Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 19, 2022

Hopkins ranked ninth in Newsweek’s stressful colleges list

By ANN CAVERS | September 20, 2012

In a recent Newsweek article, Hopkins was ranked among the top 10 most stressful schools in the United States for 2012. Based upon factors such as acceptance rates, academic rigor, tuition cost, financial aid and campus crime, Hopkins placed ninth, following schools such as Georgetown, Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis. In 2011, Hopkins came in 11th place in the same category, based on similar data.

Consistently considered to be one of the best schools in the nation, Hopkins has maintained a reputation of high academic achievement as well as of intense competition. Many people have a preconceived notion that students at Hopkins are extremely ambitious in their studies and lead very unbalanced lives. As a result of this reputation, many freshmen were anxious upon entering Hopkins.

“I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the workload. I knew coming in that there were going to be insanely smart kids. [The ranking] doesn’t surprise me. This is a competitive school,” freshman Olivia Seideman said.

Fellow freshman Dan Cao said that he felt nervous coming into Hopkins, though he now feels differently.

“Hopkins doesn’t seem that stressful. I expected it to be worse,” Cao said.

However, generally, a consensus prevails amongst undergraduates at Hopkins: the campus is teeming with stressed students and buzzing with chatter of piling workloads.

Many upperclassmen feel stress throughout their years at Hopkins.

“I’ve been pulling 16 hour workdays,” senior Stefan Kowalski, a Biomedical Engineering major, said.

However, he attributed a lot of this to the particular major he has chosen.

“Stress varies with your major,” sophomore Bernie Che, also in the Biomedical Engineering program, said.

Both students acknowledged that over time students tend to feel less stressed and less competitive with one another.

“Most of my friends, now as seniors, feel less pressure,” Kowalski said. Many members of the Hopkins faculty agree with the sentiment that Hopkins is a stressful environment for students.

“This is a terribly stressful place, [I am] surprised [the ranking] was that low,” Dr. Susan McCarter, an archaeology professor at Hopkins, said.

Compared to other schools that she has taught at, McCarter remarked that Hopkins students are much more focused on academics.

“Hopkins expects a lot of people, a whole lot. Plus you bring high expectations with you,” McCarter said.

It seems as though stress at Hopkins derives not just from a difficult academic load, but also from the high standards set by the students themselves. In order to keep her own students from becoming overstressed, McCarter tries to incorporate humor and make every class she teaches entertaining.

“Hopkins doesn’t spend a whole lot of energy on fun. It tends to be more structured toward information,” McCarter said.

Unlike McCarter, when asked if she agreed with such a high ranking, Katherine Newman, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, did not. Instead, she credits the competitiveness and academic rigor of Hopkins to the work ethic of the students.

“We expect a lot of our students, but fundamentally, they expect much more from themselves. I do think our students study hard and are more ambitious. I also think they revel in being among students who are highly motivated, which is why they are here,” Newman wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Newman also noted several stress-relieving options that Hopkins offers for students, such as clubs and activities, as well as counseling services.

In an email to The News-Letter, Susan Boswell, Dean of Student Life, also cited several stress-alleviating initiatives, such as residence hall programs and healthy living campaigns through the Center for Health and Wellness Education.

One thing that provides freshmen with some relief as they complete the difficult transition from high school to college is the policy of covered grades during their first semester at Hopkins. Despite this cushion, some freshmen still feel motivated to earn high marks.

“Personally, I’m still going to try to do well. I’m not using covered grades as an excuse to blow off studying,” Seideman said. “It’s nice to know that I have a safety net just in case.”

Students also appreciate the period of covered grades to find their identity in academic and extracurricular pursuits.

“[I] can figure out a balance between clubs, academics, social life and sleep,” Yung said.

Nonetheless, both deans argue that the prevalence of stress on all college campuses calls into question the validity of the ranking.

“[Stress] is a real problem on most campuses today,” Boswell wrote.

“In what way is Northwestern more stressful than Wesleyan or Washington University more stressful than Cal Tech?” Newman wrote.

She criticized the study, calling the data used by Newsweek a “mishmosh.”

Many students also mistrust the varying lists of college rankings that can be found on the internet.

“I completely ignored anything online,” Seiderman said.

However, others believe college rankings can serve a purpose.

“As a blanket, they are somewhat accurate,” Che said.

Newman offered words of advice to students coping with Hopkins’ exponential pressures.

“Remember that your lives are long and that the pressures you feel today will be history in a short while...stress passes. But friends are the most important antidote of all,” Newman wrote.

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