It’s officially that time of year. It’s college admissions season, and many high school students are whittling down their college lists and submitting applications. In the last decade, college admissions have only become more competitive, especially at top universities like Hopkins. The University’s acceptance rate has substantially decreased from 20.4% in 2010 to 7% in recent years. We’re here today because we beat the odds. But, what now?
On Sidechat, in Brody Cafe and in between classes, students complain that college life at Hopkins isn’t quite what they had imagined. We attribute this to a variety of factors, including the lack of school spirit, possible grade deflation, extensive campus construction and the lack of social spaces on campus.
While it is true that the construction on campus undeniably impacts our daily lives, it’s crucial to acknowledge that we cannot place all the blame for our problems on the University. Some of the struggles that we face might be more correlated to the type of students that Hopkins attracts rather than directly caused by the University.
Students at Hopkins are extremely ambitious and set high expectations for themselves.
Many of us are on demanding pre-professional paths, while also being enrolled in several academically rigorous classes each semester and being active in various extracurriculars. Even in a less academically rigorous setting, a lot of us would gravitate toward a similarly packed schedule, leaving little room for social activities.
The specific college you choose can only matter so much. If you applied to Hopkins, chances are that you also applied to peer institutions. A lot of the issues students cite as being a problem at Hopkins, like the intense academic stress and underwhelming social environment, are going to be present at the University of Chicago, Brown University and other top universities that pride themselves on academics. Even if you had gone to those other schools instead, the struggle of balancing challenging academics with making time for a social life or friends would still be prevalent. Hopkins students are not as unique as we like to believe; most students at the top 15 universities face the same challenges.
College students in general are struggling now more than ever. According to the annual Healthy Minds Study conducted in the 2021–22 academic year, 44% of college students reported symptoms of depression and 37% reported anxiety disorders. These numbers reflect a 15-year high and are proof that being a college student is more difficult now than it was for previous generations.
However, we fully recognize that some of the criticism faced by Hopkins is specific to our institution and cannot be attributed to either its students or the nature of higher education. Hopkins, unlike the Ivy League schools to which we are often academically compared, only has two Division I sports teams, which can make it difficult to feel a sense of school spirit and identity. We currently lack a student center to serve as a hub for student engagement. Furthermore, there are few restaurants, coffee shops or college bars in Charles Village where we can connect with peers beyond an academic setting.
Whether or not these challenges are present, your experience at Hopkins will be shaped by your perceptions of it. Prioritize making Hopkins the right fit for you rather than being disappointed that it doesn’t meet your every expectation. There will be things in college that are challenging, but this is an opportunity to curate a unique college experience that best fits you, even if your time here differs from the typical college experience.
If there’s something you wish was different in your Hopkins experience, get involved in spaces that facilitate it. There is no shortage of clubs or communities in which to get involved. Hopkins has a student newspaper (wink-wink), club and intramural sports teams, theater groups, Greek life, dance teams, religious organizations and so much more. If there’s something you’re interested in, chances are you’re not alone. Even if a club doesn’t exist yet, this is your chance to create it!
Of course, Hopkins truly isn’t the right fit for some students and that is okay. You are spending four valuable years of your life in college, and you shouldn’t resign yourself to misery. Explore other options: Transferring, taking a gap semester or year and studying abroad are all valid ways for you to try to make your college experience a little easier. Your happiness should always come first.
Following course registration and heading into the final weeks of the semester and a necessary winter break, we hope you refocus on the things that truly matter to you.
Ultimately, what matters most is not having things to do — of which no Hopkins student is lacking — but people to do them with. It’s cheesy, but the people you meet here really will shape your life, hopefully for the better. It might take time to meet them, and it might require stepping outside of your comfort zone and going to new places, but we promise that they are here if you search for them.
People say that college is the best four years of your life. That may not be true for you, but it is four years of your life, and that's a significant amount of time. Make it count.