Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 24, 2024
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COURTESY OF SARA KAUFMAN

Kaufman reflects on her journey with learning.

A few months ago, I began drafting an Admissions blog post about the beginning of my freshman year. I wrote about leaving home and finding a new one with my roommates in AMR III. I wrote about joining clubs and trying new activities. I wrote about walks around campus and dinners at Nolan’s… and then I stopped writing. I realized I was discussing shared experiences. As freshmen, we have all faced unprecedented obstacles, explored Hopkins and relentlessly searched to find our place. The novelty and excitement have become commonplace — you don’t need me to remind you about the homesickness and elation of your first night here or the memories you’ve made exploring the Inner Harbor.

I figured I could ramble about the ordinary, or I could turn attention to the taboo — highlighting what so many of us hide in the name of “success” seemed far more valuable. 

My first few weeks in college were rough. An 18-credit course load left me too busy to take time for myself, and, as one can imagine, my mental health suffered as a result. Eventually, I reached out for help from my family, and we established that I was trying to do too much. During the last week of the drop period, I removed a class from my schedule. It felt like I was giving up, admitting that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I have always striven to finish what I started, and dropping this class meant defeat. It meant failure.

However, dropping the course gave me space to breathe. I began enjoying time spent with my friends and returning to hobbies I had loved since middle school. I could once again fill my thoughts with creativity instead of incessant stress about upcoming deadlines. On one of my (many) walks, I began to contemplate my journey to Hopkins. 

In high school, we took hard classes… to get into college. We understood the material to get good grades… to get into college. Learning was presented as rungs on a ladder, mere steps to take to the next phase of our lives. For many of us, graduate school is up next after college, and it’s easy to fall into the same trap. It’s easy to focus solely on our GPAs, measuring our worth on a four-point scale. It’s easy to sacrifice sleep in the name of studying. It’s easy to let ourselves spiral into panic over a class. 

Returning to that may be a failure even greater than dropping the class.

We chose Hopkins because of more than coursework; we saw clubs, research opportunities, community and fun. That excitement deserves a presence alongside our academics.

Over the next four years, I still hope to get good grades, acquire new skills and get into graduate school… but I also want to enjoy what I do. I want to conduct research that inspires me and take classes that change my perspectives. I want to attend the fairs and festivals at Hopkins and start a club of my own. I want to make a difference in the communities I am a part of. When I leave college, I want to have done more than grow my skill set — I want to have grown as a person. If that means taking a lighter course load, that’s a sacrifice I need to be willing to make. 

Being comfortable with learning for the sake of learning is hard, especially after I have spent my entire educational career being told that perfect grades are vital to success. It’s a counterintuitive shift in mindset that has been challenging to start embracing, but learning deserves to be fulfilling on its own. With time, I hope to see my failures as the backbone of my journey and my life as much more than a transcript.

Sara Kaufman is a freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. majoring in Biomedical Engineering.


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