John Hopkins Example Essays

The Requirements: 1 essay of 300-400 words.

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Collaboration

John Hopkins University 2017-2018 Application Essay Question Explanations

Known for its competitive science programs, John Hopkins poses a question that is rare in the world of undergraduate admissions but abounds on medical school applications. (Pre-med students, take note!) We can call this “The Collaboration Question,” but it’s important that we all understand there’s a hidden question: do you play nicely with others? When a school asks you to write about collaboration, it’s probing for an index of your ego. Luckily, these sorts of questions are also be a great opportunity to highlight soft skills that might not be obvious anywhere else on your application: leadership, communication, sensitivity, intuition. So let’s dig in and see how you can leverage this prompt to your advantage.

Successful students at John 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 question asks for a story in a specific situation (namely: a collaborative one), it leaves almost every other element up to you! Any time you worked with others is fair game, so don’t restrict yourself merely to your science fair project or the soccer team. This is also a great opportunity to write about a professional experience (your first time working as a line cook!) or even community service (organizing the church bake sale!). Ideally, you should describe an experience that spans a decent amount of time — a few weeks or even months — so you can describe the phases of your work and the end result. What challenges did your team face? Were they internal, organizational issues? Or were there larger, external problems that you had to face as a single strong unit? In what ways were you a leader, but more importantly, how did you allow others to lead? It’s all well and good to say that you spearheaded your group history project, but remember, this question is about collaboration. A more reflective and honest essay will consider how each person’s unique contribution set the course for your team’s success (or failure). If you’re talking about a large group (singing in a 100 person choir!), perhaps you’ll want to focus on the values or goals that are strong enough to unite such a large group of people. In the end, you should be driving at a lesson that you will be able to carry with you into the future. In other words: an experience that will have a positive impact on your collaborative work at JHU.

The following essay was published by the Admissions Office at Johns Hopkins University as an example of "an essay that worked."  It is one of my favorites because it focuses on the student's difficulty doing a very simple task, but reveals so much about the student's personality and interests.

When reading it, note the following:
  • Clever and attention-grabbing first sentence
  • Personality throughout the essay
  • Highlights talents and other interests in a self-deprecating manner
  • Reveals qualities of perseverance and perspective
  • Shows how the student is likely to tackle challenges at college

String Theory

If string theory is really true, then the entire world is made up of strings, and I cannot tie a single one. This past summer, I applied for my very first job at a small, busy bakery and café in my neighborhood. I knew that if I were hired there, I would learn how to use a cash register, prepare sandwiches, and take cake orders. I imagined that my biggest struggle would be catering to demanding New Yorkers, but I never thought that it would be the benign act of tying a box that would become both my biggest obstacle and greatest teacher.

On my first day of work in late August, one of the bakery’s employees hastily explained the procedure. It seemed simple: wrap the string around your hand, then wrap it three times around the box both ways, and knot it. I recited the anthem in my head, “three times, turn it, three times, knot” until it became my mantra. After observing multiple employees, it was clear that anyone tying the box could complete it in a matter of seconds. For weeks, I labored endlessly, only to watch the strong and small pieces of my pride unravel each time I tried.

As I rushed to discreetly shove half-tied cake boxes into plastic bags, I could not help but wonder what was wrong with me. I have learned Mozart arias, memorized the functional groups in organic chemistry, and calculated the anti-derivatives of functions that I will probably never use in real life—all with a modest amount of energy. For some reason though, after a month’s effort, tying string around a cake box still left me in a quandary.

As the weeks progressed, my skills slowly began to improve. Of course there were days when I just wanted to throw all of the string in the trash and use Scotch tape; this sense of defeat was neither welcome nor wanted, but remarks like “Oh, you must be new” from snarky customers catapulted my determination to greater heights.

It should be more difficult to develop an internal pulse and sense of legato in a piece of music than it is to find the necessary rhythm required to tie a box, but this seemingly trivial task has clearly proven not to be trivial at all. The difficulties that I encountered trying to keep a single knot intact are proof of this. The lack of cooperation between my coordination and my understanding left me frazzled, but the satisfaction I felt when I successfully tied my first box was almost as great as any I had felt before.

Scientists developing string theory say that string can exist in a straight line, but it can also bend, oscillate, or break apart. I am thankful that the string I work with is not quite as temperamental, but I still cringe when someone asks for a chocolate mandel bread. Supposedly, the string suggested in string theory is responsible for unifying general relativity with quantum physics. The only thing I am responsible for when I use string is delivering someone’s pie to them without the box falling apart. Tying a cake box may not be quantum physics, but it is just as crucial to holding together what matters.

I am beginning to realize that I should not be ashamed if it takes me longer to learn. I persist, and I continue to tie boxes every weekend at work. Even though I occasionally backslide into feelings of exasperation, I always rewrap the string around my hand and start over because I have learned that the most gratifying victories come from tenacity. If the universe really is comprised of strings, I am confident that I will be able to tie them together, even if I do have to keep my fingers crossed that my knots hold up.

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