How to Write the Johns Hopkins Supplemental Essay 2020-2021 (With Examples!): The Outstanding Guide

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Johns Hopkins University has an acceptance rate of 12% and is a world-renowned school that sits prominently on the “dream list” for many high school seniors and college transfer students.

The university takes advantage of the Common App as one way to apply for admissions.

In addition to the regular application on the Common App, Johns Hopkins asks students to provide one writing supplement.

According to their page called, “Essays That Worked,” the university believes that “Test scores only tell part of your story. [They] want to know more than just how well you work. [They] want to see how you actually think.”

In fact, the admissions officers believe that the essay is one of the most important parts of your application.

Follow these tips to write a strong Johns Hopkins supplemental essay.

The Johns Hopkins University Writing Supplement:

Write a brief essay (300-400 words) in which you respond to the following question.

Founded in the spirit of exploration and discovery, Johns Hopkins University encourages students to share their perspectives, develop their interests, and pursue new experiences. 

Use this essay to share something you’d like the admissions committee to know about you (your interests, your background, your identity, or your community), and how it has shaped what you want to get out of your college experience at Hopkins.

Once again, we get a glimpse at the university’s desire to know more about you than your academic achievements. They want to understand what has influenced your desire to attend Johns Hopkins and what you hope to achieve while there.

Here are some ideas to reflect on:

  • How is Johns Hopkins different from other schools? 
  • Is there a particular club, major, or opportunity at Johns Hopkins that makes it attractive to you?
  • When you were looking at schools, why did you decide to put Johns Hopkins on your list?
  • Is there a particular interest of yours that has led you to apply to Johns Hopkins?
  • When you think about going to college, is there a particular experience you hope to get out of it? Why?
  • What about your past experiences makes you think that Johns Hopkins is the perfect fit for you? Why?

Once you have either a quality about Johns Hopkins or an aspect of yourself to talk about, it’s time to brainstorm an answer to the other half of the question. If you have an element of Johns Hopkins to talk about, then ask yourself the following:

  • How is your relationship with that aspect of Johns Hopkins unique?
  • Why do you relate to that particular opportunity?
  • Is there a story about yourself that will make the connection obvious?

If you have a facet of yourself already selected, it’s time to take a closer look at Johns Hopkins:

  • How will Johns Hopkins affect the trait that you’ve selected?
  • What about Johns Hopkins makes it a place where you think you will grow and mature?
  • What are your goals for university and how will John Hopkins fulfill them?

You and Johns Hopkins: Brainstorming a Connection

When preparing to write the supplemental essay for Johns Hopkins, you have a few choices to make.

First, you need to brainstorm which commonality between you and Johns Hopkins you would like to discuss. The prompt is open to anything from your past experiences, so the goal is to find something meaningful to you that relates to Johns Hopkins.

Even if an idea immediately jumps out to you, consider brainstorming a couple of alternatives. The reason for this is that writing down a list of ideas may help you remember an example that is even stronger than your original choice. You can use the questions provided above to help.

When you are looking at your list, use the following questions to narrow down your choice:

Which of these experiences…

  • …could I write the most about?
  • …had the greatest impact on my life?
  • …is most relevant to my passions and/or personality?
  • …is unique?
  • …most relates to something Johns Hopkins specializes in?
  • …best explains what you’re hoping to receive from a Johns Hopkins education?

After answering these questions, you might still be torn between two different experiences. If this is true, start by outlining or drafting each experience. As you get started, you’ll likely discover that one is easier to write, which usually results in a better essay.

Keep in mind that even if one experience may have had a better outcome, another experience may relate better to Johns Hopkins and what you hope to gain by attending their school. In other words, Johns Hopkins wants to know which experience made the biggest impact on your choice to apply, not had the best outcome. You want to impress the admissions counselor with how you think, not another set of statistics about you. 

If you have two drafts of the essay but are still stuck between ideas, show both to a friend or family member. Outside opinions are the key to success in life, and college essays are no exception.

Describing What You Hope to Learn From Johns Hopkins

While this essay is about you, remember that it is also focused on what you want to get from attending Johns Hopkins.

Thus, it’s important to keep your essay focused. It’s only 300-400 words long, so there isn’t space to try and explain everything about you that relates to something at Johns Hopkins. However, try not to overdo the other side either. Pick one, or at the most two, goals you hope Johns Hopkins will help you achieve. Keeping these two in balance can be tricky, but here are a few tips:

  • Tell a single story about yourself. As stated in the prompt, it can be about anything from your past, but don’t let the open-ended question fool you. One clear, concise story about yourself is better than a jumble of thoughts.
  • Similarly, having done research on Johns Hopkins before deciding to apply, you may have what feels like hundreds of reasons for wanting to attend. Which one matches best to the story you’re trying to tell? Concentrate on that one.
  • At the end of the day, you’re not going to be able to say everything that you want to, either about yourself or Johns Hopkins. That’s okay: neither is anyone else. Your aim should be to pick the best concept to talk about, for both you and Johns Hopkins. The word count for everyone is 300-400 words, and it is important to make the most of it.

Let’s break each of these points down further. When thinking about your story, consider everything that happened during that experience.

  • Go through each sense individually.  What are you seeing? Smelling? Tasting? Hearing? Feeling, both on your skin and emotionally?  These types of details are what helps bring a story to life.
  • Who else was with you? Is a friend or family member a key element of the story?
  • Why were you there? Was it your idea, or someone else’s?
  • Did something go wrong? Why? If everything went according to plan, who planned it?

Next, think about how this ties into your future, specifically your future at Johns Hopkins:

  • What is the take-away point from the story?  How does it relate to your dreams?
  • How will Johns Hopkins help you succeed in those goals?
  • W
  • hat effect will being at Johns Hopkins have compared to other schools?

As you look over what you have written, it’s time to look at the clarity.

  • Have you ensured that the details of your story all point to the same goal or trait?
  • Have you clearly delineated why Johns Hopkins could be a key stepping stone to your life?
  • Have you tried to squish too many ideas into the essay?

Whatever past experience you’ve written about, your essay needs to be clear on the connection to the opportunities available at Johns Hopkins. 

Examining the Word Count

When you’re happy with the content of the essay, it’s time to address the word limit. Obviously, the essay needs to be between 300-400 words. But is 301 words too short? Is 399 words too long? Both are acceptable based on the instructions, but aiming for the middle is always a safe bet. In this case, somewhere between 330-360 words is probably a happy medium. 

Whether your essay is too long or too short, one of the best things you can do is get someone else to look at it. If you essay is too long, ask your friend or family member the following types of questions:

  • Is there any essay content that makes it more confusing?
  • What do you think the point of the essay is? 
  • Is there anything you find distracting?

If your essay is too short, consider asking questions similar to these:

  • Which areas need to be clearer?
  • Are there any sentences or ideas that could be further explained?
  • Do the descriptions in the essay put you in my shoes?
  • What kind of details do you think would make this feel more alive?

Pitfalls to Avoid

There are many common mistakes people make in this kind of essay.  Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid them:

  • Don’t write something just because you think that’s what the admissions officer will want to read. Talk about an experience that is meaningful to you.
  • The story about your past does not need to be positive. In fact, talking about elements that were challenging makes you appear more mature as mistakes are a natural part of learning and growth.
  • If you decide to talk about a moment in time where everything went well, be careful with how you present it. It’s tempting to brag, but it’s much better to present successful experiences in light of what you’ve learned.
  • Context and language are important. Don’t just compliment Johns Hopkins. Explain why those qualities or opportunities are important and valuable to your education.
  • Regularly review the prompt. This will help you maintain focus, stay on topic, and make every word relevant.

Even if you are beyond excited to be applying to Johns Hopkins, this is not the place to write about it. You want to be able to show the university that you are clear, focused, and specific in your writing.

According to Johns Hopkins: Essays That Worked

One of the richest resources for writing your Johns Hopkins supplement comes from the university itself.

Within their admissions information section, the “Essays That Worked” page has numerous examples of essays written by the Class of 2023 that captured the admissions committee’s attention.

  • Do yourself a favor and read these essays.
  • Not only does the university provide these powerful essays, but if you click the “+” underneath each essay, you will be able to read admissions committee comments that describe exactly what about the essay resonated with them.

While the students’ essays are not related to the prompt you will be writing, reading them is still important. You can analyze the tone, style, and structure of these essays and apply your knowledge to your own writing.

In reading the admissions committee comments, you will notice that the main repeated theme is how the essay enables them to envision the student and how they behave on campus. These are clues to how the admissions committee is reading your essay. Other points to consider include:

  • Johns Hopkins clearly values creative and inventive structures in an essay. If you feel comfortable writing in that style, it may be the right avenue to take. As stated above, be sure to include your personality and to highlight your passions in your essay.
  • Many of the essays address diversity. Be it a multicultural heritage, broad interests, or being non-judgemental, this is obviously a theme Johns Hopkins is looking for in students.

If you don’t feel comfortable with advanced structures or lack a story about diversity, that’s okay. A simple, well-told story is more effective than a convoluted, badly paced one with a theme stuck on top.

The Gritty Details: Check Your Work

As with any essay, it’s very important that you have meticulously edited your work.

The spell-check tool is a staple, but other tools, like Grammarly, are great resources too. This website has a grammar check feature that can help you to catch common mistakes, like overused words and subject-verb tense. However, as with any tool, you should use your judgment and not blindly accept suggestions unless you understand the reasons behind them.

Many times, students focus on line-item grammar and spelling errors without thinking about their writing holistically. Have a friend or family member read your work for clarity and structure. Ask them:

  • Have I represented myself and my interest in Johns Hopkins well?
  • Do my thoughts transition smoothly or do my ideas bounce around?
  • Am I clear about how my past connects with a future at Johns Hopkins?
  • Can you hear my voice through my writing?

This last question sounds tricky, but it is simply asking whether your reader gets a sense of your personality and outlook on life through your writing. Your work should never read like a monotonous robot providing the answers you think Johns Hopkins wants to hear.

Johns Hopkins Supplemental Essay Examples From Previous Years!

Example 1:

In my experience, High School Musical and Mean Girls are spot-on when it comes to teen conversations; during my first three years of high school, most of the discussions my friends and I had revolved around who was dating whom, criticism of the atrocious basketball coach, and spoilers of the latest Stranger Things season. While I still enjoyed these chats, as my entrepreneurial fervor grew, I found myself feeling disjointed from my peers and looking for a community that would nurture my startup fever. When she noticed my budding interest, the head of a local incubator invited me to apply for their accelerator program. I initially felt unsure, but I gave it a shot, and as time went on, I felt as if I were transported to Ancient Athens during every Monday session.

As a program meant to help individuals jumpstart and accelerate their businesses, the incubator prompted participants to think Socratically. We questioned and debated every preconceived notion regarding startups: how to conduct proper market research, when and why to shut down, and even whether a humanitarian venture could also be a profitable one. Our oratories were not dull, 10-minute long PowerPoints followed by the occasional golf clap; they were action-packed, 60-second elevator pitches accompanied by a barrage of inquiries and suggestions about statistical logos and story-telling pathos. Through numerous congregations within the polis, I gave a fellow participant the conviction to pursue his business of educating students on the college recruiting process, emphasizing how all of my friends loved athletics and wanted to go D1.  In return, he helped me see that the biggest problem with teens wasn’t always finding opportunities; it was being ready and professional enough to capture it.

Despite channeling Alexander the Great’s cutthroat competitiveness at the beginning, our group personified Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates in the end, as we considered each other’s ventures and employed our own ethos to help one another. We didn’t all have to be our own Homers — our Iliad and Odyssey were the cumulative success of all of our companies, forged by the collaborative intertwining of our stories.

Example 2:

Our tenth-grade chemistry teacher decided that the best way for us to learn the chemical bonding unit was through student-led lessons and projects. There were many positions in the structured lessons; I signed up to be leader. As the leader, it was my job to make sure others completed their work, understood the concepts, sought out help if they didn’t, and that we progressed on schedule, altering it as necessary. 

My first obstacle and lesson was getting the students, specifically the boys, to listen to me. At that time it was only my second year at my new school and I hadn’t developed closer relationships with many of my peers yet who had known each other since middle school. The boys in the class were the main problem since they did not like being told what to do by a girl, especially one they did not know very well. The only way I could fix that was by being calm in the face of their stubbornness and continuing to direct them politely but firmly. It was an enlightening experience and gave me insight into how women are perceived in the real world.

Due to poor circumstances, there were two traveling trips occurring at the same time; athletics and Model United Nations. Athletics only took away two people from our class, and while it was important to make sure they were on track, it was a relatively smooth process. On the other hand, MUN took away at least half the class. That was very difficult because it was a logistical nightmare to keep track of so many people in another country and make sure they were still finishing with their work. Furthermore, because they were very busy as MUN members and didn’t want to worry about chemistry. This obstacle required me to be very organized with many people out of the country, including reorganizing our classwide schedule to accommodate the missing people.

Language difference was the third obstacle. As we progressed through the unit and got closer to our final test and project, the language proficiency difference grew more challenging. Many of my classmates were Korean and their first language was not English. As the concepts became more advanced, it was apparent that they needed help with language translation. Even more, some were not able to talk well to others in English due to not having an English-speaking background. I was overwhelmed facing all these unexpected challenges, but I knew it was important that I give my classmates my patience and support.

In the end, we did well. All of us passed the test and successfully created and carried out an experiment to determine our mysterious substance. Getting there, though, was a challenge, but not one that I regret. I can proudly say that I grew from that experience, whether it was dealing with students who didn’t pull their weight, being organized so I can work with sudden changes, or learning what’s it like to lead obstinate classmates. Now in twelfth grade, I feel significantly more comfortable taking charge and speaking in front of larger groups of people. It’s even carried over to my clubs and activities where I can confidently put forth my ideas and lead meetings.

Conclusion: The Johns Hopkins Supplemental Essay

As with any college essay, allow your passion and enthusiasm to show through your writing.

You want Johns Hopkins to know that you value the opportunities present on campus, and that they line up with your goals for university. Your essay should reveal that you are thoughtful and reflective about going to college and haven’t selected Johns Hopkins simply because it is a top school. (Though that’s definitely a good reason to consider applying!)

Finally, ask yourself, “Does my essay reveal that I am a student who is aligned with the values of Johns Hopkins?

If the answer is “yes,” you are ready to send your writing supplement on its way. Good luck!

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