The next in our profiles of members of the Admissions Committee at Johns Hopkins is one of our veteran Admissions counselors and coordinator of Transfer Admissions, John Birney.
Name: John Birney (though everyone in the office calls me JB)
Territory: New York and Connecticut
Education (College - Major / Minor): Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA - History major and Music - Vocal Performance minor. M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction also at Lynchburg.
Johns Hopkins Start Date: August 21, 2000
Years in Admissions: 11
Why did you choose to enter the profession of College Admissions?: My original plan was to teach high school history. I did, and found out that it wasn’t the experience I expected. So I worked with the Dean of Education at Lynchburg to land an internship with the Admissions Office. Once there, I found that I really enjoyed working with students who are making the choice to attend college. They had an opening the following summer, and I landed my first job. The rest, as they say, is history.
Favorite Animal?: Depends what fishing season it is: Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Flounder, Striped Bass, Bluefish are all contenders.
Why did you choose to work for Johns Hopkins?: After spending 11 years in Lynchburg (school and work), it was time to move along. I searched many positions but chose Hopkins for three reasons: (1) reputation; (2) proximity between my family (Philadelphia) and my wife’s (Lynchburg); and (3) I can go to the beach most weekends. (This ranking order may not represent the actual ranking at the time I accepted the job offer.)
What do you enjoy most about your job?: Working each day with the best and brightest students, who are truly engaged in the pursuit of higher education. I also enjoy the Admissions staff at Hopkins. Collectively, the best staff of which I have been a member.
How do you approach reading an application?: First, I need to be comfortable, so I read at home. I read in my basement on a large glass table. The radio is always on, tuned to the local country station, a large glass of coke with lots of ice, and a small heater at my feet (my basement can be chilly), but it certainly keeps me awake.
I then organize my files by the first choice major that the student chooses. I look for themes, or strengths, within each academic area – and they are not necessary the same for a biology major and an English major. So it’s easier to read all the same majors together. I read the contents in whatever order they lay in the file. I don’t have a preference to read a certain part of the file first. I take notes as I read, and I always place a summary comment in the file to substantiate the decision that I’ve made.
When not reading applications, what do you do for fun?: Aside from the obvious answer of playing with my son Jack (2½), I spend most weekends at our beach home. If my boat is in the water, you can usually find me fishing the Delaware coastal and bay waters.
What are your Admissions pet peeves? (What drives you crazy?): (1) Dishonesty – when the students misrepresents themselves; (2) Incorrectly spelling Johns Hopkins; (3) Applying without knowledge of the school; and (4) Applying for a major we don’t offer.
Favorite College Essay?: I prefer essays that allow me to learn more about the student. Some of the best I’ve read are auto-biographies which give me insight to the student’s family, lives, thoughts, dreams, etc.
What three things would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?: (1) 7’ Diawa Coastal Inshore spinning rod with a Daiwa Black Gold BG30 reel, loaded with 200 yards of 15lb. test Stren High Impact smoke blue line; (2) My boat moored off-shore; (3) Solar powered satellite radio.
Check back Friday for profile IV...