Let me begin by wishing you all a very Happy Holidays. I hope you enjoyed the Hopkins by the Numbers quiz in my last entry. Well I am officially on holiday vacation, enjoying a week and a half of time away from the office and Baltimore. Yes, I am spending some quality time with the family, Lilly, Soze, and a stack of applications. No complaints though ... I have finally embraced the holiday spirit.
While I enjoy my time away, I turn the Hopkins Insider over to our third guest author. First there was Admissions Mark, then there was my Mom, and now I introduce you to Tabitha Moses. Tabitha is a current freshman at Hopkins, having just completed her first semester. (Read her recent Guest Blog entry.) The reason I have invited her to be a Hopkins Insider Guest Author is that she is an international student at Hopkins and can provide a unique perspective on applying to Hopkins from abroad and being an international student in Baltimore. So sit back, relax, pick-up a candy cane, and enjoy Tabitha's entry. Cheers!
This is a blog I have wanted to write since I started applying to college here in the United States, and realized that there wasn’t really anything like it online.
Applying to college can be a difficult time (even somewhat annoying), and what makes it even worse is when you’re an international student and you have no idea what you’re doing and what the colleges want. So this is what I am here to do; I am writing a blog telling people about how I struggled my way through the application process, and how it is to be an international student here at Johns Hopkins.
I just want to begin by saying that I am only talking from my perspective as an international student; I am from England, and have gone to school there all my life and I went to a school that had only ever sent one other girl to a university in the U.S. I know that there are many other different experiences that people can have as an international applicant, and I can’t begin to describe all of them; but I do hope to touch on some of the issues that you will face in applying to U.S. schools from abroad.
First off, the question I am always asked – why go to university abroad? There are, of course, many different answers to this question, and I can only give my reasons. I have wanted to be a doctor from a young age, but I have also had many other diverse interests. For me, if I had gone to university in the U.K., I would currently be in medical school, studying only medicine. I wanted to come to the States so that I could major in something else I was interested in, before moving on to studying medicine. The idea of looking through the course catalog before each semester really excited me (yes, I realize that makes me sound like a nerd, but it’s the truth!) This past semester I took science, philosophy and psychology courses, and next semester I will be taking math, and writing courses as well. I love the fact that I can take this wide a range of courses and still be pre-med.
Then, there is the next question, why Johns Hopkins? I find this a bit more difficult of a question because I find that there are some things that are more instinctual than anything else. When I came to Hopkins it just felt right, like the place I wanted to be. As everyone knows, Hopkins is known for its medical school, and this drew me to look at the school. Another thing I liked was that, as well as all the pre-med stuff, Hopkins has strength in many other departments, like the Humanities, and I wanted to go to a school with people with a diverse range of interests, not just all pre-med.
Something I learned from applying overseas is that it is always best to see the colleges if possible. In general, even if it’s in your own country it is good to visit the campus, but especially if it’s another country it is good to see the school. This is the area in which you may be spending the next four years of your life. I know this to be especially true because I had a friend who had been thinking of applying to the schools in the U.S., but when she came over to visit colleges, she realized that she didn’t want to live in the States.
Okay, so you’ve decided you want to apply to the USA, now comes the interesting part – the applications! My first piece of advice is to start early, and I mean really early. Remember applying to schools abroad is often much, much different then applying to schools in your home country. For most schools in the States you need to take standardized exams like the SAT, the ACT, and possibly SAT II subject exams. Also, if English is not your first language then you need to take the TOEFL exam. (Thankfully, I did not have to be concerned with that issue.) Leave enough time to take these exams; most people take the SAT or ACT multiple times to try and score the best. I took my first SAT in December of my junior year, and I found that I ended up being a bit rushed for time in taking everything I wanted to. Just make sure you have an idea of what you’re doing, and don’t do what I did … I decided it would be a good idea to take my subject tests right in the middle of my AS level exams, it was a lot of extra pressure that I didn’t need.
Also, don’t think that just because you’re taking the subject for IB or A level that you’ll have learned the material for the subject tests. Have a look at some of the study guides for them to give yourself a feel for what you need to know. I know that I had to teach myself a ton of the stuff on the biology and chemistry subject tests, even though I was taking A levels in both of those subjects.
Filling in the application – that’s an interesting task. There are a few things to keep in mind when writing the application, which are generally useful for anyone, whether or not they’re an international student. Don’t try to impress the people reading the application, just be yourself. Write about what you’ve been doing, answer the questions truthfully, and don’t try to sound like who you think you should be.
Another interesting point is the grammar, and spelling, in your application. Try to make sure you use correct American grammar, and spelling, it’s surprising how many of these things are different. Also, something I was worried about, was whether admissions would take into account the fact that I hadn’t gone to an American high school, so I didn’t have some of the same opportunities that domestic students had: no chance at AP, or honors classes, and a lot of the groups, like student government, didn’t exist in my school. Don’t worry though, admissions do take all of these things into account, they look up your school, and see the opportunities you did have; you won’t be penalized for not doing something you weren’t able to.
Once you have finished the application make sure to talk to your high school counselor about what is necessary, especially if your school has not sent many children to American universities. I found in my school I had to get all the papers, and go to all of my teachers separately to explain to them what I would like them to do. Also, it would be nice to fill out envelopes to give to your teachers with the evaluations they need to fill in. Personally, I had to buy the stamps to mail each envelope; I found that one envelope with all the necessary papers cost about 3.10 to send, but some schools may do it for you. I found that with my teachers they were unsure as to how to fill out the application, so I gave them the number of the admissions office, in case they had any questions. I had to spend quite a lot of my time with my teachers explaining the application, and getting everything sorted out, so make sure you leave enough time to get everything sorted in time.
I hope that my random thoughts have helped, and in terms of the application, or anything else you might want to know, feel free to contact me and ask about anything. You can reach me on my personal message board thread: Ask JHU_Tabitha.