How To: Succeed at Johns Hopkins
June 1, 2011 |  by Catherine Pierre

“Johns Hopkins students are intense, ambitious, and highly motivated,” says John Bader, who has been associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs for a decade and is leaving to begin private practice as an adviser. “But it cuts both ways. They can also be too competitive, care too much about what other people think, and pursue things because they think they have to rather than because they are curious.” Bader, who has advised freshmen and coached students competing for Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Fulbright scholarships, has gathered his best advice into a new book, Dean’s List: 11 Habits of Highly Successful College Students (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011). He says that for students to succeed at Johns Hopkins (or anywhere, for that matter), they need to focus on learning instead of grades, pursue the things that interest them, and own their educations. Here’s how.

Answer the question: What do you want to learn? This is a different question from, What should you be taking? Use your freshman year to explore, to listen to your heart. A great education should feed and develop your natural curiosity.   Understand that majors and careers are not the same thing. Students often don’t study what they love because they’re afraid it will be professional suicide. But American higher education isn’t about pre-professional training. Majors are a teaching device; they are not the key to your future.
Work smart, not just hard. Your professors expect a higher level of analysis and thought than simple memorization. By working smart, you think strategically, decide what makes sense, connect one concept to another. This calls for thoughtfulness, not just slavery to the grindstone. When you’re struggling, understand why. It’s important that you and your academic adviser, your counselor, your family talk about what is distracting you, what is handicapping you. If you don’t do that honestly, you’re not going to fix it. And if you’re just looking for excuses, you’re going to get in big trouble.

Illustration by Wesley Bedrosian