Johns Hopkins vs University of Pennsylvania vs Cornell University

Intended major: Neuroscience (pre-med for now, but that is very loose)

Other interests: computer science, marketing, creative writing (would be nice to pursue one or two as a minor)

Johns Hopkins
Pros

• ⁠Cost: 17k a year including indirect costs

• ⁠Hodson Scholar (access to close-knit community, special events)

• ⁠I visited the campus and I really liked it. A little small, but I felt like I could see myself there.

• ⁠Admitted as a Biomedical Engineering major, which I like because I could pursue Neuroengineering. I could also easily switch into Neuroscience. Hopkins is one of the strongest schools academically for both of these.

• ⁠Hopkins is also very strong in creative writing and decent in computer science. I like that the open-ish curriculum means 60% of students double major or do a minor.

• ⁠fellow CO 2025 students seem so nice, welcoming, and supportive. Easy to make friends even over FaceBook/IG.

• ⁠I resonate with the “mission” (innovation, knowledge to the world, etc). It feels like most kids aren’t just looking to get rich and genuinely want to create something meaningful.

• ⁠I’m a bit of an introvert and it seems like a lot of people at Hopkins are too

Cons

• ⁠Baltimore isn’t the safest city. I like to go out so I’m worried about feeling trapped on campus.

• ⁠Since there are so many pre-meds, competition might feel worse compared with other schools. I would hate an extremely cutthroat environment.

• ⁠Most people are studying biomedical subjects which might get boring since there’s not a lot of diversity there. I also worry that if I switch my major to something that isn’t CS or biomedical in nature (although I’d be unlikely to do so), I wouldn’t find many opportunities.

• ⁠Poor mental health facilities

• ⁠Farther from home

Cornell
Pros

• ⁠Love the diversity in majors due to the any person, any school philosophy → could minor in business or CS if I wanted to

• ⁠Haven’t visited but seemingly beautiful, big campus I won’t feel tired of

• ⁠Love that Ithaca’s remoteness means there’s a strong campus community and the strong sense of school pride is very nice. People are decently welcoming!

• ⁠Milstein finalist — if formally admitted, I’m able to pursue my love of technology while still being a neuro major in a low commitment program + get to live in NYC for a summer!

• ⁠Great food!

• ⁠People seem to have a good balance of wanting to work hard but also have fun. Doesn’t seem as strictly academic focused as JHU and at the same time, the greek life scene isn’t overbearing.

• ⁠Great dorms (I like the ease of getting program-themed houses like all women housing)

• ⁠Ivy League resources

Cons

• ⁠Around 23k per year including indirect costs (fortunately not a huge deal, though)

• ⁠Farthest from home / remote location makes it challenging to travel there

• ⁠Very poor mental health facilities

• ⁠Extremely stressful culture due to grading system (according to my interviewer + friends on campus)

• ⁠Their neuroscience program is pretty focused on biology as opposed to the psychological aspect which I’m more interested in

  • Although the med school matriculation rate is pretty good, there aren’t many clinical volunteering opportunities so I’d have to spend my summers doing that which is a bit limiting/stressful

UPenn
Pros

• ⁠17k per year including indirect costs

• ⁠Very close to home so I could see my family when I need to

• Very strong religious/cultural community at Penn (active clubs for both of them) compared to the other 2 schools

• ⁠I really like their emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. The Neuroscience major is probably the most flexible out of the three schools. There’s a unique computational neuroscience minor, I’d benefit from entrepreneurship resources at Wharton should I go down that route, and there’s also journalistic writing minors!

• ⁠Ivy League resources + probably the most “prestigious” school (I know prestige shouldn’t matter but still)

• ⁠just like Cornell, should I decide to change my major from Neuro there’s a lot I could do

• ⁠Really strong pre-med opportunities (tons of hospitals in Philly, med school right on campus) but also a lot of other extracurriculars/majors/support should I choose to switch out of that

• ⁠Guaranteed Benjamin Franklin Scholars program – kinda interested in the humanities + it would give me a tight knit community

• ⁠Located in Philly so there’s a lot to do

Cons

• ⁠I’m a bit of an introvert. I’ve heard Penn is a very extroverted school. On one hand that’s nice because it would challenge me, but I think I’d also be very uncomfortable compared to a place like Hopkins.

• ⁠I don’t like partying + don’t drink + am not planning on doing Greek life which apparently the social scene revolves around

• ⁠I haven’t really connected with the other CO 2025 students well. Ngl, they seem a lot less friendly than the people at Cornell and Hopkins.

• ⁠Philly seems kinda unsafe.

• ⁠When I toured, I didn’t really love campus. It seemed small and busy.

• ⁠I don’t love the preprofessional culture either. People seem like they just wanna get rich. I know this sounds privileged, but I want college to be an experience, not just a place to get my degree as quickly as possible.

• ⁠Apparently people are extremely stressful and depressed. Mental health facilities are supposed to be better than the other 2 schools tho.


Thoughts? I’m leaning toward Hopkins or Penn. I’m drawn to Hopkins because of the tight-knit community and opportunity to really create something meaningful as a Biomedical Engineer. I’m drawn to Penn because I love the academic structure and I like that people do want a good social life, but honestly the social scene seems like the exact opposite of who I am.

My other concern just comes down to BME. I don’t have much exposure to see if I actually love it, so it’s very possible I’ll drop it. I’m worried it might ruin my GPA for med school and Penn has the more appealing Neuro program.

Thank you! Sorry for the super long post. I’m also on a couple other Ivy waitlists if that matters, but I think even if I got off, I’d probably still prefer the schools I was admitted to.

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First, congratulations for being accepted by these excellent schools. Getting into Hopkins BME is a very prestigious accomplishment.

I live outside of Philly so I visited Penn a few times. And my son is a senior at Hopkins biochem engineering. So, let me write my personal comparison of the two.

1)Both (and any) colleges have introvert students (and extrovert). Our public high send multiple students to Penn every year, and I have local friends whose children go there. It’s a mixture of in/extroverts. Same with Hopkins, when I look around my son’s friends.

2)safety
I will say almost the same.

3)fun things to do
My son takes a local train to DC on weekends often (cheap) to have fun. Besides, you don’t have too much time to play anyway for Hopkins engineers.

3)My son and I LOVE Hopkins- but, if you want to keep non-medical aspect/academic/friendship wide open, Penn might be the right choice for you.

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Penn. Costs less for you. It’s a great campus. Close to home, and if you’re already concerned about mental health support, being able to go home when you want to, is priceless. Research opportunities, both pre-clinical and clinical, due to it being the major academic research institution in the area, plus the extreme proximity to HUP and CHOP. If you think Philly overall is an unsafe city, then you would feel unsafe in any city. Yes, there are areas where you shouldn’t go, but there is no reason for you to go to those areas - the stuff you’re likely to be interested in, is not located in those areas.

Don’t know what religious group you belong to, but you are sure to find a supportive organization for it at Penn. Yes, there’s a frat scene, but many, many people have extremely full social lives without ever setting foot in a frat. Especially since you say there are very strong organizations for you religiously/culturally at Penn, you will probably never even be aware of the frat scene.

I don’t think that you can stereotype introverts vs extroverts at Penn vs Cornell vs Hopkins. You’re going to find some of both at all of them.

BTW, for marketing, you might be able to take a class or two at Wharton at Penn.

To me, it seems obvious. Penn has everything you want, is closer to home, and has strong supports for you, socially.

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Penn, based on the excellent response above by @parentologist.

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Penn is an excellent choice for all the reasons given by @parentologist. Just chiming in to expand a bit on the introvert/extrovert piece. My introverted kid is thriving socially at Penn. What worked was living in a single room as part of a residential program. Then, my kid could socialize with hallmates but also have a private space to rest/recharge. Clubs are small and a great way to meet people too. Keep an open mind about Greek life. Many of the professional fraternities/sororities are quite popular and membership revolves around shared career interests and community service.

There are parts of Philly that are unsafe, just as there are in any city, but the area around Penn is relatively safe and protected by Penn police, Philly PD, and campus security. I recently visited and Spruce Hill was bustling with college students. It felt very safe to me. Penn seems to tick a lot of boxes for you and I agree that it seems like the obvious choice.

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Drivy22, what did you finally decide?
My son is deciding between these three schools for Early decision this fall.

Any advice/ guidance would be welcome…

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