Where exactly does Johns Hopkins University fit in the grand scheme?

OK, I am perplexed now and my mind is swimming in facts and data. I am wondering if someone can help clear the mud a bit.

Where does Johns Hopkins University fit in the grand scheme of things, with regards to college ranking.

Which pool of schools are in the same category as JHU? For example, is it Caltech/MIT/Harvard/Yale worthy? Equivalent to flagship state colleges?

How would you categorize Johns Hopkins University?

BME at Hopkins is top tier when considered for recruiting by companies and could fit in that top group. Everything else is pretty solid as well and I’d have it in the same group as Northwestern, Penn, and Duke.

It’s undergraduate reputation has been on the rise the past five years due to a strong effort of the University to accomplish a certain amount of goals by 2020 (one being placing its ugrad USNews ranking in the top 10 and they achieved that in 1 year; another is getting all of its engineering departments within top 10).

As far as undergraduate culture it is very niche though and has the reputation of being more rigorous without the grade inflation of many of the top privates so this group would consist of schools like Columbia, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, etc. Additionally, the student body has a very pre-graduate school focus and most people enter wanting to go into research or medicine.

USNWR ranks Johns Hopkins in the middle of the top 20 national universities.
Among private research universities in the crowded Northeast, JHU can make a credible claim to be one the 10 best (along with the 8 Ivies and MIT).

Why doesn’t it get quite as much love as one might expect, given its strengths?
Its Baltimore location is on balance a negative, IMO. Its fame as a medical research powerhouse seems to obscure some of its other academic strengths, including strong departments in many arts & science fields (such as English, art history, international relations and cognitive science). Although Hopkins also seems to have better engineering programs than most other highly-ranked private colleges, it is competing in that area against strong programs at state universities (including UM-CP) that offer much lower sticker prices. JHU doesn’t even claim to cover 100% of demonstrated financial need, as most other top-ranked private schools do (although it comes very close).

One thing that impressed me on a visit (not admission-related) was that the campus bulletin boards are fairly dripping with research opportunities. Hopkins is #1 (or close to it) for annual RDT&E expenditures. How much of that trickles down to undergrads, in how many departments, would be something to investigate (if research opportunities are important to you.)

This is true, but to really “get” JHU, you have to understand that it has a different history and operating model than other elite northeastern schools.

JHU wasn’t established until 1876, so it was quite late to the party by northeastern standards. By that time, the northeast already had a full complement of top universities (e.g. Ivies, Georgetown) and engineering schools (e.g. MIT, Lehigh, RPI), as well as liberal arts colleges and women’s colleges. However, all of the existing schools – even the universities – had one thing in common: they were focused primarily or exclusively on undergraduate-level education. JHU prioritized research and graduate-level education instead, particularly PhD and MD programs, and immediately found a niche.

Even today, JHU’s endowment is unimpressive relative to other northeastern schools ($3.4 billion may sound like a lot, but consider that Amherst College, with 1800 students, has $2.2 billion). However, JHU compensates for its low endowment by pulling in incredible amounts of research funding. One college ranking, for “Highest Research & Development Funding”, puts it like this: “Johns Hopkins leads all U.S. colleges and universities for research and development by a landslide”

Historically, there was a downside to JHU’s emphasis on research and graduate education: it was often accused of neglecting undergraduates. JHU was always known for academic rigor, but not so much for social life, athletics (except lacrosse), or fun. Over the last 25 years or so, the school has made serious efforts to change this reputation, by improving the undergraduate experience. It seems to be paying off, because JHU has become increasingly selective and has steadily improved its rankings at the undergraduate level.