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Transfer to Columbia, UPenn or stay at JHU?

FinalEyesFinalEyes 137 replies27 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 164 Junior Member
edited May 2013 in Transfer Students
I was recently fortunate enough to be accepted as a transfer applicant to both Columbia College and UPenn CAS. Currently I am a student at JHU in the school of arts and sciences. I applied for transfer because I was originally disappointed with my senior year results on the college front and sought another chance to reach higher than my current institution. Moreover, I found Baltimore to be rather drab. Entering Hopkins I had no clear path, in terms of major or otherwise.

However, I have since declared myself as a Molecular and Cellular Biology Major on the premed track. SO thus is my question: would I be doing myself a disservice in transferring from JHU when they are so well known for these two fields? And if not, what school, Penn or Columbia would be a better choice for such a track/focus?

I appreciate any and all input.
edited May 2013
16 replies
Post edited by FinalEyes on
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Replies to: Transfer to Columbia, UPenn or stay at JHU?

  • ArapatArapat 32 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 36 Junior Member
    Wow. As an incoming Hopkins freshman and a great fan of JHU, I feel somewhat inferior after reading this, lol.

    I'd transfer out if I were you because:
    1) You obviously don't like JHU that much or else you wouldn't mind the fact that it doesn't have the Ivy prestige.
    2) Penn is also renowned for its pre-med track. You won't go wrong, I think. It's what you do with your education.

    (But maybe give JHU a chance if that's what you want :) ) I don't know very much about Columbia - sorry about that.
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  • AAustinAAustin 186 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 186 Junior Member
    You should not only look at a school for its prestige. Especially for pre-med. I know people who went to states schools and got into Harvard Med so the fact that you are only looking for prestige is a bit ridiculous.
    That being said, you don't sound like you love Hopkins. If that's the case, they why stay? They are several people around the nation applying to transfer to JHU because it is/was their dream school and didn't get in the first time. If you aren't happy here, go elsewhere so that someone who would true appreciate the chance to attend Hopkins can come.
    If I'm wrong, I don't mean to be harsh. It's just how I read your question. Go where you will be the most happy because at the end of the day, that's where you'll do your best
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  • FinalEyesFinalEyes 137 replies27 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 164 Junior Member
    Just to clarify: when I meant that I was disappointed I meant to say that I applied to Hopkins on a whim, never intending to go, and indeed never seeing the campus before I was accepted. It was a high safety (not in the traditional sense of safety but rather as an excellent school that might be there if I needed it). I knew it was a good school but that's about it when I applied. Therefore, it's never where I wanted to be, regardless of prestige. Columbia and Penn are such places were places that i knew a great deal about and wished to be. whether it was the superior cities, the Greek
    Life, the academics, and yes the prestige( but that is not the sole defining characteristic), I found them appealing. My question is simply this: is leaving the school I never wanted to attend a bad idea since I seek to pursue things that school is sincerely known for being excellent in? In other words: would it be foolish to follow my previous desires after new developments (I.e. my choice of major/going premed)?
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  • OnMyWay2013OnMyWay2013 1304 replies34 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,338 Senior Member
    I'm an incoming freshman too, but I remember how torn I was, up to May 1, about choosing between Duke and JHU because I heard about how competitive JHU was and how there weren't as many safety nets in terms of professor-student help and advising. And even though I didn't like Duke that much, I was willing to go and be unhappy because I wanted to guarantee my success.

    But now I feel (hope) I've made the right choice. Nothing will guarantee your success, not even a college known for getting people into med school. Columbia and Penn are excellent schools that I'm sure have good pre-med programs and, being in cities, will open up tons of opportunities for you to achieve your career goals. But happiness isn't something you can get everywhere, so if you're unhappy, don't stay.
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  • accioknightaccioknight 64 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 73 Junior Member
    @OP: You've been at JHU for one year. How do you feel about the school now? Is it still a blurry place where you can't imagine having a good life at? From your posts, it still seems that your 'previous desires' are your current desires. Sorry if I'm wrong, though.


    Johns Hopkins Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) - Stressbusters

    The Learning Den Tutoring


    ^^^ :) Some options if you need help at Hopkins. I heard that most professors are also willing to help during office hours (if you seek them), and advisers truly push you to pursue research in that they help you find the right lab, etc (I got this from a CC Hopkins '09 alum called tanman). But yeah, I hope I made the right choice too. Congrats on your Duke acceptance btw!
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  • AAustinAAustin 186 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 186 Junior Member
    Also, to add to accio, I've had professors come in on the weekends before to go over the material with me for a few hours if we couldn't find time during the week.
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  • BlueJayBJBlueJayBJ 242 replies8 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    If you aren't happy at JHU then you should leave. Your productivity will decrease no matter where you are if you aren't happy there. Also it will show when you try to get highly competitive research lab positions compared to other undergrad students. Professors can tell a student that is trying to get into a superstar lab for the purpose of putting it on their med school resume vs the student that genuinely has a passion for the research and can add to the lab. All 3 schools have top biological science programs and research hospitals. Columbia is in NYC so there might be more opportunities in case you decide you want to go into the business side of the sciences instead. But just remember, if you are just going through the motions you will be up against people that want it far more than you. Be honest with yourself, JHU hospital has a few nobel prize winners. They do look for undergrads to help with research. A recommendation letter from them could truly boost a students career. But who do you think will get it? While you have good grades it seems you lack true passion for the subject. Professors aren't dumb. Do you think it will be different at Columbia or Upenn? If the actual environment of JHU doesn't fit your personality that's a good reason to leave. But thinking it will help with medical school is absurd and naive.
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  • nina22nina22 17 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 17 New Member
    Hi FinalEyes: I think a lot of us are wondering why you don't like JHU now that you're there. It's understandable that a year ago you were terribly disappointed to have not gotten into your dream schools. And it makes sense that your images of JHU were not very appealing having never visited nor intending to go there in the first place. But now after one year, what is your impression? Was the year still colored by your disappointment of having not gotten into an Ivy school? Or did you get immersed in life at JHU and find that you actually do like it? If the latter is true, I would try to forget Penn and Columbia for a moment and figure out how you feel about JHU now that you have been a student there. For pre-med, JHU is as good as it gets (something which wouldn't have mattered to you as much last year before you'd realized you were interested in pre-med). So the real question is everything else (campus, activities, friends, etc.). The dream doesn't really matter anymore now that your choices are a level playing field (for pre-med). I agree with everyone else here that you shouldn't stay at JHU if you are unhappy. But do you think you would be happier at Penn or Columbia? Or just pursuing a former dream?
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  • FirstDayOfMyLifeFirstDayOfMyLife 16 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 19 New Member
    FinalsEyes, I'm also a current JHU freshman who's deciding on transferring between UPenn and Wesleyan (and a couple other schools if I get off their wait list). If your main reason for transfer is getting the best education possible for your field, JHU really is the place to be if you're premed; I don't think UPenn and Columbia would be as cut throat/competitive as JHU, not saying that they aren't as good, but I generally feel like if you strive in a competitive environment over a collaborative one, Hopkins is right for you. Like most people said, it really depends on why you are transferring. BlueJayBJ has it right (I like the username btw), I'm transferring because frankly, I'm just not happy here. I really don't like Baltimore, I don't fit in with the general Hopkins crowd, and I think that I could have a better academic experience in a different school and do better where I would be happier. I think if you aren't satisfied with your experience at JHU and you think you can have a better one at a different school, then transfer.

    And honestly, I think JHU is just as prestigious as those schools. Sure it's not an Ivy League but JHU beats out those schools in a lot of different ways (research grants, that stuff). I was able to take a class this semester taught by the 2011 nobel prize winner in Physics, I can't say that if I went to any different school.
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  • chany94chany94 18 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 23 New Member
    @FirstDayOfMyLife: What is the general Hopkins crowd like? Also, you're saying that the cut throat environment still very much exists? Because I got the impression that it was just a terrible stereotype.

    @FinalEyes: Go where you think you will be happy.
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  • Blah2009Blah2009 1318 replies19 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,337 Senior Member
    I think nowadays people use the words competitive and cutthroat interchangeably. JHU is most definitely not cutthroat, but it is competitive. Competitive in the sense that you have to study and earn As as nearly everyone at JHU excelled in high school.
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  • SMRSMRSMRSMR 722 replies10 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 732 Member
    You can do pre-med equally successfully at any 3 of those great schools. Your decision should come down to which one you like more.

    Your GPA and MCAT will be way, way more important than your school or major.
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  • accioknightaccioknight 64 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 73 Junior Member
    @chany94 I second what Blah said. The competition is there because you're thrown into a pool of excellent students and you can't help but feel like you need to keep up with them (Ok, I have a very bad way of putting this into words...) And to be honest, it happens in every top college. You can read this blog post:

    Meltdown | MIT Admissions

    So far, from the JHU students and alumni that I talked to - they said that they have no problems with studying and working together with peers. Besides, I think the sheer volume of people who are worried about the 'cutthroat'/competitive atmosphere just shows that no one really wants to be that kind of person :)
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  • FirstDayOfMyLifeFirstDayOfMyLife 16 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 19 New Member
    @chany94 Tbh, it really depends on what you're studying there and everyone has a different experience here. A difference between JHU and some other top schools is grade deflation (just as an example, the average gpa at brown is above 3.6 and at harvard it's 3.5 or near there as oppose to 3.1-3.2 here and at places like Cornell). The reason why I say it's cutthroat isn't because people are literally sabotaging their peers (I've shared notes with many of my classmates if they couldn't make class and such). Overall, I feel like there's a general sense that your grade depends on your classmates grades more than how well you know the subject. People constantly talk about grades here a lot more than the actual material they are learning, and it could be motivating or nauseating depending on how you take it. Remember though, this is coming from someone who is transferring out. Because of a ridiculously high retention rate at JHU, I'm quite an anomaly so definitely get opinions from other students here (not people who know about this school, but actual students, there's a big difference).
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  • nina22nina22 17 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 17 New Member
    Hi FirstDayOfMyLife: Sorry to hear you are unhappy at JHU. Aside from the competitive atmosphere, why do you feel that you don't fit in?
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  • tirakontirakon 20 replies7 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 27 New Member
    You mention that one of the appeals of Columbia and Penn are their Greek life.

    If that is actually something you care about, don't go to Columbia. No more than 10% of the student body joins frats or sororities, and generally frat and sorority people are looked down upon as shallow and ditzy.

    Penn, on the other hand, has a robust Greek scene. I think participation is closer to 30%, if I remember correctly.

    Columbia athletics are also pretty dismal, and no one cares about the sports teams here. Penn has some pretty great teams, and people actually care about the sports teams there.

    I don't mean this post to be a dig at Columbia. I go to Columbia, and I absolutely love the fact that people don't care about sports or frats here. Those were big selling points for me (as well as the city and the core).
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