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insider tips

Make your application stand out

More than a list of your extracurriculars or your test scores, the essay gives you the chance to express yourself, make an impression, and show the admissions committee what you’re all about.

(Want to see real examples of essays that worked? Click here to read entries from students admitted to the JHU Class of 2023.)

So we know the essay is important.

Now, how do you write one that sets you apart?

1. Focus on you. The essay should be about personal experiences. While the core of the essay serves as an important framework, the essay should showcase who you are today and what you will take away from the life experiences you’ve had so far as you engage with your future college community and work to achieve your goals. What did the experience you’re writing about mean to you? The end product should be something that only YOU could have written, unique to your own thoughts, reflections, etc.

2. Don’t feel constrained by format. Most college essays have a word count limit—you should stay within the ballpark—but you don’t have to stick with the typical the five paragraph essay. Play with creative, interesting formats. Hopefully, you’ll find one that is best suited for the story you’re telling. And, remember, that first sentence is sometimes the best time to grab the reader’s attention.

3. Tell us something we don’t already know. This is it, your chance to get beyond the test scores and transcripts and endless forms. Whichever topic you’re answering, take advantage of the opportunity to tell colleges something about you that they wouldn’t otherwise know from your application.

4. Do your research. Many schools, including Hopkins, have supplemental essay questions about an important aspect of the institution’s mission or core values. (Read our essay question here.) If you haven’t already, take a little time to discover more about that school—programs, clubs, community, academic culture, etc.—before you answer. In addition to helping your application reviewer see how serious you are about attending, your research might help you learn something you didn’t already know.

5. Proofread and allow time for multiple drafts. Once you’ve got your message down, focus on rewriting, editing, and polishing. It also never hurts to have someone else take a look and give you some pointers.

6. Relax. Easier said than done, we know. But the best thing you can do for your application essays is to give yourself plenty of time to complete them—including revisions and proofreading. The more relaxed you are when writing, the better your voice and personality will come through. Think about what you want to say and experiment with different ways of saying it without worrying so much about grammar and word counts at first.

Need some inspiration?

Check out the Essays That Worked—including notes from our admissions committee explaining how the essay helped us get to know the student and their fit with Hopkins—for the JHU Class of 2023.

Ready to dive into your own essay? Get a sneak peek at Hopkins’ supplemental essay question.

Continue learning more about Johns Hopkins on, where you’ll find current student blogs, photos, videos, and more.