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Today’s been weird. It started off relatively normal – I woke up, bought a bagel, and took an exam. But on my way back, I swung by Barnes and Nobles across from my apartment and walked up the steps. I talked to the lady at the desk, told her my height, and suddenly I was holding my cap and gown for graduation.

This month has always been exciting to me on campus; two SOHOPs, Discovery Days, Blue Jay Days, and high school spring breaks around the world flood our campus with students and their families – some starting early in high school, others who have already been accepted. Wide-eyed high school juniors, critical and calculated high school seniors, eager parents, and bored siblings. Over the month, I’m asked time and time again why I chose to come to this place.

It’s funny because I’m going through the same process myself right now. Having just gone through the med school admissions process and begun to visit schools and make decisions, and I can empathize to the weight of hearing current students, of being told to sort and prioritize dozens of seemingly-equal decision factors, of clinging on to tiny, otherwise insignificant details to try to plan out my lifestyle down to the wall decorations and grocery situation. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard the word “fit”, or gone through the entire sitemap of a school just to land back on the home page. I get it – choosing a school is more than just choosing classes. It’s choosing the people who will shape you into who you are; the facilities that will sculpt what you love. It’s choosing a culture.

I’d like to think that I’ve gotten a good sense of what our culture is here, now that my cap and gown are staring at me in a plastic bag on my bed. Above (although certainly partly because of) all the numbers you will hear in the info sessions or the lists you will read in our brochures, know that by picking Hopkins you are choosing a culture of relentless curiosity. People here care deeply about what they do, and want to know about what you care deeply about too. And that means two things. It means you’ll be able to intensify your passion in whatever it is you actually care about, but it also means you’ll start to care about things you never knew existed or thought about.

Here’s what I mean: my goal, in coming to Hopkins, was to study the brain and go to med school. It wasn’t much more complicated than that. Sure, I valued being in a city and really liked the campus, but primarily it was a means to some grander end in my mind. And sure enough, I was able to do exactly that; the neuroscience curriculum way surpassed what I had expected, and the faculty became my mentors that propelled me to starting med school this fall. This is, in part, important; select a school that will put you in a great position to reach your goals.

But this culture of curiosity got me to pick up things along the way that just went to complement and bolster my primary goal. I never really cared about history – never paid much attention in APUSH or saw too much value in the past. But the advisors and faculty here really encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Suddenly, after a few classes in the history of medicine, I found myself hooked to the field and, moreover, much more appreciative of the things I learned in my hard science classes. Medicine became more than circuits and pills – it became a narrative that keeps on changing that I couldn’t wait to become a part of. Hopkins took something I was interested in, compounded it with newfound passions, and turned into something I now see as a calling.

You’ll be challenged at Hopkins, but you’ll also be given the tools to withstand that push. You’ll be put outside of your comfort zone, but people will always be there for you to find that comfort over time (or not – and then they’ll be there to help you find something else you may have never thought about). So when you come to a point where you have to decide on a school  for the next for years (as some of you are right now), remember that you’re really picking a culture. And I wouldn’t trade the experiences Hopkins gave me, or the people I met, or the classes I took, or the direction my development took, for the world.