Johns Hopkins University
💼 Bachelor: Computer Science
⏳ Aug 2020 — May 2024
✅ Student Visa (F1)
Johns Hopkins University
🤓 16,260 Students
🌏 37% International
How I decided to study abroad
In Rwanda, we follow the British education system, with six years each in primary and secondary schools. When I was in my sixth year of primary school, just before transitioning to secondary school, some of my teachers suggested that I should consider applying to universities outside the country.
Coming from a deep rural area in Rwanda, I felt like a village boy out of his depth. At first, the idea of applying to foreign universities seemed far-fetched. I was just a kid who had never seen anyone apply to an overseas university. The few successful people I knew had attended reputable Rwandan universities, which were not many.
However, things changed when I attended a relatively good high school. There, I saw a few students apply to universities in the United States. Out of many, only about two succeeded in six years, but their success was inspiring. It demonstrated that it was possible, even for someone like me. This realization was a powerful motivator as I've always been drawn to challenges, particularly those that I or others think I can't overcome.
The first step in my journey to study abroad started in secondary school. I knew that to have a chance, I needed good grades, so I worked very hard. When I began thinking about applying to universities, my top choice was an organization called Bridge2Rwanda. This organization helps high school students prepare for studying in the US. They offer a year-long program where they teach English, writing, reading, and SAT prep, and then help students apply to American universities. My second option was to apply to different universities by myself. I remember in my last year, senior six, I applied to Edinburgh, but I got rejected.
My experience with Bridge2Rwanda
Right after finishing high school, I applied to Bridge2Rwanda. I believe this program is incredibly beneficial, especially for someone like me who was heading to the US, a completely new country I had never visited before.
Sure, they taught us English, and prepared us for the SAT and TOEFL exams. But the real value of Bridge2Rwanda was learning how to adapt to life in the US. It taught us how to behave, how to navigate different situations, and how to immerse ourselves in a new culture. Knowing what to do in this entirely new environment was priceless.
Bridge to Rwanda is open for anyone to apply. It's not easy to get into, but it offers a great opportunity.
Why Johns Hopkins University
At first, I didn't have any specific universities in mind. My goal was simply to study in the United States. During my time with Bridge2Rwanda, I discussed this with one of my advisors who knew about my deep interest in research. He mentioned that Johns Hopkins University is renowned for its excellence in research. That caught my attention immediately and after more consideration, I applied through Early Decision.
In Rwanda, we didn't use the GPA system. Instead, our academic performance was based on national examinations. When considering applications, programs like Bridge to Rwanda put a lot of weight on these exam scores. Typically, students who get into Bridge to Rwanda score around 73 out of 73 on these exams.
As for my regular school transcripts, my scores were generally in the range of 78 to 83 out of 100. I never scored above 83. So, my academic performance was decent, but not outstanding.
When it came to standardized tests like the SAT, my score was 1370 when I applied to Johns Hopkins. And for the TOEFL, I scored 102. These scores were pretty average, not exceptional.
For my application, particularly to Johns Hopkins, I think my involvement in research projects during high school made a difference. Understanding the school you're applying to and ensuring that your skills and experiences align with its focus is very important. I believe that if I had applied to a different school, one not as research-focused as Johns Hopkins, my application might have had a different impact. In high school, I had some leadership roles, but I didn't emphasize those in my application.
These research opportunities weren't formal or structured programs; they were more about taking initiative and being resourceful. For example, I didn't find these opportunities by applying through official channels or networking on LinkedIn. It was more about engaging with my professors and being proactive. I remember discussing with my physics professor about possible projects. One of them involved generating electricity from shoes. It was an idea we brainstormed, and then I worked on it with a few other students.
Advice for Essays
The key piece of advice I'd give about writing college application essays is to be authentic. It's important to stay genuine. But at the same time, don't hold back from sharing your personal stories. There's a common idea out there that you need to share the most emotional or difficult parts of your life, like traumatic experiences. While this is a common approach, it's not always necessary. If you can connect one of your stories with your future goals, that's great.
Your essay should be interesting and show who you are. In college applications, you usually write a main essay about yourself and then a supplemental essay. In my application, I chose to share a personal story that wasn't directly related to what I wanted to study. This story showed a different side of me. Then, in the supplemental essay, I talked about my research and what I was interested in academically. This way, the person reading your application gets to see both sides of you: who you are as a person and what you're passionate about academically.
Financial Aid & Application Fees
I was fortunate to receive full financial aid from Johns Hopkins, though I do need to work to earn about $2000, which primarily goes towards my personal expenses. Essentially, I work to afford my living costs, like food, which is a manageable arrangement. My flights and visas were also covered by the financial aid.
As for application-related costs, I spent around $200 for the application fees to Johns Hopkins alone. This included around $100 for certain paperwork they sent me before flying to the US and nearly another $100 in application fees. The test fees were separate expenses.
Academics and Student Life at Johns Hopkins
The Computer Science program at Johns Hopkins is quite strong. While Hopkins is often associated with medicine, their CS department is also impressive. It's particularly exciting for anyone interested in the intersection between computer science and medicine, or in fields like machine learning and AI.
During my time in college, I found myself pulling all-nighters on a few occasions, but I believe that was largely due to my own doing. It was a matter of how I managed my time. A common experience in college, which I also encountered, is overcommitting to activities. There's always something interesting being suggested, and it's easy to say 'yes' to everything.
Outside of classes, I worked as a personal trainer at the Hopkins gym. I also tried out a few sports but had to stop when things became too busy. Additionally, I worked in a lab, starting from my sophomore year. Over time, I had to drop most of the activities I initially committed to, focusing on the most important ones like my job at the gym and my lab work.
Plans After Graduation
My long-term goal is to attend grad school, but before that, I plan to gain some work experience. I'm definitely aiming to stay in the US for this phase of my career. The reason is straightforward: the US is home to many excellent universities, making it an ideal place for pursuing graduate studies. Currently, I'm in the process of applying for jobs, with a focus on roles in the computer science field.