Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Which University is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Johns Hopkins campus

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Which University is Right for You?

If you’re in the process of selecting a college or university to attend, you may have trouble choosing between two of the most esteemed institutions in the country: Johns Hopkins University vs the University of Pennsylvania. Both universities boast a long history of academic excellence and offer a variety of exceptional academic programs, campus life experiences, and career opportunities. However, with so many similarities, it can be challenging to determine which school is best suited for your academic, financial, social, and personal priorities. In this article, we will compare Johns Hopkins and UPenn in detail and help you decide which of these esteemed institutions is the right choice for you.

Location: Which City Do You Prefer?

One of the most significant factors to consider when choosing a college or university is the location. Johns Hopkins is located in Baltimore, Maryland, while the University of Pennsylvania is in Philadelphia. Both cities have a unique charm and rich history, but they offer distinct living experiences.Baltimore is a bustling maritime city that sits along the Chesapeake Bay. It’s known for its thriving arts and cultural scene, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Walters Art Museum. The city is also home to several famous food and beverage establishments, including Faidley Seafood, Attman’s Deli, and the Charmery.On the other hand, Philadelphia is a more massive city, with a population of over 1.5 million. It’s culturally rich and historic, offering numerous world-renowned museums, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation, and Franklin Institute. The city also boasts a vibrant culinary scene, including Reading Terminal Market, a famous indoor farmer’s market.Overall, if you prefer the east coast big city experience, Penn may be the better choice. However, if you’re interested in a slightly smaller and more cosmopolitan city, Johns Hopkins may be more to your taste.

View of UPenn sign

It’s worth noting that both Baltimore and Philadelphia are located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, which means they are within driving distance of several other major cities. For example, Baltimore is just a short drive away from Washington D.C., while Philadelphia is within easy reach of New York City. This proximity to other major cities can be a significant advantage for students who want to explore different parts of the country during their time at college.

Admissions: Which School Has a Higher Acceptance Rate?

Getting into either Johns Hopkins or UPenn is no easy feat, but the University of Pennsylvania tends to be slightly more competitive. In 2020, UPenn had an admittance rate of 8%, with Johns Hopkins accepting 9.2% of its applicants. Both universities heavily consider academic achievements, but regular decision applicants to UPenn have a higher average GPA of 3.9, while Johns Hopkins has an average GPA of 3.93 for accepted students.

However, acceptance rates and GPAs are not the only factors that determine a student’s chances of getting into these prestigious universities. Extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation also play a significant role in the admissions process. UPenn, for example, places a strong emphasis on community service and leadership, while Johns Hopkins values research experience and intellectual curiosity.

It’s also worth noting that both universities have different application deadlines and requirements. UPenn offers an Early Decision option, which is binding and requires applicants to commit to attending the university if accepted. Johns Hopkins, on the other hand, has an Early Action option, which is non-binding and allows students to apply to other universities simultaneously. Additionally, UPenn requires applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, while Johns Hopkins is test-optional for the class of 2025 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Academics

Both Johns Hopkins and UPenn offer exceptional academic programs with highly respected faculty. However, several programs at Johns Hopkins are regarded as some of the best in the nation. For instance, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the School of Medicine, and the Whiting School of Engineering are all consistently listed in the top ten in their respective fields.On the other hand, UPenn also has strong programs that underpin its reputation for academic excellence. Its undergraduate business program, the Wharton School, is renowned globally, and the university also has excellent programs in healthcare management and various professional schools.It’s essential to consider your field of study and do your research before deciding which institution to attend. While both universities have similar overall academic rankings, one may offer more specialized programs that align with your interests and career aspirations.

Additionally, it’s important to consider the resources and opportunities available to students within your chosen program. For example, Johns Hopkins offers extensive research opportunities for undergraduate students, with many students publishing papers and presenting at conferences. UPenn, on the other hand, has a strong network of alumni and industry connections, providing students with valuable networking opportunities and potential job prospects after graduation. It’s crucial to weigh these factors alongside academic reputation when making your decision.

Campus Life: Which School Offers More Extracurricular Activities?

Both institutions have a vibrant campus life that caters to a diverse range of interests. At Johns Hopkins, there are over 500 clubs and organizations that students can participate in. These organizations span diverse fields, including cultural, service, political, athletic, and academic interests.Similarly, UPenn has a broad range of student groups, with over 450 available. Greek life is also prominent at UPenn, with approximately 15% of the student body participating in fraternities or sororities. Additionally, UPenn is home to several a cappella groups, with the Wharton Business School even offering an acapella group of its own.Ultimately, both universities offer diverse and inclusive campus communities with plenty of opportunities to get involved. The choice between which is best for you may come down to the specific organizations and groups that align with your interests.

College students walking together outdoors. Group of young people in college campus.

It’s worth noting that both Johns Hopkins and UPenn also offer a variety of intramural sports teams for students to join. These teams provide a fun and competitive outlet for students who enjoy sports but may not want to commit to a varsity team. Additionally, both universities host numerous events throughout the year, such as concerts, lectures, and cultural festivals, which provide further opportunities for students to engage with their peers and explore their interests.

Student Body: Which School Has More Diversity?

Both Johns Hopkins and UPenn have diverse student bodies with students from all over the world. However, UPenn has a slightly more diverse student population, with approximately 14% of their student population identifying as international, and around 14% identifying as Hispanic, Black, Native American, or Pacific Islander.Alternatively, Johns Hopkins has a slightly larger proportion of domestic students, with the majority of its students hailing from the northeast, mid-atlantic, and west coast regions of the United States. Additionally, around 10% of the student population at Johns Hopkins identifies as Black, Hispanic, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.Regardless of which university you choose, both schools are known for fostering an inclusive and diverse community that respects all students and their multiple perspectives and backgrounds.

It is worth noting that both universities have made significant efforts to increase diversity and inclusivity on their campuses. UPenn has implemented various programs and initiatives to support underrepresented minority students, such as the Penn First Plus program, which provides resources and support for first-generation and low-income students. Similarly, Johns Hopkins has established the Diversity Leadership Council, which works to promote diversity and inclusion across the university community.

Furthermore, both universities have a wide range of student organizations and clubs that celebrate different cultures and identities. UPenn has over 450 student organizations, including cultural and identity-based groups such as the Black Student League, the Latinx Coalition, and the Asian Pacific Student Coalition. Johns Hopkins also has a diverse array of student organizations, including the Black Student Union, the Asian Students and Scholars Association, and the Native American Students Association.

Cost of Attendance: Which School is More Affordable?

Cost is an essential consideration for any prospective college or university student. The total cost of attendance at each institution varies for each student, depending on factors such as financial aid, scholarships, grants, campus housing, and personal expenses.The annual tuition and fees at Johns Hopkins are approximately $55,350, while the University of Pennsylvania’s annual tuition and fees are $60,042. However, the tuition and fees only account for a portion of the total cost, with additional expenses such as room and board, books, transportation, and personal expenses.Therefore, it’s essential to research financial aid and scholarship opportunities at both schools to determine which institution may offer you the most affordable education.

It’s also important to consider the location of each institution when evaluating the cost of attendance. For example, if you plan to live off-campus, you’ll need to factor in the cost of rent and utilities in the surrounding area. Additionally, if you’re considering a school in a city with a higher cost of living, you may need to budget more for daily expenses such as food and entertainment. Be sure to research the cost of living in the area surrounding each school to get a more accurate picture of the total cost of attendance.

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Financial Aid

Both Johns Hopkins and UPenn offer financial aid packages to qualified students to help alleviate the burden of paying for higher education. However, the financial aid packages each school offers differ in structure and generosity.UPenn’s supply-based financial aid offerings are award-winning and are among the most generous in the country. The school offers need-based grants to all students whose family incomes are under $65,500 per year and many merit-based scholarships and grants for students with exceptional academic and extracurricular achievements.Alternatively, Johns Hopkins offers need-based financial aid to all undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The school also provides a limited number of merit-based scholarships to students who show outstanding academic or extracurricular achievements. Additionally, the school offers interest-free loans to qualifying students.Thus, if you’re concerned about how to finance your education, you must research financial aid offerings at both universities and consult with the financial aid department to see which institution will provide the best package for your needs.

It’s important to note that both schools have a commitment to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of their students. This means that they will work with you to create a financial aid package that covers the full cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board, and other expenses. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the cost of attendance can vary depending on your individual circumstances, such as your family income and the number of dependents you have. Therefore, it’s crucial to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any other required financial aid forms as soon as possible to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of financial aid available to you.

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Alumni Network

Both Johns Hopkins and UPenn have a substantial and supportive alumni network that can support and guide graduates in their careers. UPenn is well-known for its school-specific alumni networks, and particularly its business and finance-focused career services. Additionally, many UPenn alumni have gone on to hold high-level positions in various fields, including politics, finance, and entertainment.Similarly, Johns Hopkins alumni are found in influential positions in all industries, from FDA chief Jane Henney to NASA astronaut Robert Curbeam. Johns Hopkins also has a strong reputation for producing graduates who go on to work in science, engineering, and healthcare, as well as public policy and international relations.Ultimately, the alumni networks at both universities boast notable graduates and powerful connections that can support you in your career journey.

Portrait of a cheerful young couple of students wearing backpacks, carrying textbooks standing isolated over blue background

However, it is important to note that the strength of an alumni network is not the only factor to consider when choosing a school for career opportunities. Other factors such as the quality of education, location, and industry connections should also be taken into account. It is also important to actively engage with the alumni network and take advantage of the resources and opportunities available to maximize the benefits of the network.

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Research Opportunities

Both universities have a reputation for excellence in research and innovation. Johns Hopkins, in particular, is famous for its medical and scientific research, with a substantial portion of its budget dedicated to research endeavors. Meanwhile, UPenn has a long history of scientific discovery and innovation, dating back to the discovery of the polio vaccine.Also, UPenn is home to numerous premier research centers, including the Institute for Medicine and Engineering, the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, and the Penn Center for Health Informatics and the Penn Medicine Biobank.However, with over a billion dollars being spent on research funding each year, Johns Hopkins also lays claim to many of the most innovative scientific advancements of our time. The university is home to many premier research centers as well, including the Johns Hopkins Center for Innovative Medicine, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and the Johns Hopkins Institute for Biomedical Engineering.When it comes to research, both UPenn and Johns Hopkins offer extensive opportunities for students and faculty to engage in cutting-edge research.

Additionally, both universities have strong partnerships with industry leaders, providing students and faculty with access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources. UPenn has partnerships with companies such as Merck, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, while Johns Hopkins has partnerships with companies such as Microsoft, IBM, and Intel. These partnerships not only provide funding for research projects but also offer opportunities for students to gain real-world experience and make valuable connections in their field.

a group of college students walking side by side in a hall way

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Sports Programs

Both Johns Hopkins and UPenn have robust and storied athletic programs, with many great teams and athletes throughout their history. However, UPenn has a larger athletic department and a more extensive selection of sports teams than Johns Hopkins.UPenn offers a range of Division 1 programs in a variety of sports, including basketball, lacrosse, and soccer, while Johns Hopkins mainly competes at the Division 3 level. Additionally, UPenn has many historic rivalries, including the Pennsylvania Ivy League rivalry with Princeton, while Johns Hopkins has a fabled rivalry with the University of Maryland in lacrosse.Ultimately, if sports play a big role in your college experience, UPenn may be the better choice. However, if you’re interested in highly competitive Division 3 athletics or just prefer a smaller, more traditional athletics program, Johns Hopkins is also an excellent choice.

It’s worth noting that both schools have excellent facilities for their athletes. UPenn’s Franklin Field is one of the oldest and most historic stadiums in the country, and has hosted numerous Olympic trials and other major events. Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field is also a historic venue, and has been the site of many memorable lacrosse games over the years. Both schools also have state-of-the-art training facilities and equipment, ensuring that their athletes have everything they need to succeed.

Another factor to consider is the level of support that each school provides for its athletes. Both schools have dedicated coaching staffs and academic advisors who work closely with their athletes to help them balance their athletic and academic commitments. However, UPenn has a larger support staff overall, which may be an advantage for athletes who need extra help or resources. Additionally, UPenn offers more scholarship opportunities for athletes, which can be a major factor for those who are looking to offset the cost of tuition.

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Faculty

The faculty members at both Johns Hopkins and UPenn are highly accomplished and respected in their fields. However, some programs may have specialized professors that are more suited to your interests.Many UPenn faculty members are nationally recognized and have been awarded prestigious accolades such as Nobel Prizes, MacArthur grants, and Guggenheim Fellowships. Similarly, Johns Hopkins has an esteemed faculty that includes Nobel laureates and MacArthur Fellowship recipients.When choosing a university, it’s essential to research the faculty members in your area of study and see if there are any researchers whose work excites and stimulates you.

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Campus Facilities

Both Johns Hopkins and UPenn offer state-of-the-art campus facilities to cater to their students’ needs and enhance their academic experience. UPenn has an extensive campus network that spans several acres and includes over 300 buildings.UPenn has also invested substantially into its campus over the past few years, with a recent capital campaign resulting in new research facilities and dormitories, upgraded dining halls, and world-class recreational facilities, such as a new football stadium and a fitness center.On the other hand, Johns Hopkins has also invested heavily in its campus over the years. They have recently undergone a significant campus expansion on their Homewood campus, with new research facilities, modern residence halls and dining areas, and many more study spaces.Both universities have a lot to offer, and it ultimately comes down to your individual needs and preferences when it comes to campus facilities.

an event inside Berkeley

Johns Hopkins vs UPenn: Student Experience

Ultimately, the student experience at any university consists of the people, the place, and the opportunity to learn and grow. Johns Hopkins and UPenn offer a unique and enriching student experience, where you can learn from renowned faculty, foster relationships with peers from all around the world, and engage in meaningful extracurricular activities.At Johns Hopkins, students often feel connected to their professors and research opportunities, thanks to their smaller campus and tight-knit community. On the other hand, students at UPenn enjoy a vibrant campus life with numerous clubs, activities, events, and city-based experiences.In summary, both universities offer a diverse range of experiences and opportunities to their students. The one that is right for you ultimately comes down to your unique interests, preferences, and priorities.


When it comes to choosing between exceptional universities like Johns Hopkins and UPenn, it may seem like an overwhelming task. However, by weighing up the factors discussed above, you should have a better idea of which school is the right fit for you. Remember to research, visit, and talk to current students, faculty, and staff to make an informed decision that will help shape the rest of your academic and professional journey.

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