Academics are, of course, very rigorous, and professors definitely expect students to come to class prepared. That being said, there are still a wide variety of classes that include some introductory levels that are not as demanding. Students do study quite often; the general guideline is to spend at least 1 hour studying for every hour of lecture. Yet, this is really an aspect of the school that is as much as you make of it. Professors are always willing to make the time to meet with you to discuss anything, ranging from class material to your future plans. However, it's up to you to take the initiative to contact your professors. My major, chemical and biomolecular engineering, is regarded as one of the tougher, if not toughest, major. The average graduating GPA is very low (although I don't know if this is the major GPA, or overall GPA). The coursework for this major is, as expected, challenging. However, I think the training that you get, the problem-solving mindset that is instilled, is definitely worth the work you put in.
Hopkins is a hard school and I wouldn't suggest coming here if you don't like to work. However, if you want to go to a school that challenges you and makes you learn more everyday than you learn in a week in high school, then Hopkins is a good school for you. I like that Hopkins doesn't have a core curriculum; I love humanities (so it's not that I don't want to take classes outside of my major), but I especially love french. I wouldn't be able to get a french minor at any school that has a core curriculum. Students are competitive, but cooperative. Students are driven (and all nerds at heart), so it's not uncommon to have conversations about politics, current events, or other intellectual subjects. Professors are brilliant (and for the most part, pretty good) although there are some bad ones. All of them are approachable and some of them are better in a smaller setting. The school is more focused for grad school/med school in the sciences. Although I want to get a job, I enjoy getting a theoretical background.
The academics are strong and professors definitely want to get to know you. Despite the fact that one of my introductory classes is 300 people, the professor knows my name and enjoys (sometimes to my dismay) calling on me in class. Students here study hard and the classes are often very challenging, but it is definitely worth the time. I really enjoy going to the office hours my professors hold; it allows me to have 1-on-1 time with my professors and really get to know them as people. The lack of a core curriculum is one of the best things about this school because it allows you to explore fields outside of your own, and really opens your eyes to the world around you. Whether you want to graduate and get a job or go to graduate/medical/law school, Hopkins will prepare you well. Lastly, students are not as competitive as they are stereotyped to be. People are friendly and willing to help you out if you are struggling in a class.
You can't expect to do well at a school like this, and not study. But you never have to study alone. Professors and TAs encourage group work and study sessions, and more so, they hope you speak with them during office hours. I have created close relationships with some of my professors; I even text some of them! Professors here want you to succeed, and will be more than happy to mentor you while you figure out how to succeed. The classroom setting, coupled with the one-on-one sessions that students take advantage of with their professors, teach you critical thinking skills, public speaking skills, as well as how to solve a problem, many times in an interdisciplinary field or from a multidimensional perspective. Hopkins prepares you on how to make the best of your educational opportunities, and how to enjoy working late because you sculpt your major, your courses, and your responsibilities according to your interests.
Johns Hopkins has arguably some of the smartest professors in the country. We are the number one research institution, meaning our school gives more money to students to perform research than any other school in the country. Over half of the undergraduate students here are involved in some form of research before they graduate. Classes here are great, and are very interactive. Only 5% of classes are over 100 students, which is very rare for a college! 60% of classes are under 20 students, which gives students a real chance to participate and engage in classes. My favorite class so far was Introduction to Social Psychology with Professor Drigotas. Not only is he funny as ever, but he really makes psychology easy to learn and understand through his personal stories that really helped me remember difficult psychology terms. Classes like Social Psych really make me love my classes here!
Hopkins academics can certainly be challenging...and there is no grade inflation. However, many students work together and professors and teaching assistants have office hours where they are happy to help you with problems you may have. Most classes are reasonably sized (~20-30) with the exception of intro level math and science classes which can be as large as ~300 students. The physics department is pretty unique in that the teacher to student (majoring students) is much higher than most other departments. In fact, the ratio is probably pretty close to 1 faculty member to each majoring undergraduate student. This means that there are many research opportunities without there being much competition from your peers. Additionally, because there aren't many students majoring in physics, the physics-track courses are small (~25).
Academics are rigorous--don't expect grade inflation. Professors and generally available outside of lecture for outside help and enjoy getting to know their students. Since this is a research university, many of the studies you learn about actually came from a lab right here in Baltimore. One of my psych professors showed us a video of a study that she did, with her own child. I really enjoy that there aren't any classes that everyone is required to take--individual majors assign distribution credits. A few fond memories I have are with my fellow Applied Math majors, sitting around a dorm common room, laughing from delirium at 4:00 a.m. trying to figure out how to do homework that's due the next day.
Hopkins isn't easy. However, to get used to the college workload, freshmen take all classes pass/fail during their first semester. Also, classes tend to be pretty small - they tend to cap seminars at around 15 people. In my experience the professors are very personable and very willing to help if you take the time to go to their office hours and show that you really care about their class. The school's academic requirements are very flexible - Hopkins has no "core curriculum." Instead, students must take x amount of science classes, x amount of humanities classes, etc. This way, students take a broad range of subjects but can choose only classes that interest them.
The academics are tough, and you really have to manage your time. If you're the type of student who never had to study in high school, start studying right from the get-go. You can't BS your way through school here and still do well on the exams. Also, a lot of kids have intellectual conversations outside of classes and on the weekends, and there are a lot of kids who really enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together just for the fun of it. If you're not into that stuff, though, there are plenty of other things to do. Not everyone is a nerd, and people do go out on the weekends. You make it what you want.
The teachers are extremely willing to chat with you about class or even just life in general. Professors encourage you to come stop by so they can get to know you. My favorite class so far was a history seminar where everybody regularly participated. At the end of the semester the professor invited us over to his house to hangout and consume lasagna. The academic requirements are extremely flexible so you are not bogged down by needless core classes. I talk an extraordinary intersession class called Concept of Mind which blended both a neuroscience and an anthropology view of the mind and what constitutes it.