Very difficult. Yikes.
Starting answering!Hopkins is definitely known for being strong in the natural sciences, but it’s very strong in other areas as well. I am an International Studies, East Asian studies, and Economics triple major, and my experience in humanities and social sciences classes has been very good. The system of distribution requirements in place of core curriculum is also very convenient, as it gives students a great deal of freedom in choosing their courses and makes double, or even triple majoring, very easy. The professors are great, and in most cases very approachable. Professors in my departments are generally committed to the success of their students. One of my professors in particular gives students a lot of help in finding research grants and emails us every time she hears about an internship or research opportunity. Contrary to many rumors about Hopkins, the professors are not solely focused on their graduate students and research, but do care about the success of their undergrads. Classes do expect a lot from their students, but the work load is not too unmanageable. I also feel that the assignments genuinely give me a better understanding of the material in lectures. Still, because of the work load, it is difficult to get through the semester without pulling at least one all-nighter (or many, in my case). Many days students will spend upwards of 6 hours in the library. There are a lot of large lecture classes (100-200 students), but most upper level classes are smaller (around 10 students. I have had good experiences in both kinds of classes. Overall, I feel that while the academics are demanding, most students believe it’s worth coming to Hopkins for.
I like my Japanese class. Unfortunately, the workload this year is significantly higher than last, but that's to be expected at the advanced level. I enjoy learning languages. I'm not sure about a least favorite, although there were a number of classes I was less than fond of, but I didn't really like the economics courses I took after the basic ones. I was just not very good at them and it was frustrating. You can find students in the library at any time, though of course it really fills up around finals time. Apparently some kids would just stay in the Hut for days, but I never personally knew anyone who did. I'm not really a study-in-the-library type of person. In every class I've been in, there has been at least some participation. I generally don't participate much, myself. The exception is Japanese class, but the class is tiny, so participation is pretty much inevitable. I don't mix much with science majors, so I don't know how competitive they get, but I do know that our BME program is the best in the country so I imagine that it gets pretty fierce. My personal experience has been that people like to study and work on assignments together as possible. I was a little annoyed by the distribution requirements (when will I need science?) but I suppose there is some reasoning for it... I do feel like we are learning for its own sake, which I rather like, though it will probably screw me over in the real world.
None of the professors I've had for any of my classes know my name. My favorite classes were labs, because I like working hands on. Grading for labs sucked, but the actual procedures/experiments I enjoyed. Least favorite class was organic chemistry. 300 person lecture with a professor who didn't teach well, great experience. Students study all the time. There are easier majors that don't require it, however with any math/science/engineering/premed degree to get straight b's (if you are smart and didn't work hard, got straight a's in high school, good numbers on the sats, etc) i'd say 2 hours a day MINIMUM. Yes students are competitive, it's not an environment condusive to learning, the stress is on one-upping your neighbor to get ahead, so that's how it goes. The engineering department is supposed to be amazing, and for research it's great, but for undergraduate learning I cannot stress enough how little emphasis is put on actually learning. Cheating is a HUGE problem on campus, as students are expected to succeed however they can. JHU is definetly geared toward making lots of money, learning is irrelevant as is helping other people.
I love my classes. I'm an IR major, and we have some incredible professors. I took Contemporary International Politics, an intro level class, with Professor David, and it was the best class I've ever taken. He would lecture for an hour and give us so much information, but it was completely organized in a way that made it really easy to follow, and was interesting. I worked so hard for that class, and there was so much reading, but it was all stuff that I wanted to read. And you have to respect it when a Professor has been giving you well-respected journal articles to read all semester, then halfway through you get assigned an article written by him, and you listen to your next lecture and know you're hearing from an expert on it. You can see your professors if you take advantage of office hours. Intro level classes are usually 100 person or more lectures. My least favorite class was Intro Chem. The science professors that teach intro classes hate teaching, don't care about teaching, and teach straight from the book. Then you get the professors that can't really speak English. People do participate in class. Students study ALL THE TIME.
Most of my classes are small so all of my professors know my name. I have a lot of favorite classes, one of them was Feminist Epistemology taught by one of my favorite professors Maura Tumulty, it is one of the only classes where I was always disappointed when class ended. We had interesting readings, stimulating discussions and Maura was accessible for any questions and helped explain the difficult readings we sometimes had. My least favorite class was Micro Economics. It was a huge lecture at 9am mtw=awful. Students study a LOT. Be prepared to work hard if you go to Hopkins, it is just a fact. Students are competitive, but mostly only for themselves. Yes students have intellectual conversations outside of class; it just happens when you throw a lot of smart students with different interests into the same environment.
The professors do not know your name, I am sure you can try to get them to remember it but I have a difficult name so it is not too likely. I think a great thing about our campus are the numerous intellectual conversations we have outside of the classroom. I feel like more thought occurs outside of the classroom then in it...at least amongst my friends. I believe that Africana studies and Public Health are the two most interesting departments because you get to step outside of what you have learned in high school, most likely, and actually think as opposed to regurgitating information. I think the pre-med track is insane and definitely does it's job at trying to weed people out.
Classes are usually larger earlier on, but in most humanities classes (which are taught seminar style) and upper level classes, the size gets smaller. As a 2nd semester Freshman, I am in 4 out of 5 classes that have under 15 people in them. Professors get to know you and can help you. In these smaller classes, class participation is usually a big part of it because the professors want to make sure that students are learning material that they can use by communicating it to others. There is pre-professional advising on campus, but most of the learning is done for learning's sake.
Some professors are very amicable and know students on a first name basis. Many professors are very down to earth and in tune with the students' needs. My favorite class is Medical Sociology because it eliminates the science factor of medicine and health. The students study an average of 5 days out of the week. In class participation in the majority of classes is highly encouraged, and the professors make a tremendous effort to see this happen. Public Health is an amazing department because it's diverse and open to an individual's interests and passions.
My favorite class turned out to be a huge lecture dreaded by most natural science majors--Organic Chemistry. It's tough but my professor is great. He makes every effort to engage students, even though there are over 250 of us. There are also some very interesting small seminar-style classes that allow students to get to know the professor and other classmates very well. All of the classes require work and effort, but what you get out of a class is related to what you put into it.