Emory University Essay Examples: Breakdown + Analysis

What’s Covered:

 

Emory University is a private research university in Atlanta, Georgia. The school is commonly referred to as a “ Southern Ivy” due to its academic prestige. In fact, Emory consistently ranks among the nation’s top 25 schools. The university also boasts a selective admissions process, so it’s important that you submit engaging essays that will make your application stand out.

 

In this post, we will walk through some essays that real students submitted to Emory. By noticing the strengths and weaknesses of these essays, you will be more prepared to write impressive essays to submit to the Emory admissions committee.

 

Want to know your chances at Emory before getting started? Calculate your chances for free!

 

Emory University Essay Example 1

Prompt: Which book, character, song, or piece of work (fiction or nonfiction) represents you, and why? (150 words)

 

Never has a song resonated with me the way ‘My Shot’ did.

In the song, I saw a person who was motivated by nothing more than passion. Who had big dreams, and a stronger will to get it done. I saw someone who would stay up for nights on end to understand the inner workings of a seemingly-simple software to create a truly great website. Who would forgo meals because she had ideas in her head and a desire to write them down. Who would teach herself a subject her school refused to let her pursue. Who would take Machine Learning courses for fun. I saw someone with goals, with plans, and with the mettle required to reach them. I saw myself.

Applying to Emory is me thinking past tomorrow. It is me fanning my spark into a flame. Applying to Emory is me not throwing away my shot.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

This essay answers the prompt, while also addressing the student’s values and interests. When given a limited number of words (Emory responses are capped at 150), students tend to focus exclusively on answering the prompt, particularly when the prompt elicits a tangible answer. For example, answering this prompt is as simple as writing ‘Jane Eyre,’ ‘Moana.’ or ‘My Shot.’ It is important to remember that telling admissions officers about what makes you unique is the goal of college essays—even short ones!

 

This student identifies their answer to the prompt: the song ‘My Shot.’ Then, they use their answer to tell us about their identity—a dreamer—, their values—working hard and challenging oneself—, and their interests—software and machine learning. This is exactly what you should be doing.

 

Additionally, this essay is well structured as the student first identifies their response, then explores their response, and finally ties their response back to their goal of getting accepted to Emory.

 

What Could Be Improved 

 

The main areas for improvement for this essay are nuanced, but they are important and could help take this essay to the next level. 

 

This student’s first sentence restates the prompt. This is unnecessary and wastes the student’s limited words. To fix this, the student could integrate this introductory line with their first paragraph. Currently, the essay starts:

 

Never has a song resonated with me the way ‘My Shot’ did.

 

In the song, I saw a person who was motivated by nothing more than passion. 

 

Instead, they could start:

 

As I spastically danced around my room, I let the vibrant rhythms control me. I screamed out “We’re gonna rise up. Time to take a shot!” The intensity of the song ‘My Shot’ reminded me of my passionate motivations. 

 

In the song, I see…

 

With this adjusted introduction, the student can dive right into the action of the essay—no wasted words. Additionally, the student’s current introduction lacks 1) contextual information about ‘My Shot’ and 2) intensity and excitement. If you are going to describe the intensity of a song, readers should feel that intensity. By integrating information about the tone of the song or a lyric from the song, readers will feel more connected to the work you are describing and thus, your essay as a whole.

 

Regarding structure, this student engages with parallel sentence structures in an attempt to keep the essay engaging. This is generally a good strategy, but this student’s overuse of parallel sentences becomes repetitive. This student could use more varied sentence structures to make their essay more interesting to read!

 

Emory University Essay Example 2

Prompt: Reflect on a personal experience where you intentionally expanded your cultural awareness. (150 words)

 

“Mama, there’s HOLES in the floor!” 

 

Utterly culture shocked, five year old me was horrified to learn that the sitting toilets of America were not a guarantee in China.

 

I can’t say I like squat toilets, but they’ve made me realize that many things I see as “ordinary” might be completely different in a different culture or country. 

 

Since my little fiasco, I have in fact spent time researching toilets: bidets, heated seats, ancient Roman sanitation systems (actually not very sanitary but A+ concept), the works. I find it fascinating to think about how the economic status and cultural standards of different countries affect their bathrooms. It’s shocking how something as universal as a toilet can have such deeper implications. Though I can’t say it’s something I think about every day, in my mind it’s a small testament to the diverse yet similar ways we live as a global community.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

This essay is outstanding! When you read it, you get to know the student—their endearing personality, solid sense of humor, and insightful thought processes—and you get to like the student.

 

The introduction is a major strength of this essay. The image of a little kiddo, with the best intentions, saying “Mama, there’s HOLES in the floor!”  gets us hooked. Through the sweetness behind the word “Mama” and the use of capitalization to articulate the young person’s astonishment, this student’s intentional writing creates a picture that has us interested right off the bat. They show their cultural experience, instead of just telling us what happened.

 

As we continue reading, we get to learn about the student’s thoughts. They position themself as the kind of student who is drawn to deep thought and can see the importance of small details and differences. This capacity for critical thought—especially as it relates to cultural differences—is appealing to admissions officers! Additionally, as they describe their critical thinking, they continue to highlight their endearing personality through humor, with parenthetical jokes like “ ancient Roman sanitation systems (actually not very sanitary but A+ concept).” This works great.

 

Finally, the student ties up their essay simply. This is important because they already did a bells-and-whistles introduction with dialogue. In a short essay like this, including an engaging introduction and a creative conclusion can make the essay feel overwhelming and forced in its attempt to engage readers. Sometimes the simple answer is best—and this student does simple so well!

 

What Could Be Improved 

 

The one major place for improvement for this student is their transition to the bulk of their essay. After their introductory dialogue, they write:

 

Utterly culture shocked, five year old me was horrified to learn that the sitting toilets of America were not a guarantee in China.

 

I can’t say I like squat toilets, but they’ve made me realize that many things I see as “ordinary” might be completely different in a different culture or country. 

 

Between these two sentences, a transition is lacking. A simple change to “ It’s been 13 years and I can’t say…” or “Writing this, thirteen years later, I can’t say…” would make this transition smoother.

 

This student could also tighten up some of their prose. Words like “many,” “might be,” and “in fact” can be changed or eliminated to achieve concision and clarity.

 

Finally, there are some small grammar issues that could have been caught with more thorough proofreading, including:

  • “culture shocked” → “culture-shocked”
  • “five year old me” → “five-year-old me”
  • “such deeper implications” → “much deeper implications”
  • “in my mind it’s” → “in my mind, it’s”

 

 

Emory University Essay Example 3

Prompt: If you could witness a historic event first-hand, what would it be, and why? (150 words)

 

I would love to join Nikola Tesla during one of his pigeon-feeding ventures. I’ve always had an affinity for scientist trivia, and this bird aficionado/innovator is undeniably my favorite. However, I’ve discovered that history accentuates so strongly on such scientists’ laboratory accomplishments that we perceive them as mythical beings rather than humans – to the point that we’re surprised whenever they participate in commonplace activities. We all know Tesla’s multitude of revolutionary inventions that are still ubiquitous in modern technology. Nevertheless, I aspire to go a step further; I believe there is a beauty and inspiration that can only be found by understanding scientists outside the lab, movie stars off-camera, and politicians away from microphones. Great minds aren’t necessarily defined by the moments that history records; many times, the most remarkable people are found lurking in the park with a handful of sunflower seeds.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

This essay is ripe with potential because the student picked an interesting topic—important people doing unimportant things! And, to articulate this topic, the student chose a great example—Nikola Tesla feeding pigeons. 

 

As discussed with the last example, critical thought is an appealing skill to advertise to admissions officers, and discussing the deeper significance of something mundane is a classic avenue for critical thinking.

 

What Could Be Improved 

 

While this student has the perfect set-up for an outstanding essay, their execution needs work for this essay to be truly effective. In its current state, the point gets muddled. For example, the essay currently reads:

 

However, I’ve discovered that history accentuates so strongly on such scientists’ laboratory accomplishments that we perceive them as mythical beings rather than humans – to the point that we’re surprised whenever they participate in commonplace activities. We all know Tesla’s multitude of revolutionary inventions that are still ubiquitous in modern technology. 

 

Though readers ultimately understand what this student is getting at, it takes too much work to parse through all of these transitions, sentences, and clauses. To articulate this point more clearly, the student could have written something engaging like:

 

On the news, in my classes, and even at my family’s dinner table, I constantly hear Tesla referred to as “the innovator of the future,” “our generation’s Einstein,” “the most brilliant man on the planet.” While I don’t deny his extensive list of scientific and engineering accomplishments, I am inclined to wonder when he stopped being seen as human. Is the Tesla on our screens a man or a mythical being?

 

As the student transitions to reflection, they write “ Nevertheless, I aspire to go a step further.”  This sentence is unnecessary, doesn’t make much sense in context, and should be eliminated. 

Finally, the student’s reflection should be more reflective! The first sentence of the reflection reads “I believe there is a beauty and inspiration that can only be found by understanding scientists outside the lab, movie stars off-camera, and politicians away from microphones.” This is a valuable point, but it goes entirely unexplained. Is the student saying that these well-known individuals gain their inspiration through their daily activities? Or is the student trying to say that the fact that these well-known individuals are just ordinary people inspires them as a student? The topic of “important people doing unimportant things” is perfect for reflection, but this student misses the opportunity. The essay needs to relate back to the applicant—Where do they get inspiration? Why is inspiration important? At the end of this essay, we still don’t know why Nikola Tesla’s pigeon-feeding matters to the student. We need more.

 

Emory University Essay Example 4

Prompt: If you could witness any event (past, present, or future) first-hand, what would it be, and why? (150 words)

 

Watching an old white man speak might not be the best way to spend my one chance to time travel, but something about William Henry Harrison’s inauguration has always piqued my curiosity. Not only did Harrison stubbornly refuse a coat, hat, and carriage on a disgustingly dreary day, but also gave the longest inaugural speech in US history—I imagine some were bored out of their minds. But it’s not the speech itself I’m interested in; it’s the desire to let the world hear all that you have to say, even if no one is listening. I often find myself bursting to share my thoughts on all kinds of issues: climate change, class, capitalism, but stop myself when I can’t find eager ears. Mr. Harrison died after (stupidly?) braving the elements to share his mind; I want to see that conviction with my own eyes.

 

What the Essay Did Well

 

It can be risky to write your college essay in a casual style, but this student pulls it off. In the first sentence, they use the phrase “old white man” to describe William Henry Harrison which, while descriptive, has become a colloquial assemblage of descriptors. That being said, for this student, it works because it makes their essay feel authentic. When reading this essay, we get the opportunity to walk through this student’s thought process with them:

 

  1. I’m not crazy about old white men
  2. But William Henry Harrison is pretty cool
  3. I think William Henry Harrison is so cool because he spoke his mind fearlessly
  4. It’s important to me to speak my mind fearlessly

 

Through this progression, we learn so much about the student—which is the entire point! The essay is your main opportunity to humanize yourself to admissions officers and this student really shows who they are as a human aside from test scores and extracurriculars.

 

What Could Be Improved 

 

This essay is fabulous—it’s clear and engaging, shows the student’s personality and values, and answers the prompt. 

 

The main change this essay could use is replacing the word ‘stupidly.’ While some students can make a casual tone work, presenting yourself as disrespectful to authority through such a harsh word (even if you really believe he is stupid!) isn’t ideal for admissions. Instead, this comedic parenthetical could have read ‘carelessly?’ or ‘foolishly?” These words would’ve gotten the student’s point across without being jarring.

 

Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free

 

It’s important that you submit the best essay you can to Emory, both for your peace of mind and your admissions chances. To make your essay stand out, you will need other people to give you feedback and ideas of areas for improvement. CollegeVine’s peer essay review tool can help. Other students will edit your essay for free, and you can edit your peers’ essays to help you improve your writing skills!

 

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Brooke Elkjer
Blog Writer

Short Bio
Brooke is going into her senior year at the University of Southern California and is originally from Dallas, Texas. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. Brooke is the associate literary producer for the intersectional feminist production company on campus, ART/EMIS. She also is a Resident Assistant (RA) and a student worker for the Thematic Option Honors GE Program. In her free time, Brooke enjoys reading, writing, and watching Gilmore Girls.

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