How to Write the Emory University Application Essays 2018-2019
Emory University, a medium-sized research university with a strong liberal arts foundation, has a wide array of majors and opportunities. Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Emory is in close proximity to the Center for Disease Control and eighteen Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, Emory partners with the Carter Center, a non-governmental organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter, which seeks to eradicate poverty and disease and advance democracy. Emory has 550 clubs and organizations, many with an emphasis on service.
With strong programs and resources, Emory has seen an increase in applications. For the class of 2022, Emory received 27,982 applications, a 16% increase from the class of 2021, with an 18.5% acceptance rate 3.5% lower than the year before.
Along with an increase in application number, Emory also saw an increase in selectivity. The class of 2022 had an average SAT score of 1500 and average unweighted GPA of 3.91 —those in the class of 2021 had 1475 and 3.83, respectively.
President Claire E. Sterk commented on the class of 2022: “The depth and diversity of this year’s record-setting applicant pool showcases Emory’s reputation as a home for students and faculty dedicated to both academic excellence and making transformative contributions to the world. We look forward to welcoming these students to Emory’s community of committed, engaged scholars and future leaders in a world that faces drastic changes.”
If you hope to join this community of committed, engaged scholars and future leaders, the CollegeVine Essay Team is here to break down how to approach each prompt.
Emory University Application Essay Prompts
All applicants to Emory University must answer supplemental essay questions. We’ll break down each of these prompts to help you optimize your answers. Here are Emory’s instructions:
These prompts give Emory a chance to learn about you and who you will be on campus. Because these prompts are specific to Emory, they highlight what Emory wants in their students.
In the campus news, John Latting, associate vice provost for enrollment and dean of admission, commented on the 2018 applications cycle for the class of 2022: “We are moving beyond focusing on students who have the ability to do something wonderful to those who will. Emory is attractive not just for its liberal arts and research excellence but for students who are thinking of how to have a positive influence on the world.”
Each of these essays also have a word limit of 150 words, which means that you will need to be concise and to the point. Emory wants to know as much about the different sides of you as possible in a short amount of time. So don’t waste your words talking about the same parts of yourself, either in your two supplement essays or in your Common App essay.
A note on picking prompts: don’t just pick the prompt you think they want you to answer, pick the prompt that will showcase the best parts of yourself. These prompts are very personal and offer a lot of room for self-expression. Do not abuse this opportunity in a blatant attempt to stand out by trying to be “edgy” or “uncouth” for shock value. At the end of the day, your goal is not to just stand out, but to convince the reader that you will be a positive addition to the Emory campus community.
When asked what your favorite work is, you may be tempted to highlight your intellect by talking about a book you read in a high school english class, such as A Tale of Two Cities or Pride and Prejudice. However, this question is an opportunity for you to share what you value and care about. Don’t waste this opportunity just trying to sound smart. Your transcript and test scores will establish your academic abilities — your essays are your chance to showcase your personality.
The most important aspect of this essay is to be true to yourself. Don’t overthink the work you choose! Choose a work that really means a lot to you and will allow you to demonstrate an interesting part of your personality.
Below are a few different approaches of types of works and what you can use them to showcase:
Academic: There are a lot of books tangentially related to your academic pursuits, like When Breath Becomes Air for biology majors or The Big Short for economics majors. These books can offer a platform to discuss aspects of your academic passions that extend beyond the classroom. For example, the fragile balance between patient care and technology or the implications of financial instruments on a larger society.
Memories: If there’s a musical work that you associate with a memory, like the first song you performed on stage or the song you listened to right before a big sports game, this question can be a way for you to talk about what you learned from that special moment in your life.
Alternate Realities: Many movies and musicals demonstrate parts of life that you probably don’t normally encounter, from Star Wars to Hamilton to Grey’s Anatomy. Maybe these alternate realities spurred an interest in a topic that you would not have come across otherwise or just showed you a different type of life you never imagined.
Inspiration: From autobiographies with interesting life philosophies or movies with an all-asian ensemble, media can inspire us. By sharing how a work inspired you, you can also share what motivates and drives you.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which work you choose. The bulk of this essay lies in the “why?” By being really specific in the “why?”, you can really showcase what you value. Don’t waste your limited word count on explaining the plot of a work: the reader can easily google a plot summary if they’re curious. Of course, you should provide some context to explain the “why?”, but don’t spend the majority of your essay summarizing.
A note about intellectual maturity: While you don’t need to pick an incredibly intellectual work such as Anna Karenina, you should probably stay away from anything incredibly immature such as Spongebob or Finding Nemo. Although you could probably learn a lot from these works, it would require a lot more work to recover from the initial reaction to a movie for children.
As mentioned above, Latting describes the students that Emory appeals to as “students who are thinking of how to have a positive influence on the world.” This prompt gives you a wonderful opportunity to showcase your motivations and how you fit into the type of environment that Emory is cultivating. You can demonstrate not only what you care about, but also your desire to take action to change the world around you.
This question requires a lot of deep reflection, and it may be difficult for some to articulate the abstract idea of motivation. Think about what inspires you to study when you would rather be sleeping or playing basketball with your friends. Is it your family, an event in your past, or the hope for a better future? Continue asking yourself the hard questions until you can pinpoint what inspires you to keep working.
For this question, it is very important to avoid clichés. Admissions officers read hundreds of essays every day, and it can be really easy for essays to blend together if they are full of general or vague statements like “learning is the path to success” or “I value knowledge above all else.” Anecdotes are one way to help your essays stand out: no one else has the same experiences you do, so your stories will make you unique. Anecdotes can become the springboard for the analysis of your inspirations.
Be careful not to attribute your motivation to politically incorrect desires for fame or wealth. Emory wants to create a community of students who will better the world, not students who are on a quest for wealth and power. Think about your deeper motivations, and use anecdotes to “show, not tell.”
When answering this prompt, be sure to address the following in addition to the main prompt:
- What kind of environment are you from?
- Who and what do you interact with most commonly and most memorably?
This question serves two purposes: it gives Emory an opportunity to learn more about your values and to understand what you will bring to campus. This question allows you to draw parallels between what you are currently active in and what you will be active in at Emory. In a way, this question also asks “Why Emory?” The most important part of this question is to emphasize how you match with Emory, so you need to talk about you and about Emory.
Emory is a relatively small university, with a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,861. Especially evident at their secondary Oxford College campus, Emory fosters a tight sense of community among their student body. Focus on painting the picture of who you will be on campus and how you will make an impact.
Here are some examples of ways to create parallels between your community and Emory:
Volunteer work: If you’re engaged in community service, look for similar volunteer programs at Emory.
Ethnic or religious community: Your cultural background may be a big part of your home life, and Emory has programs and clubs that can fill the void you may feel by leaving your community. If Emory doesn’t have a club, you can always start one!
Academics: Maybe you appreciate the support system of your local high school. Emory also has programs to help new students adapt, such as the Emory STEER team. Beyond support systems, Emory also has small class sizes, and you’ll have ample opportunity to grow closer to your professors. All of this may offer you an academic environment that feels like what you love about your own high school.
As mentioned earlier, Emory is located in Atlanta, which is also the home to eighteen Fortune 500 companies. In such a bustling cosmopolitan city, emerging technologies play a large role. Emory is also a leading research university looking for students who want to change the world, and innovation is one way to do so. In today’s environment, technological advances have created a quickly evolving society where norms of morality can’t always keep up. Emory wants to make sure that it’s creating a community of future leaders whose innovations are based in a strong ethical code. This is your opportunity to discuss your own personal moral compass.
Ultimately, this prompt is asking about two things: your definition of integrity, and how you apply this definition to engaging in social media, a world where users can hide behind their screens and suffer few consequences for their actions.
Integrity can generally be defined as honesty and moral uprightness. Of course, this is a broad definition that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Essentially, Emory wants you to reflect on and define your own moral code. What would you consider breaking your moral principles? How do you prevent violations of your moral code of conduct?
Here are a few questions to help you get started:
- What sort of actions trigger a gut “this is wrong” reaction?
- What makes these actions so wrong?
- How do you avoid these actions?
- How would you discourage or explain these actions in those who are new to social media?
- What would you do if you saw someone else engaged in one of these actions?
Once you’ve defined your own personal moral code, reflect on how it shapes your interactions with social media. Social media can make abiding by your own ethical code difficult, as there can be few connections between your actions and your own identity. In a world where information can be quickly and anonymously shared, Emory wants to ensure that you will engage with integrity.
Below are a few aspects of social media with interesting moral implications for you to reflect upon:
- Photoshop: Is it dishonest to use photoshop to make yourself look better?
- Curation: Would only posting pictures that showcase the best aspects of yourself be considered a dishonest self depiction?
- Clickbait: Should you use blatant over-exaggerations to increase viewership?
- Anonymity: How does anonymity encourage unethical conduct, such as virulent comments or cyberbullying. How do you resist the temptation of hiding behind your anonymity online?
- Fake news: Where does the responsibility for verifying viral news lie: in the social media companies that allow them to flourish or in the consumers of information?
- Sponsorships: Would you trust the opinion of someone who endorses a product that they’ve been sent for free to review? E.g.: the opinion of a popular beauty guru on a foundation she received in a PR package.
Above all else, make sure to connect this essay to yourself, by using anecdotes and personal examples. Everyone defines integrity slightly differently, and everyone interacts with social media in different ways. Efficiently conveying your uniqueness through anecdotes and personal reflection will give your voice a chance to shine and stand out amongst other applicants.
We hope this guide was helpful and has allowed you to tackle Emory’s application with the utmost confidence. Happy writing!
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