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How to Write Excellent Emory Essays     2020-2021

If you’re applying to Emory University, you’ll have to submit two short Emory essays along with your Common or Coalition App personal statement. These supplemental essays can help you show admissions readers some aspects of yourself not highlighted elsewhere in your Emory application.

Let’s look at how to pick the two best prompts for you out of the six options, and how to begin generating compelling material for your Emory essays.

Instructions: Students will write two short essays, choosing one prompt from each category with a maximum word count of 150 words for each essay.


Category One: “Reflections”

  • Share about a time when you questioned something that you believed to be true.

Choose this prompt if: you can think of a particularly life-changing moment that opened your eyes to a different way of seeing the world. Although this prompt calls for you to reflect on some inner growth, you’ll also want to highlight concrete ways you took action based on this growth. Perhaps an inspiring math teacher changed your mind about math being boring, and you ended up diving deep into the subject, watching YouTube videos on math, and even competing in the Math Olympiad. A different approach might be to discuss how questioning a belief actually helped you reaffirm how much that belief means to you. For example, maybe you began to doubt your belief in the dire urgency of the climate crisis, but after studying the issue, you became more committed than ever to working towards a solution. Maybe you sought a summer internship with NASA to get involved with climate research.


  • If you could go back in time, what advice would you offer yourself at the beginning of secondary/high school?

Choose this prompt if: you’ve overcome a big challenge during high school or changed in a significant way. For example, maybe you started high school feeling shy about speaking up, and ended up leading your debate team to a roaring victory. That’s an example of personal growth! If you feel like you’ve really improved at something or developed new strengths during high school, this prompt is for you. Alternately, if you want to take a different approach, you could discuss how you overcame a significant challenge during high school. Either way, as you write to your past self, try to focus on one specific experience or challenge where you grew as a person.


  • Reflect on a personal experience where you intentionally expanded your cultural awareness.

Choose this prompt if: you made a conscious decision to learn about a specific culture during high school (in or out of class). Whether you spent a summer in a language immersion program, went to a protest, or challenged yourself to read 50 books by marginalized authors, you are someone who steps outside of your comfort zone. Try to be specific about why you chose to write about a certain experience, and how it had a lasting impact on your interests, values, or goals. Tip: the key word in this prompt is “intentional.” Admissions readers want to know what you do when it’s not required of you.



Category Two: “Tell us about you”

  • Which book, character, song, or piece of work (fiction or non-fiction) represents you, and why?

Choose this prompt if: there’s some particular work that you’ve enjoyed over and over again and never get tired of talking about. Are your friends sick of listening to your eternally-evolving interpretations of Hamlet’s third soliloquy? Fear not: admissions readers may enjoy hearing all about it! You might choose a work because you could imagine yourself as a character in its story, or you might just feel that the work captures a theme or delves into a subject that’s especially important to you. So, whether you’re a modern-day, Milky-Way-based Princess Leia, or Pharrell’s “Happy” perfectly describes your personality and outlook, or you spend your days pondering the ideas in “A Brief History of Time,” be sure to show readers specific reasons that this work of art, literature, or music speaks to you and impacts your decisions.


  • If you could witness a historic event first-hand, what would it be, and why?

Choose this prompt if: you’re a history buff, or are simply drawn to a particular past event because it relates to a passion of yours. Don’t spend too much time describing the event; just use enough details to give a glimpse of how it might affect you as you experience it. Let’s say, for example, you’re listening to Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg address or watching Rosa Parks refuse to surrender her bus seat. Show what your thoughts and feelings might be in those moments. Then, consider exploring how this event relates to your current life or to current events that fascinate you. You might even briefly look to the future: how might you carry on a particular cause or apply a lesson learned from witnessing the historical event?


  • Introduce yourself to your first-year Emory University roommate.

Choose this prompt if: you’re excited about being a part of the community at Emory, and you feel like you have a lot to say about it. In your letter to your roommate, you’ll have the opportunity to drop in some clues about why you’d be a great addition to the Emory community. For example, you could talk about how you’ll share your unique interests or talents with others. Maybe you’re a history buff and you can offer your roommate a one-of-a-kind tour at the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Maybe you’re a great cook who can whip up surprising delicacies in a dorm microwave, and you’ll make treats when your roommate is cramming for a test. You could also share details about what you’re looking forward to at Emory. For example, maybe you’re excited about specific campus events, traditions, or student groups. Either way, in between the introductions and pleasantries, try to give readers a sense of why you’d be a great person to be around!

When you approach these Emory essays, remember: you’ll be able to develop your most compelling content by picking the two Emory essay prompts that excite you the most!

Click here for our guide to the Common App essay

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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