Emory University is a private research university in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s ranked the No. 22 university in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. 8,605 undergraduate students attend Emory, and overall enrollment totals about 15,000.
Known for cutting-edge research opportunities, abundant real-world experiences, and an emphasis on academic freedom, it’s no surprise that over 30,000 students apply to Emory each year.
The competition is tough, but don’t worry — we’re here to tell you how to get into Emory University. In this guide, we’ll share lots of data, information, and advice to help you strengthen your application and increase your chances of acceptance.
Emory provides a rigorous liberal arts education within one of the nation’s top research universities. Its educational philosophy is rooted in a hands-on, inquiry-driven approach that spans the classroom, library, laboratory, area high schools, nonprofit organizations, community centers, and beyond. The average class size is 28, and 77% of classes have fewer than 30 students.
The university is home to four undergraduate colleges and seven graduate and professional schools. It offers over 80 majors, more than 60 minors, and 10 preprofessional programs. Professors are incredibly successful, yet they all have open office hours, and students describe them as “very feedback-oriented” and “respectful of their students.” 1 in 4 Emory undergraduates study abroad, and the university is the top producer of Fulbright winners.
Emory’s student body is known for diversity and happiness. Princeton Review ranks them among the Top 20 happiest in the nation, and quality of life at Emory is ranked fifth nationally. Students describe the campus atmosphere as “overall happy and light-hearted,” and supportive rather than competitive. There are over 325 student organizations available, and almost all students participate in volunteer work.
Greek life is prominent at Emory, but students also enjoy relaxing in campus coffee shops, hiking in Emory’s large nature preserve, and exploring downtown Atlanta. Popular “Experience Shuttles” take students to various Atlanta attractions each week. Named the No. 3 city to start a career by WalletHub, Atlanta is an excellent location that’s rich with opportunity, fun, and a 44,000-strong alumni network.
Is It Hard to Get Into Emory?
Emory’s most recent class was its most selective yet, with an acceptance rate of 10.6% (compared to 13% for the previous year, and about 18.5% in recent years).
For every 100 applicants, only 11 were accepted. The other 89 received a rejection.
In comparison to other universities, Emory’s most recent acceptance rate makes it extremely selective.
GPA and Test Scores
Students admitted to Emory University have an average unweighted GPA of 3.83 to 4.00. To be a competitive applicant, you should be at the top of your class with straight A’s or nearly straight A’s.
But what if your GPA is lower than Emory’s average range? If you’re still a freshman or sophomore, you have time to work hard and bring your grades up. If you’re already a junior, focus on making sure other areas of your application shine — test scores, letters of recommendation, your essays, and so on.
Emory is test-optional for students who would start in Fall 2023. It’s up to you whether to include ACT or SAT scores in your application. If you opt not to include them, Emory won’t count it against you. However, we highly recommend submitting test scores unless you feel they will give a negative impression of your academic ability.
The average ACT score for students admitted to Emory is a 34. The 25th percentile score is a 33, and the 75th percentile score is a 35.
Now, we’ll take a look at an SAT score breakdown for admitted students.
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
When you apply to a competitive school like Emory, your chances increase when you earn a score in the 75th percentile. Based on the data we’ve shared, that means you should aim for a:
- GPA of at least 3.83
- ACT score of 35, OR
- SAT score of 1560, with a 790 in Math and a 770 in Reading
These numbers are exceptional, and you’ll need to be close to Emory’s average range. But the admissions committee isn’t only looking for students with great numbers. There are several other factors they consider.
What Other Qualities Does Emory Look For?
Emory describes its student as “high achievers” and “a diverse and interesting group of courageous thinkers and engaged leaders who want to change the way we live in the world.” By highlighting these qualities in your application, you can show that you’re a great fit for Emory.
The university also looks for:
- Demonstrated engagement with your community and the world around you
- Intellectual curiosity
- Your unique voice
- Growth and reflection
- Honesty and integrity
- Extracurricular achievements
Ultimately, says Emory’s website, “We select students based on many attributes and are especially interested in those we believe will contribute to, as well as benefit from, our community…Admission decisions are comprehensive and there is no magic formula for selecting the perfect Emory student.”
What Should You Do in High School?
Now that we’ve covered all the information and data, let’s get to the fun part: strategy!
What can you do in high school to increase your chances of getting into Emory?
Excel in Challenging Classes
Emory’s website explains, “The classes you take and the grades you receive in them matter. We typically look for students who’ve taken more challenging classes (which can vary from high school to high school, and we take that into account, too) and have done well in them.”
So, Emory wants you to take the most challenging classes available at your school and excel in them. Take the AP or IB courses that are offered at your school. Performing well in these classes will show that you’re cut out for Emory’s rigorous curriculum.
Remember that the average student admitted to Emory has an unweighted GPA of 3.83-4.00. This means you should aim for straight A’s, or at least nearly straight A’s.
Take notes in every class and review them weekly. Study thoroughly for all tests and turn in all assignments on time. Be proactive if you struggle with the material or start to fall behind. Ask for help from a teacher, tutor, or another student who’s doing well in the class. Manage your time wisely, and don’t spread yourself too thin by taking on more activities than you can handle.
Earn Exceptional Test Scores
The SAT and ACT give you another chance to showcase your academic ability and further prove that you can succeed at Emory.
Emory superscores both the ACT and SAT. For the SAT, they consider the highest section scores across all test attempts submitted. For the ACT, the four best subject scores from all submitted test attempts are averaged to reach the highest composite score.
Although Emory is currently test-optional, we encourage you to aim for the highest score possible and take test prep seriously. Exemplary test scores won’t necessarily make up for a lower GPA, but they certainly won’t hurt. And if you have a strong GPA, great test scores can help set you apart from other applicants with similar grades.
Begin your test prep process a few months in advance using these steps:
- Take both the ACT and the SAT to see which exam works best for you. It’s a good idea to take the official tests to get a feel for test conditions, but alternatively, you can take practice tests of both exams.
- Once you’ve chosen an exam, use information from your score report or practice test to create a customized study plan. Note your strengths, weaknesses, and the specific skills or question types you struggle with.
- Consider buying a test prep guide — they’re packed with sample questions, helpful tips, and full-length practice tests.
- Block some time each week to read high-level texts, drill practice questions, and brush up on the skills you find most difficult.
- Continue taking practice tests to track your progress and adjust your plan as needed. You should also use the opportunity to practice pacing.
- With one month to go before your exam, focus exclusively on your area(s) of weakness.
- If your score is lower than you hoped, use your score report to build a plan for improvement. Use your updated study plan to repeat this process and retake the exam.
As you aim for the highest score possible, we recommend taking the exam no more than three times. And if you still aren’t happy with your score, remember that you aren’t required to submit it to Emory. Because exceptional test scores can give your application a nice boost, however, do your best to earn a score you’re proud to include with your application.
Pursue Your Passions
Emory seeks “students who will contribute well to the life of the university and to Atlanta and beyond.” They want to know what you’ll gain from the community and what you’ll give.
In addition, they want a “compelling glimpse of the real you,” and they look for applicants who “do not try to be anything they are not.” That means instead of trying to rack up a long list of impressive extracurricular activities, your task is much simpler: pursue your passions.
Commit to a few activities that you genuinely enjoy and try to make significant contributions, take on leadership roles, and earn awards and recognition when possible. Whether you love scientific research, experimenting with the culinary arts, playing the cello, writing short stories, or studying ancient history, pursue it wholeheartedly — with curiosity and enthusiasm.
Along the way, keep a record of your extracurricular participation. Note when you started participating in the activity, leadership roles you held or contributions you made, and any related achievements. Tracking your participation will make it easier to provide accurate, thorough information on your Emory application. It may even spark some inspiration for a fantastic application essay.
Engage With Your Community
We mentioned earlier that Emory’s website says they look for “engaged leaders who want to change the way we live in the world.” They appreciate applicants who have demonstrated engagement with their community and the world around them.
Serving your school, community, and the world will benefit society and you in many ways, including demonstrating that you’re a good fit for Emory.
Join an existing service organization or initiative in your area, or start your own. Having the drive and motivation to build your own nonprofit, find creative ways to raise funds for a cause you care about, or spearhead a social justice movement will make an especially strong impression.
Whatever you do, strive to make a positive impact on others in a way that is meaningful and inspiring to you. What problems in your school or community matter the most to you? What social justice issues are close to your heart? And what can you do to make a difference? Identify the causes that are important to the you and your community, then take steps to drive positive impact.
Just as you should track your extracurricular participation, you should keep a record of your community service involvement. Record what you did and why, how it made an impact, and how many hours you spent on the initiative. Your heart of service and motivation to impact your community now will show Emory’s admission committee that you’ll make an impact on campus, and in the wider world after you graduate.
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Emory Application Process and Checklist
You can apply to Emory University through the Common Application. When you fill out the Common Application, you can choose to apply to Emory College, Oxford College, or both.
Emory College is on the university’s main campus in Atlanta, while Oxford College is 38 miles east in Oxford, Georgia. While Emory Colleges is for first-year students through seniors, Oxford serves only first-year students and sophomores. To learn more about the differences between the two campuses, read Emory’s blog post Choosing the Best Campus for You.
Of course, it’s a good idea to apply to both Emory College and Oxford College to expand your opportunities for admission.
Your application will include:
- Official high school transcripts
- Self-reported test scores (optional)
- List of activities and achievements
- Secondary school report/counselor’s recommendation
- Two teacher letters of recommendation from core-area academic teachers
- Personal essay
- Emory supplement
If you’d like to submit optional supplemental materials like a resume, digital portfolio, or link to a YouTube page, you can upload them through your application portal.
Emory has an Alumni Interview Program, but most applicants will not be invited to interview due to the limited number of trained alumni volunteers.
If you’re invited to interview with alumni in your area, it’s an opportunity to discuss ideas that you’re passionate about in a low-key environment while learning more about the university and Atlanta. But if you aren’t invited for an interview, don’t worry; it won’t put you at a disadvantage at all.
Emory University Supplement
In addition to the personal statement, Emory applicants must answer two short answer questions, one about academic interests and one to help the admissions committee get to know you better.
Currently, the short answer questions are:
1) What academic areas are you interested in exploring in college? (200 words max.)
This topic is straightforward: Emory wants to know what you plan on studying in college. Admissions teams reason that if you have a solid plan for college and you’re excited about it, you’re more likely to have a successful college experience and career, and therefore more likely to be involved on campus and as an alum.
Describe the academic area(s) you plan to focus on, then dive into the specifics. If you want to major in engineering, what aspects of engineering are you most interested in? What excites you about these topics? What career do you hope to land with your degree? Are there research opportunities or internships you’d like to pursue (ideally referencing programs at Emory)?
You don’t have to answer all these questions — and you may not have space for it — but give a clear, detailed answer that shows you’ve put thought into your plans. And be sure to let your enthusiasm show!
If you don’t know what you want to do yet, don’t say so. Instead, choose an area or a couple areas that you’re thinking about, and go with that. Don’t be afraid to write about more than one area that aren’t closely related; after all, Emory encourages students to pursue interdisciplinary interests.
2) Respond to one of the following questions (100 words max.):
- Reflect on a personal experience where you intentionally expanded your cultural awareness.
- When was the last time you questioned something you had thought to be true?
- If you could witness a historic event (past, present, or future) first-hand, what would it be, and why?
- Share about a time when you were awestruck.
- Which book, character, song, monologue, or piece of work (fiction or non-fiction) seems made for you? Why?
You have a wide variety of options here, but the point is to reflect on something meaningful to you that has helped shape you into the person you are today.
Make sure to be honest and show your ability to reflect on and learn from your experiences. Tell the admissions committee something new and interesting about you that isn’t revealed in the rest of your application. Make clear connections between your interests, experiences, and goals. When possible, connect the story you’re sharing to why you’re a good fit for Emory.
As always, your short answers and your personal essay should:
- Directly answer the question.
- Be clear and concise. Avoid repeating yourself.
- Show your authentic voice and personality.
- Be personal: use specific details that create an essay only you could write. Show instead of telling.
- Use expressive language and interesting vocabulary.
- Reflect on why the topic is important to you, how it has impacted you, and/or what you’ve learned from the experience.
- Proofread carefully, and have a parent, teacher, or trusted friend read through your essay, too.
Lastly, don’t pressure yourself too much to find an impressive, never-seen-before topic. Write something you’re excited to write that shows more of your personality, character, and thought process to the Emory admissions team.
This example of a well-crafted essay Emory shared is essentially about not attending a high school dance, but the writer is honest, authentic, and reflective. The writing is simple, straightforward, and polished. The writer also emphasizes that if they expect change, they understand that they must be part of that change.
You don’t have to write something complex or mind-blowingly unique; you must simply be thoughtful, open, authentic, and capable of showing growth and reflection. As cliché as it may sound, you just have to write an essay that’s true to who you are.
You should also check out Emory’s vast collection of blog posts with essay tips and examples of student essays that worked — it’s a great resource to help you write memorable, impressive admissions essays.
Should You Apply Early to Emory?
Emory offers Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision. Here’s a breakdown of the deadlines for each plan:
|Application Plan||Application Deadline||Decision Notification|
|Early Decision I||November 1||December 15|
|Early Decision II||January 1||February 15|
|Regular Decision||January 1||April 1|
If you want to be considered for Emory’s merit-based scholarships, you must apply by November 15, the Emory University Scholar Programs deadline. You can still indicate whether you want to be considered under the Early Decision I, Early Decision II, or Regular Decision plan, and you will hear back by March 1.
As the table shows, the deadline for Early Decision II and Regular Decision is the same. The difference is that you’ll hear back from Emory much earlier if you apply Early Decision II. If you’re deciding between Early Decision I and Early Decision II, the second option gives you more time to prepare your application.
Both Early Decision plans at Emory are binding. According to Emory, this means, “If the university admits you, and we make the education affordable, you must pay your admission deposit and enroll.”
Choosing Your Application Plan
But will applying early to Emory give you an advantage? Going by the numbers, the answer is yes. Emory’s Early Decision acceptance rate is 32%, significantly higher than the overall acceptance rate of 10.6%.
Emory explains that the admissions committee uses the same review process for Early Decision and Regular Decision, but “admissions staff aren’t yet under the pressure of reading through hundreds and hundreds of applications. When the Admission Committee is evaluating applications during the early process, they have fewer applications overall to consider.”
However, the university also cautions, “We recommend against applying ED for students who are only considering the binding commitment for tactical reasons. Students focused on just ‘getting in’ and students who view applying ED solely as a strategic move, put simply, shouldn’t.”
Here’s the bottom line, from Emory’s website: “Simply put, if Emory University is your definitive first choice, and you are ready to make the commitment, then Early Decision is probably for you…ED is for students who have fallen in love with our campus and our mission. If Emory is the school that you measure all other schools by, and those schools always fail in comparison, then we would strongly encourage you to consider ED.”
If Emory is your clear first pick, we recommend applying Early Decision. Choose Early Decision I or Early Decision II based on how early you can have your application ready.
Final Thoughts: How to Get Into Emory University
Emory is an extremely selective school. Successful applicants demonstrate excellent academic ability, engagement with their community, intellectual curiosity, passion, and leadership.
Here’s how to get into Emory, or at least increase your chances:
- Take challenging classes and earn a GPA of 3.83-4.00.
- Score a 35 on the ACT, OR a 1560 on the SAT, with a 790 in Math and a 770 in Reading.
- Commit to extracurricular activities you’re passionate about, striving to serve in leadership roles, make significant contributions, and earn awards and recognition when possible.
- Serve your school, community, or the wider world in ways that are impactful to others and meaningful to you.
- When you write your essays, be authentic and reflective. Let your personality shine through, use specific details, and proofread carefully. Even the simplest topic, when written well and from your unique perspective, can make a big impact.
- If Emory is your first choice, apply Early Decision I or Early Decision II.
Combine these helpful tips with your academic excellence, and you’ll improve your chances of becoming a future Emory Eagle.