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How to Write the Emory University Supplemental Essays 2020-2021 (With Examples!)

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Emory University is a highly-ranked university in Atlanta, Georgia with an acceptance rate under 24%.

So you want to go to Emory?

Who wouldn’t! Its beautiful Atlanta campus is calling, and you’re ready to answer. Perhaps the only thing standing in your way is those pesky supplemental essay questions. We’re here to help with that.

  • In the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, there are two supplemental question categories in Emory’s application, of which you get to pick one from each section. You’re limited to 150 words.

This is nothing more than a lengthy paragraph, which means you’ll have to be thoughtful, articulate, and make every word count. 

Guidelines for the Emory Supplemental Essays

Emory’s essay prompts are broad and can be answered in a number of ways.

While this can be daunting, it is a great opportunity for you to narrow down and focus on what you want to let the admissions office know about you.

Because these essays are not restrictive, you can take them wherever you need them to go, shaping the narrative to best suit you. 

However, don’t get too carried away.

  • These essay prompts have a maximum word count of 150 words.
  • In other words, you only have 300 words at most to dazzle Emory University with your personality and drive.
  • You need to be specific in your answers and clearly demonstrate your strengths and desire to be an Emory student. 

Your essay should add something new to your application, rather than just rehashing what you’ve already put in your application.

  • If you write about something you’ve already mentioned, like a club or a class, be sure to focus on what the admissions officers can’t extrapolate from what you’ve already said.

These essay prompts focus on you as an individual, rather than your interest in Emory or its various programs.

As such, you should write about yourself as a person more than an academic. Work to concentrate your essence into 300 words.

Emory Supplemental Essay Requirements

The “Reflections” Category, in which you can pick from one of the following: 

  • Share about a time when you questioned something that you believed to be true.
  • If you could go back in time, what advice would you offer yourself at the beginning of secondary/high school?
  • Reflect on a personal experience where you intentionally expanded your cultural awareness.

The “Tell us about you” Category

  • Which book, character, song, or piece of work (fiction or non-fiction) represents you, and why?
  • If you could witness a historic event first-hand, what would it be, and why?
  • Introduce yourself to your first-year Emory University roommate.

Tips From Emory

  1. Don’t stress about the right answer. Focus on being thoughtful and diligent.
  2. Demonstrate a curiosity for learning and how this has unfolded in your life so far.
  3. Use metaphors and anecdotes when appropriate. 
  4. Connect literature or other art with your answer when appropriate. 
  5. Cite your accomplishments when talking about your interests.
  6. Emphasize any challenges that you turned into opportunities.

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The Reflections Supplemental Essay: Option 1

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

This question gives you the chance to show that you are thoughtful, reflective, and open to personal growth and development. A few ideas to get you going: 

  • What values were you raised with? Are they different from the ones you have now? How did that change? 
  • Are there values that you have held onto despite their being challenged? If so, why? 
  • What are your core beliefs and principles, and how have they proved resilient throughout your life?
  • If you experienced a major change in principles, what was that emotional experience like? Would you describe it as a journey, a turning point, or an event? 

Consider that this event may have caused you to reaffirm or even change your belief, and either is fine. The important focus here is in the process. 

  • If possible, focus on a fundamental belief. Talk about what influenced you or caused you to question the belief, and the stages you went through in confirming or rejecting this belief and the effect it has on your life.
  • Remember, Emory prizes values of continuous learning and service. If you’re able to focus on a renewed commitment to either, do so. 

The Reflections Supplemental Essay: Option 2

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

As you’re nearing graduation, opportunities for reflection on this period abound. Here are some questions to guide your thinking: 

  • How would you describe yourself at that age? How would you have described yourself at the time? 
  • How has your personality changed? Why? 
  • How have your values changed? Were there specific events that changed them? What were they? 
  • Have your goals changed since then? If so, how and why? 
  • Do you have any regrets from this time period? Any key moments you would have handled differently?

This question is an opportunity to demonstrate change over the last few years. To that end: 

  • Try to focus on something that does not appear on your resume or elsewhere; give the reader a lens into something more personal. 
  • Use this essay as a chance to tie into any gaps or deficits in your application. For example, if your grades were poor at the start of high school and have trended upwards, connect it to your narrative. 

With only 150 words, you should consider opening this essay with a clear, eye-catching piece of advice and then elaborating from there. 

The Reflections Supplemental Essay: Option 3

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

Atlanta is a diverse city, and Emory a diverse campus. This essay is a chance to show your connection with and intention to remain in a diverse environment. Ask yourself: 

  • What culture were you born into? How do you identify or not identify with your cultural group? 
  • Can you identify any times you felt uncomfortable around another culture? How did you adapt? 
  • Is it important to you that people are aware of your culture? Why or why not? 
  • What ways do you seek out other cultures in your own life? 

There are some easy traps to fall into with this question. Don’t focus on cliches about diversity and wanting to experience lots of viewpoints. Instead:

  • Focus on yourself. This essay is about you after all. They want to know what process you went through to expand your cultural awareness, not why it’s important to the world at large. 

Reflect on how increased cultural awareness has expanded your commitment to continuous learning or service to others, the Emory values. 

Tell Us About You Supplemental Essay: Option 1

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

This essay is a great chance to share something more nuanced about your personality with the committee that might not appear elsewhere in your application. Nothing jumping to mind? Consider:

  • What stories have you been drawn to in your life? 
  • What character do you most relate to? 
  • What traits in your favorite story do you relate to? 
  • If you were to write your own biography, what would the major theme be? Where else have you seen that theme? 

If you choose to cite a work, remember to consider the overarching theme. For example, you wouldn’t say the Hunger Games represents you just because Katniss Everdeen is a strong female lead.

  • If you connect with a theme, use the entire work and focus on painting a picture of your life’s connection with that theme. If you choose a character, focus on the positive personality traits or opportunities to overcome obstacles that occurred for that character.
  • This is a great chance to use Emory’s tip of incorporating literature into your answers.

It’s only 150 words, so don’t retell the story! Focus on key themes and traits rather than background information.

Tell Us About You Supplemental Essay: Option 2

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

There are two approaches to this question: a personal connection and an intellectual curiosity. To help you choose the event that fits best for you, consider: 

  • What event shocked you most when you learned about it? 
  •  What events do you think shaped the world the most? 
  • Who are your heroes? Were there specific events associated with them? 
  • At an event, what are the most important sensory experiences? What do you want to hear, taste, smell, feel, see?

If you’ve chosen to explore a personal connection to a historical event, use this as a moment to give more context about yourself, your background, or your upbringing missing from other parts of the application. Otherwise,

  • Remember to balance curiosity with empathy. For example, do not say you would like to witness a violent battle without some regard for the fallout. Show that you are aware of the short and long term consequences of major historical events.
  • If possible, focus on an event that centered on justice, equity, or the advancement of humanity through learning. 

Once again, do not spend your valuable words recapping a historical event unless it is obscure. At most, give one sentence of context.

Tell Us About You Supplemental Essay: Option 3

Introduce yourself to your first-year Emory University roommate.

This essay is a replica of the classic Stanford Roommate essay. It is a tough one to do in 150 words. Focus on choosing the elements of your life that you feel are defining, and elaborate on one or two of them. 

  • What ideas are most important to you? 
  • What’s your favorite quote and why? 
  • How did you spend most of your time in high school? 
  • Why did you choose Emory?

This is not a laundry list or your resume; the reader already knows those things. This is a chance to elaborate on what makes you, you. 

  • Focus on the values that you hold dearest and how they play out in your everyday life. For example, if you are incredibly loyal and place value on friendship and community, talk about that. 
  • Try to incorporate personal intellectual or academic growth in some way, since that’s why you’re showing up at college. 

Conclusion: Emory Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Since you only have to pick one essay from each category, you have a lot more flexibility with Emory than other universities. Focus on these essays after you’ve finished your Common App essay.

Make sure your work sounds like you. If Emory is truly the right place for you, an admissions counselor should sense that you’d be happy joining their community. 

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