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How to Write the Emory University Short Essay Prompts

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Emory University is a highly-ranked university in Atlanta, Georgia with an acceptance rate under 24%. To be a part of the quarter of applicants to be accepted, you need to stand out from the rest of the crowd with your application.

While your extracurriculars, teacher recommendations, and standardized testing all work to reflect your achievements and potential as an academic, your essay will give you a chance to express yourself, your motivation, and your aspirations to Emory University.

Emory accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application and states that “admission staff is not, in any way, partial to one application over the other.” In your application, you will choose whether to apply to Emory College or Oxford College, or, if applying to both, which one you would prefer. 

In addition to the general Common App essay you will write, Emory requires you to answer two of the four essay prompts they provide. In this article, we will guide you through each essay prompt and give you some ideas on how to approach and answer the questions.

General Guidelines for the Emory 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.

Prompt 1 – Favorite Fiction/Nonfiction Work

What is your favorite fiction or non-fiction work (film, book, TV show, album, poem, or play)? Why?

This prompt is about something that has influenced you. Remember, focus on you throughout the essay. You shouldn’t focus so much on explaining what your favorite fiction/nonfiction work is that you forget to write about your growth.

  • You don’t need to choose something that might be required reading for school, so don’t feel like you have to write about how The Scarlet Letter changed your life.
  • In fact, choosing something that you sought out will more likely set yourself apart from the crowd.

Another point of note is that this doesn’t have to be a book. If a musical album has influenced you, write about it. Maybe even a video game caused you to think about the world differently. The work does not have to be sophisticated.

It should, however, be appropriate.

  • Try not to choose anything too raunchy, violent, or otherwise controversial in nature.
  • Your essay should appeal to the majority of people, and if the admissions officer reading your essay finds your favorite work offensive, that sets you at a massive disadvantage.

There are a lot of forms of media that are directly related to possible majors you want to pursue.

Maybe the Hamilton musical changed the way you think about historical figures, and now you want to examine historical and political figures.

Watching a documentary about nature could have sparked your passion for environmental sciences. Maybe your favorite medical television drama inspired you to reach out to your local hospital residents for mentorship.

Others may be less obvious.

  • For instance, maybe a particular video game frustrated you, so you hacked into it and added cheat codes.
  • While the game’s narrative may be secondary to your enjoyment, you could spin this topic in such a way to write about how it sparked your interest in computer science and cybersecurity.
  • Or, you enjoyed a film so much that you joined fan communities and dabbled in writing stories and making art based off of that fictional work.
  • You could write about how you discovered your love for storytelling and analysis because of that movie.

Because of the sheer scope of fictional and nonfictional work out there, there are a million directions to go. However you approach this topic, remember:

  1. The actual piece of work is only as relevant as you make it. The focus of this essay should be how it affected you, not why it’s the best book/film/show/album ever.
  2. Relate the work or its influence back to your academic pursuits. This essay shows more of your personality and thought process, but ultimately Emory wants to know your academic goals as well.
  3. Give examples of how the work changed your behavior. Telling the admissions office that you created a club or made a computer program because of the work will show how much you liked it more than just saying that it moved you. Plus, it shows motivation on your part to create and change the world around you.

Prompt 2 – Learning Motivation

What motivates you to learn?

This prompt is more direct than the last, but it can be a pitfall for less creative students. Remember that your essay is one of thousands, so avoid platitudes about better opportunities or self-improvement.

Think about the subject that most interests you. What about it makes you eager to learn? There are a few ways to approach that question.

  • The first is as a problem-solver. You’re the type who leaves no problem unresolved. What motivates you is the fact that there’s a mystery afoot. More than likely, you’re someone in a STEM-related field and you get a lot of satisfaction from working out something difficult or fixing something that’s broken.

If this is you, write about a particular problem that you had to research or learn about to solve. Maybe you applied mathematics, physics, and computer science to build the winning robot at a robotics competition. Maybe you took chemistry and used it to fix a pair of acetate glasses or optimize your school’s garden for bigger, better produce.

Then, write about a problem you’ve yet to solve and what steps you’re taking to solve it. Maybe you want to be the one to cure cancer or solve world hunger. What do you need to learn to reach the solution? The end goal is your motivation for learning, and as long as you know the steps, you can show Emory that you’re on your way to the solution.

  • The second is an analyzer. You learn in order to take ideas apart and look at them from a new angle. You might be more interested in the humanities, and you enjoy taking on new perspectives.

In this case, your motivation is all about understanding the world around you. Write about how a new experience broadened your horizons. Maybe a foreign exchange student talked about their country’s history differently than how your high school class taught it.

Maybe you read a book and interpreted it differently when you learned the historical context of the book. Maybe learning about a different political or philosophical ideology changed your outlook on the world.

In the second half of the essay, write how understanding new perspectives and approaching situations from different angles can improve society.

For instance, do a lot of our problems stem from the ignorance or misunderstanding of a situation? How can achieving a more nuanced understanding shape the world and bring people and ideas together? What do you plan to do to teach yourself and others?

While not every problem-solver is a STEM major and not every analyzer is a humanities major, you more than likely fall into one of these categories.

Your overall goal is to convey what drives you to learn about the subject you want to pursue. Let Emory know why you want to learn and what goals you want to achieve.

Prompt 3 – Community

What do you want to bring from your community to the Emory University community?

This takes on a different spin from traditional community-based essay prompts. Rather than asking you to identify your community and what it is that makes you belong, this prompt asks you to identify what you bring to your community, and what you can apply to other communities. 

First, you need to identify one of your communities, because you’re not just a part of one.

  • Perhaps you want to talk about your heritage and how your family shaped you.
  • Maybe you want to focus on a particular club or activity you spent a lot of time participating in, like marching band, cheerleading, or a sports team. Perhaps there’s an online community or subculture you identify with.

Whatever the community, you need to identify what your takeaway from the community is.

  • For instance, if your school had a “Helping Hands” club dedicated to volunteer work, you could write about how you’d like to organize volunteering opportunities for the students at Emory to help their community.

If you see Emory University’s student body as something vastly different from your community, you could write about how your community helped to form the unique perspective you’ll bring to the campus.

  • For example, if you are a part of a minority group like the LGBTQ community, you might choose to write about how your experiences taught you about tolerance and pride in your identity despite what others may say, and that you’ll work to help other students who are struggling with similar situations.

Remember that this prompt is asking what you will bring to Emory University. As such, the majority of your limited word space should be focused on how your presence on the campus will improve and shape Emory’s future.

Prompt 4 – Social Media

In the age of social media, what does engaging with integrity look like for you?

This prompt asks you to engage in a modern issue. Social media has been used to bring the world closer together, to better disseminate ideas and communicate faster. However, some people also use its anonymity to belittle and degrade others. Where do you stand, and how do you engage with those who choose the latter, lower path? 

Understand that social media is your own public platform. Do you have a responsibility to maintain a respectful presence? What consequences do your online actions have IRL?

Emory is looking for students whose values reflect their own. Many college students have faced expulsion for publishing racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory and demeaning content or sending another person a prejudiced and insensitive message. This essay should prove to the admissions officers that they should not have to worry about a scandal with your social media.

This is an opportunity to make a statement about your own personal code of ethics and how you resolve ugly situations. Get on that soapbox and let Emory know what you stand for. Do you report and block cyberbullies and trolls? Do you support and uplift others who have been hurt by their statements?

To get the most out of this essay prompt, describe a specific example in your life.

  • Were you or a friend cyberbullied?
  • How did that affect the way you use or perceive social media?
  • If so, what did you learn from it? How have you worked to redeem yourself and improve your character?

This prompt can be a landmine of issues, so try to avoid focusing on the messages or posts in question, as they aren’t the point. What you should emphasize is your reaction to such content and how you choose to conduct yourself in an online space.

Conclusion: Writing the Emory Essays

Emory’s varied essay prompts allow you to reveal a lot about your personality and character. Take full opportunity to do so, as the rest of your application will fill them in on your various academic accomplishments.

Remember to choose two of the four prompts. You only have 150 words to fully express your ideas, so budget your words for maximum impact.  

Need help finding the right direction to take your college essay? Let us help by enrolling in our college essay bootcamp.