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Emory University 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Regular Decision: 

Emory University 2020-2021 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: Answer two of the four prompts. 150 words each.
Supplemental Essay Type: Oddball, Community

In addition to your Personal Statement, please answer two (2) of the prompts below. Choose one prompt from the “Reflections” category and one prompt from the “Tell us about you” category.
We encourage you to be thoughtful and not stress about what the right answer might be. We simply want to get to know you better. Each response should be no more than 150 words.


“Reflections” Category: Respond to one of the following.

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

This prompt is A LOT like the Common Application’s prompt #3. It requires a student to speak about beliefs and ideology, which are often onerous subjects that can be difficult to mold into compact stories. A response to this prompt can be incisive and deeply personal, as it was for a student who questioned her lifelong diet after she visited an animal sanctuary for the first time. As you consider this prompt, think back on those impassioned, “Aha!” moments that forced you to drastically reexamine a long-held belief. As you tell your story, include sensory details to make your experience defending the need for gender neutral bathrooms at your school or challenging Prince Harry’s suggested ban on Fortnite come to life. Applicants who can articulate their thoughts and feelings while showcasing malleability and willingness to thoughtfully consider the ideas of others will likely stand out as valuable additions to Emory University. If this prompt jumps out at you because you have a very specific story to tell or opinion to voice, run with it!

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

Admissions wants to picture you as a sage wizard, stroking your long white beard as you impart wisdom onto your younger self. So, have at it! Although this can totally be an opportunity to get a little silly, it’s also a moment for you to offer some perspective and think about what you’d like your younger self to know. What are some of the toughest challenges you have faced? And what have you learned from dealing with these struggles alongside your triumphs? As with service essays, if you are going to address a potentially common subject like bullying or body image, make sure to approach it from a truly unique and highly personal perspective. In the end, the essay should not be about the high school student experience in general, but rather about an aspect of teenage-hood you’ve chosen to highlight because of the way it affects or represents YOU.

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

Emory wants to accept applicants that are curious, open-minded, and socially aware. Admissions wants to bring students to campus who will not be afraid to question their own beliefs or biases, or to strive to consider different perspectives and points of view. So, how have you intentionally expanded your cultural awareness? Maybe you saw Juneteenth trending on Twitter this summer and had never heard of it before. Did you read articles to educate yourself? Reach out to friends or family members who were celebrating? What did you learn? Perhaps one of your friends put the kibosh on a joke you told during a Zoom party, so you took it upon yourself to better understand the subject matter and why your joke may have been insensitive or offensive. All of us are constantly learning and growing, so there’s no shame in being wrong about something as long as you seek to listen, retain information, and expand your horizons.

“Tell us about you” Category: Respond to one of the following.

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

In this prompt, Emory University is looking for more than just a summary of your favorite book. Admissions wants to know why a certain work of art is meaningful to you, and how it connects to your identity, history, or values. As with all supplemental essays, your goal should be to use this prompt as an opportunity to tell admissions something new about yourself through your relationship to a particular piece of art. Does “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou resonate with you as a young woman of color overcoming obstacles with courage and determination? Have you always felt that you and Allison from The Breakfast Club were cut from the same cloth? How come? Be careful to avoid self-aggrandizing or pandering choices rather than writing about works that truly speak to you. Don’t write about Charlotte Brontë unless you genuinely feel connected to her life and work. When you give admissions insight into the art that you feel is representative of your personality, experiences, or background, you will be revealing a fascinating, newfound piece of the complex puzzle that is you.

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

Emory is really not messing around with these questions! Your choice of topic, and what it communicates about you, is everything. Maybe you want to witness the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” a.k.a. the game-winning home run by Bobby Thomson in 1951 because you are a HUGE sports fan (and aspiring Human Health major with a Health Innovation concentration). Perhaps you want to witness Neil Armstrong’s first moon landing to experience one of the most exciting moments in the United States’ 20th century history (and you’re also a total outer space nerd). Be sure to dig into the empirical details to bring your particular event to life (let the reader hear Hodges’ frenzied cry of “The Giants win the pennant!” as the ball soars past the outfielders) and don’t ignore the critical “why” part of the question, which is asking you to connect your chosen historical scene to your own interests, passions, or experiences. Whatever you do, try to avoid subjects other students will likely flock to. MLK’s “I Had A Dream” speech is incredible, but it might not make for the best topic here — unless, of course, you have a highly personal story that connects to that moment. (There are always exceptions to the rules!)

Introduce yourself to your first-year Emory University roommate.

With this prompt, admissions is hoping to better understand how you represent yourself and  communicate with your peers. You can start by jotting down some ideas — whatever comes to mind! Would you want your roommate to know that you’re a night owl? A huge Tupac fan (though you don’t mind listening through your airpods if they prefer)? Maybe you’d want them to know that you’re an incredible poker player (with the card tricks to prove it),or that you’ll bring your oil diffuser to turn your dorm room into a lavender and rose paradise. Once you have a few ideas, start weaving them together to piece together a short story for admissions. Some things you might want to consider: What is it like to live with you? How do you like to represent yourself? What do you want people to know about you? And don’t forget that although you are meant to be writing this for a fellow freshman, an admissions officer will be the one reading it. TL;DR: Make sure a trusted relative or teacher approves of your response before hitting submit!

Please note: the information below relates to last year's essay prompts. We are going to update this guide with the prompts for 2021-22 as soon as they become available. Check back soon!
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