How To Write The Emory University Supplemental Essays (2019-2020)



Welcome to the Emory University supplemental essay prompts for the 2019-2020 application cycle! Here's everything you need to know.


(You can refer to the Emory University website if you want to see how exactly they're presenting their essay prompts for this year.)


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. (Max. 150 words each)


“Reflections Category: Respond to one of the following.


1. Share about something you want to bring from your community to the Emory University community.


This is a great opportunity for you to share a personal story about something that doesn’t already appear in your application. It’s also Emory’s version of the classic “Community/Diversity Essay.”


As always, supplemental essays require that you do some serious research into the schools you are writing them for. You shouldn’t just copy and paste the “Community Essay” you wrote for Duke (or wherever) without first considering carefully whether it fits.


This is a great time to put your entrepreneurial hat back on and ask yourself what may be lacking at Emory, and how you can fill that gap. It’s not enough to say that, because you’re from Massachusetts, you’re going to bring the spirit of New England and a love for the Patriots to Atlanta—there are already plenty of Bay Staters at Emory (and on just about every other campus in the country). If there’s something unusual or quirky about where you’re from—something about your neighborhood, school, community of any kind that you really wouldn’t find at Emory—give this question a shot. As always, focus on small, meaningful details. For these questions, we never want your life’s story. Make sure you’ve got a tale you can tell in 150 words.





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


This one has the potential to be pretty heavy. Good luck discussing the meaning of life in such a short response. Remember that my advice is always to think small, so although questions of religion or politics might seem like obvious potential subject matter here, I wouldn’t recommend them in most cases.


On the other hand, the moment you learned the Easter Bunny wasn’t real—while it may be a cute story—probably isn’t a great choice either because it’s a more-or-less universal experience for anyone who grew up celebrating Easter with egg hunts. I know you weren’t going to write about the Easter Bunny, but the same advice holds true of any kind of revelation that for many people is just part of growing up (babies coming from storks, and so on).


If you’re looking for inspiration you might check out this segment of a great This American Life episode on “Kid Logic.” You’ll find entertaining examples of simple, quirky stories about learning that something you believed was wrong.


3. Emory University’s shield is a crossed torch and trumpet representing the light of learning and the proclamation of knowledge. It symbolizes our mission to impact the world through discovery. What truth or knowledge do you want to see shared?


This isn’t the first question where Emory seems to be asking you to think big—but they’re not. This probably isn’t the time or place to preach the dangers of the climate crisis, for example, or any big issue you think deserves to be proclaimed. It’s just too much for the space you’ve got, and big issues are often hard to frame convincingly in personal terms since they tend to affect many, many people.


This could be a great question for anyone who’s undertaken meaningful projects in activism. If you’ve founded your own organization to combat a program that affects you or your family personally, and that many people may not know much about, you can talk about that work. Keep a matter-of-fact tone, as always, when talking about your impressive accomplishments.


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


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


I like these questions. One of the great things about literature is how deeply personal the experience of reading can be for so many people in so many different ways. Books, and the characters in them, can say a great deal about who we are, and sometimes they even help us define ourselves.


As always, when you’re asked about books, don’t talk about required high school reading. And keep in mind that your choice, while it may hold a deeply personal significance for you, will also evoke ideas in your reader. So, Holden Caulfield—regardless of what he means to you—is probably a bad choice, both because everyone has read The Catcher in the Rye by the time they graduate high school, and because no one wants Holden on campus. Same rules apply to Raskolnikov, Jay Gatsby, Macbeth, Meursault, Michael Corleone, Scarlett O’Hara, and so on.


If you’ve already written something rather literary for the personal statement, you probably don’t want to answer this question. As with any essay choice, don’t repeat yourself. Supplemental essays help you show yourself as a three-dimensional human being, and while it’s true that pointy is good when it comes to your activities list, essays are about your personality.


My students will have to persuade me that writing about a song is a good idea, unless it’s a truly improbable and interesting choice. Songs tend to be a little like Zodiac signs—they’re so broad and general as to describe just about anyone.


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


This question will work best for students who are genuinely interested in history. Don’t say the signing of the Declaration of Independence just because you think that sounds sophisticated.


The event you choose should either be linked to a genuine academic curiosity, or else hold some other personal significance. Make sure you’re clear on why this event. Tie it to your personal (academic) story.


3. If asked to write a 150-word tweet to tell the world who you are, what would you say? (Yes, the actual Twitter character limit would likely be shorter than 150 words, but thanks for indulging us.)


Right, OK, but if it’s 150 words, in what way is it a tweet?! Why not just say, “If asked to write a 150-word supplemental essay by Emory, what would you say?” Anyway. Write a second personal statement the way you write on Twitter, I guess. If this sounds like a fun creative writing exercise to you, go for it. Remember that you’re still applying to college, so your grammar and spelling should still be correct. (Even though certain political leaders don’t proofread their tweets, you should proofread this essay.)


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