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MAR 11, 2020 • 7 min read
Emory University, situated in Atlanta, GA is a phenomenal school for people in a variety of fields of study. In addition to your personal statement, Emory (like many other schools) wants to hear a bit more about how you think about the world around you. However, unlike many other schools, Emory’s supplemental essay format can be a little tricky to navigate.
In addition to your Personal Statement, please choose two (2) of the short answer prompts below. Each response should be no more than 150 words.
What is your favorite fiction or non-fiction work (film, book, TV show, album, poem, or play)? Why?
What motivates you to learn?
What do you want to bring from your community to the Emory University community?
In the age of social media, what does engaging with integrity look like for you?
This blog post is designed to help you get a lens into what the admissions officer is looking for from these questions and give concrete tips for your writing and editing processes.
The admissions officer wants insight into the ways you think and feel about yourself and the world around you. These questions are designed as different vehicles through which you can express things about yourself that you haven't been able to on the rest of your application.
Art/Film/Music/TV/Literature junkies - this one's for you. The key to answering this prompt is knowing that the work itself doesn't matter, as long as you don't choose something with an overtly bad or inappropriate message that could reflect on you as an applicant. Ask yourself: could someone read my essay and be offended?
Choose something you've been loving lately. The reasons that you love it should illuminate something about who you are. Don't choose something because you think it will make you sound smart or cultured. If you're having a hard time choosing a work, start by thinking about what you want to convey about yourself and then pick a work that embodies that.
Example: I look to Forrest Gump as a role model of kind, direct and honest communication. In a society where so much of what we mean is often masked and skirted around, and where people hide their insecurities and emotions to seem less vulnerable, I find myself in love with the open, unassuming, frank and loving nature of Forrest's interactions with the world around him.
This question's challenge lies in its vagueness. The key word here is "motivates." Personal anecdotes about times that you felt like you've loved learning will likely be very helpful here. Think back to times that made you excited about learning itself and free-write about those times.
Then, work that into a personal narrative that SHOWS rather than tells the experiences or desires or goals that push you to learn.
BEWARE: Vague questions like this are traps for cliché. Officers will groan about the essay that comes in saying "there is so much in the world to know and I can't wait to know more." This also goes without saying, but money (while a valid reason for many applicants to want a college education) is a no-go for this essay response.
Think to yourself: could someone else be saying precisely the same thing? If so dig deeper for personal experiences and put the reader in those moments.
Example: The first time I took apart a VCR, I remember sitting in my parent's basement for hours, staring at the landscape of capacitors, transistors, and circuits that zig-zagged across the cheap, plastic box and wondering how these pieces of metal made Bugs Bunny appear on a screen. I've only gone deeper down that rabbit hole since, fascinated by taking apart and putting back together the wires and potentiometers in a wah-wah pedal that make Jimi Hendrix's guitar sound as if it's talking. I am fascinated with the ways simple, tangible, physical things can create such sublime complexity.
What are the things about your community that have made you who you are? This is a good time to 'go deep' into a specific element of your community -- conversations you've had with friends, mentors you've learned from, etc. -- that has meant a lot to you and that you personally feel you could help bring to Emory.
Example: Most nights before tests and exams, rather than cramming material alone under a desk lamp, I find myself lying prone on my basement floor next to my four best friends and a bag of chips and salsa, index cards and mini whiteboards scattered in front of us, as we quiz each other on chemical equilibrium problems or history terms. We cared a lot about each other and as a result weren't afraid to be wrong - we could help and ask for help without worry. I want to bring the collaborative and communal approach to studying that defined my high school experience to college. I hope to find another space where people can create friendships and teamwork by gathering around a bowl of chips and salsa discussing a chemistry problem.
This question can be misleading. To understand it we need to define integrity. The nature of this question is implicitly juxtaposing social media and integrity. In this case, they are saying that social media is an arena in which it is hard to interact with integrity - we often curate an aspirational sense of self that is not entirely honest or realistic on these online platforms.
What does integrity look like to you in opposition to this culture? Think about times that you've felt tempted to engage with social media in a way that you wouldn't engage face to face. What was going through your mind at that moment? Have you ever been tempted to post something that you wouldn't show IRL? Why? And how do you combat this? How do you feel when you receive likes? When you don't? Is this problematic? Why or why not?
How among all these questions do you stick to your principles and ethics in a time where there is so much temptation to do otherwise?
This is a tough question that requires a lot of vulnerability, but remember they want to get a lens into YOU so be honest about moments that you've felt weak and show how you grew from them.
A note on editing:
These essays are short! 150 words is not a lot of space to answer these big questions. To make sure you're using your words wisely ask yourself?
If your answer is "no" to all three questions, get rid of the sentence. In such a short essay there is no room for purely transitional or contextual sentences.
Good luck with this application!