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Emory University undergraduate admission applications soar to record high

Songfest, where first-year residence halls compete for top honors, is one of the first traditions to welcome each incoming class to the Emory campus. With a record-breaking number of undergraduate applicants, the Class of 2021 will be among the strongest ever for the university. Emory Photo/Video

Applications for Emory University’s undergraduate programs have hit an all-time high, with a record-breaking total applicant pool of 24,114 students seeking to join the Class of 2021, an increase of 19 percent over last year.

“We’re really seeing growth on all fronts,” says John Latting, associate vice provost for enrollment and dean of admission.

Prospective students may choose between two paths when they apply to Emory University: They can enter Emory College of Arts and Sciences on the Atlanta campus, or study for their first two years at Oxford College on Emory's original campus in Oxford, Georgia. After sophomore year, students choose to complete their undergraduate degrees in Emory College, Goizueta Business School or the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

Both Emory College and Oxford College experienced double-digit increases in applications for this fall: Emory College applications were up 19 percent to 23,694 and Oxford College applications jumped 63 percent to 14,080. About 56 percent of applicants sought to be considered for admission to both colleges.

Applications were received from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from more than 65 countries, by citizenship. Emory also saw an increase in domestic diversity, with a rise in applications from African American and Latino/Hispanic students.

“This strong upsurge in applications reflects Emory’s outstanding reputation as a fiercely competitive, robustly collaborative and highly compassionate university,” says President Claire E. Sterk. “This pool of strong applicants symbolizes Emory’s value on the world stage.” 

A rise in academic excellence 

Beyond growth in overall applications, this year’s applicants also raised the standard for academic excellence, recording both higher grade point averages and overall test scores.

“In all the ways we measure academic preparation, this is a very strong class,” Latting says. 

The mean unweighted high school GPA for admitted Emory College students rose to 3.83, up from 3.80 last year, he notes. The mean SAT is 1475 on the new 1600-point scale; the average ACT composite score is 32.3.

A larger overall applicant pool also provided admissions officers flexibility in shaping the Class of 2021, selecting applicants who demonstrate the potential to be the best students for Emory — bright, curious, engaged learners committed to thriving in the classroom and contributing to the campus community, he says.

“More than ever, our decisions go beyond just scores and grades,” Latting emphasizes. “We’re asking big questions about what the person would be like as a member of the larger Emory community, what would they be like as a roommate, and above all, how would they be valued by faculty in the classroom?” 

As a result, the admission rate for the Regular Decision applicant pool dropped to 22 percent, down from 25 percent last year, according to Latting.

“What’s thrilling about this applicant pool is not only the increase in numbers, but the ways that the quality of the students match the aspirations of Emory as a liberal arts research university,” says Michael A. Elliott, interim dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences. "I am looking forward to the chance to convince the admitted students that Emory offers an undergraduate student experience that cannot be duplicated elsewhere.”

At Oxford College, the rise in both the number and academic qualifications of applicants is being met with enthusiasm. "The admitted Emory University Class of 2021 is simply fabulous, with an array of talented students from across the nation and world,” says Oxford College Dean Douglas A. Hicks. 

“To see the continuing rise in Emory's academic profile, at both Emory College and Oxford College, makes me look forward to welcoming this class in August,” he says. “My faculty colleagues look forward to teaching such a cohort of diverse and outstanding students. I encourage each of them, at this exciting moment of decision, to explore all that Emory and metro Atlanta have to offer."

Seeking the Emory difference

Latting attributes the record-breaking number of applications not only to “the broad-based work this office does, but everything that Emory does in connecting and communicating with more people."

“It’s evident that the world really needs diverse liberal arts research institutions that are supportive of members of the community, open to differences and welcome diversity,” he says. “In that regard, I think that Emory resonated really well this year with prospective students.”

Students were selected this year through a refined Committee-Based Evaluation (CBE) review process, which emphasizes the simultaneous evaluation of each application by two to three staff members. In addition, about 1,000 Emory alumni were engaged to help conduct face-to-face interviews.

“More than ever, our decisions were about more than just scores and grades,” Latting says. “When you read these applications, you see an incredible range of experiences. It’s great to see Emory connecting with so many different kinds of students from all over the world — to know that we have what they’re looking for and they’re seeking us out.”

Kelley Lips, dean of enrollment services for Oxford College, says the academic quality and profile of admitted students is the strongest Oxford has ever seen. 

She credits the rise in applications to Emory’s broad reputation for academic excellence and a heightened awareness of all that a liberal arts research university has to offer — as well as the collaborative work of admissions offices on both campuses.

“We’re really feeling a sense of momentum,” Lips says. “The growth in the overall number of applicants was quite remarkable, but the growth in highly qualified candidates this year has been most impressive. The students selected for admission have demonstrated not only academic talents, but also co-curricular accomplishments that will greatly benefit the Oxford community.”

Regular Decision notifications were released online March 23 through applicant portals. Admitted students have until May 1 to make their enrollment decisions.

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