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Holistic Application Review

Going beyond test scores

We are often asked by students how to make their applications stand out. Students want to know the magic number of test scores, GPA, or AP/IB classes that they need to take to get admitted to Emory University.

Some people think that we have a fixed equation, determined by a computer program, to assess admissibility. Perhaps it would look something like this:


Well, thankfully Emory doesn’t work that way. Let’s take a few minutes to set the record straight.

At Emory University, there is no magic formula. There is not a secret computer stashed away in a dark, dank administration building where a student’s academic record is plugged in, and it spits out an “admit” or “deny” decision. This is 2019 after all!

So if there’s no formula, what are we looking for?

When Emory University admission staff read applications, we always have the campus community—both inside and outside the classroom—in mind.

For us, this primarily means finding students who can thrive in our rigorous academic environment. The applicant’s high school class choices gives us the best indication of whether they’re a good fit for the university. We ask ourselves, “Did the they take the most challenging classes offered at their school? How did they do?”

Beyond that, we are also looking for character traits, educational pursuits, and community awareness that would compliment and blend into this campus community. Most Emory University students, regardless of major, have multiple interests and passions—whether it’s the arts, community service, medical research, theater, entrepreneurship, or athletics. We want to know what makes you happy and how your community/family/school has benefited from who you are as a person.

When all that is said, done, and read, then we’re finally looking at a student’s test scores. Normally these confirm what we already see in a transcript, letters of recommendations, or short answer responses.


Take the Deans’ word for it

John Latting, dean of admission for Emory University, continually encourages us as an admission staff to think about the person behind each application. Kelley Lips, dean of enrollment services for Oxford College, encourages us to look at the big picture of the applicant in the moment of their high school experience.

We want to identify who each student is as a learner in academia and also who they are in their community.  Is the student fully-engaged with their world—wherever that might be and whomever that might include? Is the student determined? Courageous? Intentional? Ethical?

We are looking for students who will be challenging for the faculty, exciting in the classroom, and a catalyst in the community.

So, we see our jobs as admission staff not only to evaluate high school performance (those high level classes, test scores, and out-of-school activities or commitments), but also do our best to predict college success and fit with the Emory University ethos—performing at a high level and aimed at doing good in the global community.



Don’t hesitate to connect with us by posting a comment to this blog, tweeting us @emoryadmission, or emailing us at We look forward to hearing from you!



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This Post Has One Comment

  1. I agree that applicants not only need to show their strong academic capabilities, they also should be part of the community and provide positive values. I like to organize fun activities in my school, be part of the music group, volunteer at in our community, etc. I hope I can do the same when I study at Emory.

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