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An Open Letter to Juniors and Sophomores

These last few weeks have felt like something straight out of a movie typically filmed here in Atlanta. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its hold, perhaps like me, you are feeling caught off guard and unsure of what lies ahead. How will these next two months, six months, twelve months play out when it comes to going to college? I get it. That uncertainty about how to balance where you are now and what you had hoped to do during the coming months is a big deal. And it’s a big deal to us, too.

With everything going on, I wanted to offer some advice from me – to you.


Standardized Tests

So many tests have been postponed, testing locations closed until further notice or adjusted in a new modality. Those hallmark SATs and ACTs, plus, the SAT subject tests, and IB. For our international students, the Cambridge, IELTS, TOEFL and so many more–all of them cancelled until further notice or modified.

We understand that you may feel worried about those changes right now.

Give yourself a release. When things settle down, these standardized tests will make their return. Additionally, Emory’s Office of Admission will take into consideration that “life is different right now,” and adjust accordingly as we move forward. While no policy changes have yet been made for next year’s applications, we understand this is not a normal season for you or for us. We are thinking about these things, too.


Extracurricular Activities

So many of you had events to attend. New leadership roles to step into. Campaigns or policies you wanted to introduce. Or well laid-out summer programs or research programs to pursue.

But life is different now. And we understand that.

Remember these things:

  • Leadership doesn’t always come with a title. Your humanity and ability to engage with your own family, friends, and neighbors right now supports the well-being of the broader community.
  • Leverage this time to think deeply. Read for the joy of imagination, creativity, or curiosity. Connect with those you have been wanting to for quite some time but just didn’t seem to have the time before, regardless of who they are.
  • Be patient and present. Listen to your thoughts, and do good every day with what is around you. Be hopeful and be kind. Be good to one another. That matters today and tomorrow.


High School and Your Academics

Learn something every day, whether it is something new or something that you are taking a deep dive in. Listen to what you find yourself wanting to explore more deeply. All those great books, online lectures, and articles or teachers whom you have always admired–this time of unconventional routines is a great opportunity to reach out to mentors, leaders, and heroes.

Pay attention to what truly drives your mind to keep learning and moves your spirit to keep giving. It is in the crevices of these thoughts and adventures that you truly find what you are looking for in a community. Learn to listen to yourself and challenge yourself to achieve what you didn’t think possible. Find you own definition of joy in these moments.



Is this semester not the most unpredictable thing you’ve experienced in school so far? Same here!  We’re in this together.

Do your best with the opportunities presented to you through your school. Know that your high schools, teachers, administrators, and counselors are doing their best, as they, too, face a tremendous uncertainty.

Trust that we will honor the decisions your schools are making right now about classes for this year, classes for your senior year, and grades (including whether or not they’re going to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading scales).


Personal Time & Connection

Emory University, like many other universities, is working day and night to take care of our current students. There is nothing more telling than how an organization and its community behave in a time of crisis or deep unexpected change. We have been moved by the compassion of our community near and far.

This experience has also made us think about you, our high school juniors, sophomores, and parents, too.

You may be surprised to hear this, but one of the reasons we enjoy reading your essays and stories every year is because we get to understand what a generation is thinking about. We encourage you to own this time to think about what matters most to you. After all, there is no greater gift than the gift of time. Make April your personal time, and when you are ready to learn more about our community and share what’s on your mind, connect with us!

Here are some ways to see what makes Emory University different:

No matter where you end up at the end of this journey, we know you are going to achieve great things. You have a voice that inspires others. For us at Emory, we will stay steadfast in our mission to create, preserve, teach, and apply knowledge in the service of humanity. What matters most, especially in times like these is that goodness is pursued for all humanity. When all this has passed, may we realize that we have made new choices and created new ways to imagine our futures on this earth together.



Giselle F. Martin
Director of Recruitment and Talent
Office of Admission
Emory University




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This Post Has 36 Comments

  1. Dear Ms. Martin,

    Thank you for reaching out to us. Your letter gave me great reassurance during these very uncertain times! I am excited to learn more about Emory, and this letter demonstrates the genuine care of the admission officers and staff about its students and families.


  2. Thank you so much for the letter to upcoming juniors and seniors. Emory University has boosted my confidence because I am not the most academically profound student so I believed colleges wouldn’t email me, however I would like to attend college and excel in a major that would help me become a veterinarian.

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