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Academic excellence distinguishes Emory's newest class

From engagement beyond the classroom to high test scores, academic excellence has emerged as the hallmark quality that distinguishes the spectrum of applicants eager to join the Class of 2020.

Each spring, the pool of students invited to create Emory's newest first-year class reflects its own unique identity, as individualized as a thumbprint.

From engagement beyond the classroom to high test scores, academic excellence has emerged as the hallmark quality that distinguishes the spectrum of applicants eager to join the Class of 2020, says John Latting, dean of admission and assistant vice provost for undergraduate enrollment.

“Throughout the year, we’ve been seeing a more diverse pool of applicants and in particular increased numbers of truly top scholars," Latting says. "From an academic standpoint, that was noticeable."

Beyond improved test scores — average SATs were up 15 points over last year, marking the highest ever for Emory College of Arts and Sciences — admissions officers also saw students who exemplified what they most hope to see in applicants, “a sense of academic engagement, preparation, talent and scholarship potential that has really moved forward,” he says.

“Prospective and current undergraduate students tell us that they are attracted by the Emory undergraduate experience,” says Claire E. Sterk, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Specifically, they mention Emory’s academic reputation, opportunities to pursue research, and the partnership between a liberal arts research university with a strong health sciences center.”

“We’re seeing people gravitating to Emory because of their academic aspirations,” Latting says. “It’s really clear that we’re increasingly coming to the foreground for students who deeply value educational quality.”

This week, some 3,989 high school students will receive packets inviting them to join the next freshman class at Emory College, after initial regular admission decisions were released online March 30. Hundreds of others were previously contacted through the early admissions process, Latting says.

The total number of admitted freshmen for the 2016-2017 academic year is 4,927 for Emory College and 3,282 for Oxford College; over 1,000 of those students won admission to both Emory and Oxford College and may choose between them.

Emory College received applications from 19,924 students, marking Emory’s second-highest year for admission applications and just under last year’s record-breaking 20,519 applicants.

“Emory said in its strategic plan 11 years ago that we wanted to be the destination for not only the brightest but also the best students, and we seem to have attained that goal remarkably well, thanks to the good work of many people on our staff," says Emory President James Wagner.

"Not only will the Class of 2020 enrich the intellectual life of our campus, but it also appears to have a breadth of engagement, a depth of commitment, and a creative energy that will enliven our community," notes Wagner, who will step down at the end of August. "They will be coming in with a new president, who can only be proud of such a fine cohort."

The academic quality of admitted ECAS applicants is reflected in stronger academic measures, such as the following mean values:

  • High School GPA (unweighted): 3.81
  • SAT overall score: 2135
  • ACT composite score: 32

“By all measures, this is an absolutely spectacular admitted class,” says Robin Forman, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

“Nothing is more rewarding for our faculty than to have a class of brilliant, engaged, ambitious students, so I am confident that our faculty are going to love our next freshman class," he says. "I look forward to watching these students thrive at Emory.”

Engaged learners

For Latting, there is also a story beyond the numbers.

“We look at many dimensions of each applicant, and some of those can be quantified, such as test scores, GPAs and the quality of curriculum, transcripts, the courses students have decided to take, how they are doing in their classes,” he says. “But we also look at what the teachers are saying, the overall level of engagement."

Through essays and letters of recommendation, admissions officers apply more subjective measures. As evidence of the kinds of scholars within this year’s admitted class to Emory College, the following are examples of teacher descriptions:

  • “She sees the world differently and kept asking her classmates to do the same.”
  • “He models for his classmates an energetic critical inquiry that has enlivened many a discussion in our class.”
  • “A talented, driven young man who comes from a place of generosity.”
  • “She easily mastered the content and even made me want to strive to become a better teacher. Her thirst for knowledge and critical thinking skills are unmatched by her peers.”

In the end, selecting and shaping a new class “is a process that rests on judgment and trying to know the person — a very personal process in that sense,” Latting notes. “It’s also pulling from the applicant pool the class that’s right for Emory, people that we think can benefit most from an Emory education and contribute the most to the campus community.

“I feel very proud of this class,” he adds. “It’s a wonderful cohort of students.”

International appeal

Emory also remains competitive on the global stage, with admission letters going out to a broad pool of international applicants, says Mark Butt, associate dean of admissions and international recruitment. Last year, the University unveiled a new "Global Vision for Emory," designed to guide strategic global engagement through 2020.

“This is the first year that the offers for admission going to students in India will exceed the number of admission offers to students from China,” he says, a difference he credits to both changes in the global economy and Emory's international recruitment efforts.

The top countries among international applicants this year, in descending order: India, China, South Korea, Canada, Turkey, Great Britain, Mexico, Brazil and France.

Butt says that in reviewing applications from students representing 78 countries and 100 different nationalities across the globe, he’s been “consistently impressed with not only the quality of applicants drawn here, but the name recognition that Emory has globally.”

Primarily, international applicants say they are drawn to Emory by the overall quality of the academic experience. “The idea that students can attend a highly reputable research university with global scholarship is very important,” he says.

“They also want to be in a major city with deep roots and connection to business, industry and non-profit organizations, and they want to be in a close network and close university community,” he adds. “Emory fits that intersection. Having the city of Atlanta as a backdrop is a huge draw.”

As with applicants from the U.S., Butt says that this year’s cohort of international students are deeply engaged in their communities, and in many cases have command of multiple languages.

“When I read applications from Africa, you see students who speak several languages, which is not only relevant for Emory in being a global institution but also makes the classroom extremely enriching.”

Oxford admissions

At Oxford College, admissions officers also saw a robust pool of prospective students who demonstrated notable academic strengths, says Kelley Lips, dean of enrollment services for Oxford.

Out of a total application pool of 8,644, Oxford sent acceptance letters to 3,282 students whose average SAT scores remained strong with an average total score of 2064.

“This is the second highest year of applicants in Oxford's history,” says Lips. “Oxford's entering class continues to reflect a student body with exemplary academic credentials from the U.S. and around the world."

Among this year’s admissions pool, Lips says students expressed interest in Oxford based upon the relationships they can cultivate with faculty both in and outside the classroom, leadership opportunities and the Oxford College leadership program, small class sizes within an intimate campus community, and the opportunity to graduate from a renowned university.

“It’s really profound what they’ve accomplished in a relatively short time, really making an impact,” she adds. “We’re seeing students with dedication, commitment and involvement who are seeking an environment that will continue to support those accomplishments.”

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