Emory selects first members of Class of 2025

By Lisa Coetzee and Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Dec. 10, 2020

See the jubilant reactions of some of the first students admitted to Emory's Class of 2025.

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They are dreamers, leaders and hard-working achievers. On Dec. 9, 769 students received news of their Early Decision admission to Emory University’s undergraduate Class of 2025. Out of 1,975 Early Decision I applicants, these students emerged ready to make their mark, learn from one another, and shape a more sustainable, equitable world.

Emory’s Early Decision I applications increased 8% over last year and 43% from five years ago. Along with this increase in volume, the academic strength and diversity of the applicant pool continues to grow, indicating that top students from around the world are choosing to apply to Emory. Students who apply to any university in Early Decision commit to enrolling if admitted with adequate financial aid.

“We are thrilled that these outstanding students are selecting Emory as their first choice for their college journey,” says President Gregory L. Fenves. “These students are among the very finest in the nation and world, and we look forward to seeing their immense talent, ingenuity and creative vision in action at Emory in the years ahead.”

First-year students have two options to begin their Emory experience: Emory College of Arts and Sciences or Oxford College. Sharing the Atlanta campus with the university’s graduate and professional schools, Emory College offers the experience of a liberal arts college in the midst of the energy and pace of a leading research university.

Located 38 miles east of the Atlanta campus, Oxford College calls Emory’s original campus home. This campus, only for first- and second-year students, is a unique opportunity for students to join a close-knit community. As juniors, all Oxford students continue to the Atlanta campus, earning degrees from Emory College, Goizueta Business School or the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

This year, Emory College admitted 614 students and Oxford College admitted 337 students for Early Decision I, 182 of which were admitted to both campuses. These students may now select which campus they’d like to attend.

College admission during COVID-19

Early Decision students are a foundational first step in creating Emory’s Class of 2025. Early indicators suggest that this year’s class promises to be a tremendous group of young scholars who have already shown the resilience to learn and lead in uncertain times.

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 caused many disruptions for this year’s high school seniors. Most did not experience a typical end to their junior year with virtual learning and/or the cancellation of extracurricular activities, and many have spent at least part of their senior year also learning remotely. Standardized tests (ACT and SAT) were also cancelled or postponed. All of these changes are being lived in families and communities hit hard by COVID-19 and rippling economic conditions.

In light of these major shifts, Emory announced this summer that it would be test optional for this year’s first-year applicants, meaning students do not have to submit ACT/SAT test scores unless they so choose, relieving the pressure students feel to take a test, often on a Saturday, and with considerable mental and/or financial costs.

“In these extraordinarily challenging times, Emory remains committed to a holistic application review, making decisions with the best information available and with as much flexibility as possible to consider applicants from all backgrounds and experiences,” says John Latting, associate vice provost for undergraduate enrollment and dean of admission. “Emory continues to seek the qualities we always have. Which students are best poised to thrive in our academic environment and contribute to our campus community?”

With so many changes, Emory’s Office of Admission staff went through extensive training before beginning the review of the Early Decision I applicants in early November.

Ever thoughtful in its review process, the admission committee considers each student’s academic record: Did they make the most of the academic options within the context of their high school and community? This year, they are also taking into account how COVID-19 has impacted each applicant’s school, community or family. Staff also review letters of recommendation from teachers and school counselors, as well as three short essays from the student.

“The Office of Admission has certainly had to make adjustments to our selection process, given all of this year’s change,” says Latting. “But the primary adjustment has been focused on accounting for the disruptions students have faced over the last year.” 

As the entire world has needed to pivot and adjust, admission staff  “are encouraged that students have found unique and deeply personal ways to connect with each other and the world around them,” says Kelley Lips, assistant vice provost and dean of Oxford enrollment. “It’s clear to us that the students we’ve admitted have found ways to unite and begin carving paths that will alter the trajectory of the future and serve as the cornerstone of change for generations to come." 

Emory nearly doubles number of QuestBridge Match Scholars

On Dec. 1, the university welcomed a new group of 56 QuestBridge Scholars to the Class of 2025, nearly doubling the number of QuestBridge Scholars matched with Emory University last year. At a time when many families are experiencing financial hardship, Emory remains committed to providing access to higher education to talented, low-income students. Many of these students are also the first in their families to attend college.

The QuestBridge National College Match program is a national nonprofit that links highly qualified students from low-income backgrounds with 42 of the nation’s leading universities. Through this unique partnership, QuestBridge Match Scholars receive a four-year financial aid award covering full tuition and fees. Nationally, 1,464 students were matched with participating universities.

“In this unprecedented season, Emory remains steadfast in its commitment to diversity, access and inclusion on all fronts,” says Timothy Fields, associate dean of admission. “I am truly excited about these incoming QuestBridge Match Scholars and the experiences they bring to our dynamic community. Their stories, lives and creativity will impact the conversations that happen every day both inside and outside the classroom.”

Emory boasts one of the largest QuestBridge Scholars Networks in the country, with more than 450 students currently enrolled at the Atlanta or Oxford campus. Members include the previous years’ match scholars as well as other QuestBridge students who enroll through Regular Decision. This active student-run organization provides an authentic and supportive community, helping students navigate the transition to college.

Making a university education accessible

For students like Tallulah Story, being “matched” with Emory puts a university education securely within reach. Without the full financial support offered through the QuestBridge-Emory partnership, her options were limited.

“Community college was probably where I was headed,” explains Story, who attends high school online in Hāna, a remote community located on the eastern shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui. “It was either that or working until I had enough money or could pull together enough scholarships to attend a state university.”

As a prospective first-generation college student from a low-income family, Story has worked hard to find support for her academic ambitions. When she transferred to her small high school at the start of her junior year, she was surprised to find no advanced placement or honors courses. Instead, she lobbied to take dual-enrollment college courses virtually. When she found no school clubs, she created one: a first-ever support group for LGBTQ students.

And when a counselor suggested Story apply to QuestBridge, she found herself immediately drawn to Emory. With ambitions to become a veterinarian — her background is steeped in 4H and rodeos — she was impressed by the university’s strong biology program and science resources. And though her only campus visits have been virtual, she likes what she’s seen.

“I am so excited to experience Atlanta, this cool place that I’ve never visited before, and getting to meet my new classmates,” she says. “I’m a huge people person, and love meeting people with diverse backgrounds and learning their life stories. And I’m excited to experience dorm life, where you’re immersed in this shared academic environment.”

For Jalen Harris, a high school senior from Buford, Georgia, who plans to study pre-medicine, learning he was a QuestBridge match with Emory was the realization of a long-held dream.

“Growing up in Georgia, I’ve loved Emory for the longest time,” Harris says. “Waiting to hear if I’d matched there was nerve wracking — all last month, my heart was just pounding. Once I opened the email and saw the ‘congratulations’ banner, wow. I don’t even know how to express that feeling. When I called my mom to tell her I had a full-ride scholarship to Emory, she screamed so loudly, we both nearly cried.”

Although Harris comes from a family of college graduates — his great-grandmother Lottie Isbell Blake was a pioneering physician and medical missionary — financing his college education was a struggle. Harris is one of three children, and his single mother lost her job in August due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Without QuestBridge, I don’t know what we would have done,” he acknowledges.

“I’m just so excited to know I’ll be in Atlanta and at Emory, which is so beautiful,” he says. “For pre-medicine, it’s really one of the best schools. And being in Georgia, it’s also home.”

Editor’s note: All data accurate as of Dec. 9, 2020.