Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island is known for being the more free-spirited Ivy university. Last year, Brown’s admission rate dropped to 7.2 percent. In this post, we provide advice on how to nail Brown’s three, 250-word supplement essays.
Question 1: Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated earlier in this application? (You may share with us a skill or concept that you found challenging and rewarding to learn, or any experiences beyond course work that may have broadened your interest.) (250 word limit)
Don’t be alarmed by the length of this question. It gives you more prompt than you need. When working on an essay, you should always ask yourself one question, “what do they want to know about me here?” In this case, Brown would like to know the origin story of what you’re interested in.
In this essay, your objective should be to demonstrate a deep interest in something that is rooted in a personal experience. You must show passion and drive towards a specific academic discipline, one that is also reflected in the rest of your application. Maybe you remember visiting your grandparents in Florida and seeing a sea turtle hatchling cross the road that somehow sparked an interest in environmental studies. Do not just provide bullet points described as paragraphs. This should be a story that’s almost self-explanatory.
Question 2: What do you hope to experience at Brown through the Open Curriculum, and what do you hope to contribute to the Brown community? (250 word limit).
This is a two-part question. For the first part, you need to know that Brown LOVES their Open Curriculum. Brown students do, too. Kids who go to Brown want the freedom to do whatever they want. So, for this exercise, imagine you are crafting a dating profile and are looking to date someone who lives without limits. You want to show that person that you are just like them, but you can’t just slide into their DMs and be like, “hey, same.” You have to show them. So, for this essay, provide examples of your free-spirited nature in story form.
The ‘contribution’ half of this essay is typically where kids fall short. Often times, we see students try to tell Brown, “I’m a leader so I will contribute leadership.” No. Again, you want to tell a story that shows something new about. One word of caution: if you are the kind of kid who is going to just go from your dorm room to class to the library and back to the dorm day in and day out, Brown doesn’t want you and you don’t want Brown. In this question, Brown is really asking what extra-curriculars you plan to join. You must demonstrate continuity between what you’ve been doing throughout your high school career and what you want to do moving forward. If you are a gymnast and you volunteer at a soup kitchen every week, what you want to do at Brown must tie in. Also, don’t shy away from politics or activism within any application this year.
Question 3: Tell us about the place, or places, you call home. These can be physical places where you have lived, or a community or group that is important to you. (250 word limit).
Some kids move around a lot. If you were born in China, moved to Texas, and now reside in Pennsylvania, that’s a story. If you grew up on military bases, that’s a story. If you’ve never left your block, that’s a story, too. It’s the kind of story that’s not represented either anywhere else in your application, or in that of your competition.
Kids fall short on this essay by downplaying their stories and thinking that their account is not significant. That kind of failure to recognize what’s interesting will carry over into the tone and your reader won’t be impressed. The scope really doesn’t matter here. It’s about how you tell it and where someone lives, where they’ve been, or how they decorate can demonstrate a lot about a person. One of our students last year had lived in four different apartments on the same New York City block. She thought that wasn't enough of a story, but we helped her create a creative narrative arc. She'll be starting at Brown in 2 weeks.
Whether you’ve lived in five countries or are taking the committee on a tour of your room and telling the story of the photos on your wall, you must tell a narrative that has a beginning, middle, and an end. Outline it before you start writing.
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