How to Write the Brown Supplement 2019-2020

Brown University is located in Providence, RI. It’s a member of the Ivy League and has an undergraduate population of about 6,750. There are also numerous graduate schools, including a medical school. Brown has robust research opportunities, tends to foster a culture that values extroverts and those with immense school spirit, and is known for its open curriculum. It’s competitive--their acceptance rate last year was 7%. Students do not have to take any “core” classes and are asked to define their academic pursuits by their “concentration.” Students who seek flexibility, are self-determined, and are great at time management thrive there. The lack of structure isn’t for everyone, but those who love it, really, really love it. Their supplement is comprised of three short answer prompts. We break them each down below in an effort to demystify the supplement to one of the most sought-after undergraduate institutions in the country. 

Complete each of the below prompts in 250 words or less:

Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about an academic interest (or interests) that excites you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue it.

 If you scroll to prompt 2, you can see that Brown is essentially asking “Why Brown?” but in two separate questions. This is the academic portion of “Why Brown?” It’s relatively straight-forward. Be specific and do your research, just like you’d do for any other Why X College? Supplement. You want to highlight your niche academic interests and you want to articulate how and why you can pursue those most effectively and intensely at Brown. Here’s how you approach that if you’re unsure, in three quick steps: 

  1. Make a list of your absolute favorite classes that you’ve taken and look on Brown’s website to get inspired and find classes that even just “sound” intriguing.

  2. Look at your resume and see where these interests overlap or intersect with what you’ve already done. You want to tell a story--it doesn’t need to be clean or simple, but you do need to be prepared to create an illustration that makes sense to the admissions reader.

  3. Write a paragraph about your dream concentration at Brown and what you’ve done thus far to evidence the foundation of that. You might not use the paragraph, but it’s good to have a sort of guiding light while you gather information about your academic interests.

There is a common misconception that Brown is the place to go if you’re “Undecided” and that, even more, that will value that because of their open curriculum. We’d like to argue that just like any other college, Brown values specificity and assuredness just as much as any other school. The reasons for that are:

  • Because, just like any other school, they are attempting to build a class with students who possess diverse interests. If they admit a class of “Undecided,” and they all choose Brown’s English concentration...well, that’s not ideal. Or diverse. And:

  • They want to understand that you have some sense of direction so that they can count on you to graduate on time.

Remember that it should make sense in the context of your application--if you’ve done only Humanities work thus far and want to be an engineer, great, sure, but don’t apply as one. It will appear that you aren’t serious and we know that not to be true. Open curriculum is not synonymous with “who knows?” Brown may not require you to take any one specific course, but they do want you to have drive. 

2. At Brown, you will learn as much from your peers outside the classroom as in academic spaces. How will you contribute to the Brown community? 

Continuing in the vein of “Why X College?” Brown is now asking you how you plan to make your presence known within the Brown community. Instead of talking about anything theoretical, really take the time to pause and visualize your time at Brown. Do your research. Tell Brown what you intend to do between the hours of 2-9pm when you’re not in class. Who are you meeting with? What are you doing? Incorporate some clubs or opportunities that are unique to Brown or Providence. And again, think about what will make sense within the context of how you’ve been spending your time these last four years in high school. While you should absolutely be adventurous and bold, remember that your application is telling a story. This element should be a continuation of that--except now, you’re painting a picture of you at Brown for their admissions readers. Make it pop.  

3. Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? 

This question can be daunting because “community” is such a massive concept. We always encourage our students to think small for this one. And remember that there’s virtually no wrong answer. Think about what you love to do and when you are happiest. That’s very possibly when you are in community. Think about how you love to spend your time--perhaps you can’t wait to finish your homework so that you can juggle (juggling community) or run to your local cheese shop to see what they got in stock this week (cheese enthusiast community) or illustrate the next strip for your sci-fi comic (comic/sci-fi/artistic community) or propel across flat water (stand-up paddleboarding community). You don’t need to get technical or think too hard about this one. Write about when and where you feel most yourself. Genuineness goes a long way.

Let us know if you need help brainstorming. Sometimes the simpler supplements prove to be the hardest. We get it.
Email or call us and we’ll help you out.