Brown admits around 7% of its total applicant pool every year. If you want to be one of those admitted students, you'll need to write amazing Brown essays as part of your application.
In this article, we'll outline the different types of essays you need to write for your Brown University application and teach you how to write a Brown supplement essay that'll help you stand out from the thousands of other applicants.
What Are the Brown Essay Prompts?
Brown requires you to complete a total of three short-answer questions if you're applying to its undergraduate program. If you're applying to Brown's eight-year medical program or the five-year dual degree from RISD, you will have to write additional essays, which we'll also cover in this article.
Each of the three undergrad Brown essay prompts has a 250-word limit. For the three additional essays for the Brown medical program, two have a word limit of 250 and one has a word limit of 500. For the dual degree RISD program, there's only one extra essay, with a 650-word limit.
All these essays are specific to the Brown application—you won't find them on any other college or university's application.
They're also all of equal importance and should be treated as such. Each of your Brown essays should be the strongest example of your work.
The Brown essay questions offer you plenty of opportunities to show off your qualifications as an applicant and wow the admissions committee.
2020-2021 Brown Supplement Essay Questions
All first-year applicants to Brown are required to answer the following Brown supplement essay questions:
- 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. (250 words)
- 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? (250 words)
- Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? (250 words)
Three essays are required for applicants to the PLME:
- Committing to a future career as a physician while in high school requires careful consideration and self-reflection. What values and experiences have led you to believe that becoming a doctor in medicine is the right fit for you? (250 word limit)
- Most people describe a career as a physician/doctor as a "profession," beyond a job. Describe for us what "professionalism" and "the profession of a physician/doctor" mean to you. (250 word limit)
- How do you envision the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) helping you to meet your academic personal and professional goals as a person and as a physician of the future? (500 word limit)
And one longer essay is required for applicants to the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program:
The Brown|RISD A.B./B.F.A. Dual Degree Program draws on the complementary strengths of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to provide students with the opportunity to explore and engage with diverse spheres of academic and creative inquiry. The culmination of students' five-year program is a capstone project that relates and integrates content, approaches, and methods from two distinct learning experiences. Considering your understanding of the academic programs at Brown and RISD, describe how and why the specific blend of RISD's experimental, immersive combined studio and liberal arts program and Brown's wide-ranging courses and curricula could constitute an optimal undergraduate education for you.
Additionally, how might you contribute to the Dual Degree community and its commitment to interdisciplinary work? (650 word limit)
All the 2020-2021 Brown Supplemental Essays, Analyzed
In this section, we'll be looking at the 2020-2021 Brown essay prompts in depth.
Remember that with the Brown prompts, you don't get to choose which essay you would like to write—you need to answer all the questions required for your particular program of study.
Let's take a look at each of the Brown essay questions and go over how you can write something meaningful for each.
Brown Essay Prompt 1
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. (250 words)
This essay question is fairly straightforward. Brown wants to know what you're interested in pursuing academically, where that interest comes from, and how you plan to explore it at Brown—specifically, through Brown's Open Curriculum.
You need to understand what Brown's Open Curriculum means before writing this essay. Research Brown's academic model so that you can speak about it confidently and accurately.
Although Brown makes it clear that you may write about more than one subject, we suggest limiting yourself to one or two topics. 250 words is not that many—you'll want to speak in depth about your interests and you simply won't have that ability if you choose more than two.
Try to share a personal experience that relates to your potential area of study. For instance, if you want to study English literature, you could talk about a family trip to London that piqued your interest and how you want to take advantage of specific literature classes at Brown. Or, if you're studying math, you could talk about how winning a competition felt like an incredible reward for years of hard work.
Brown Essay Prompt 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? (250 words)
This essay prompt is really just another way of saying, "Why will you be a good fit at Brown?" It's a version of the "Why This College" essay that focuses less on academics and more on the campus and student community as a whole. In short, what can you offer other students at Brown?
This is a great opportunity to talk about unique qualities of yourself that can help to diversify the student body. For example, maybe you've lived in many different countries and believe that your international experiences could help encourage others to explore interests outside their comfort zones.
Or maybe you're passionate about a particular cause, such as fighting climate change, and plan to join or start a club on campus.
Whatever you choose to write about, remember to be specific and focus on something unique and memorable about yourself. And don't forget to mention how you hope to learn from other students at Brown, too!
For more tips on writing the "Why Brown?" essay, check out our full guide.
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Brown Essay Prompt 3
Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? (250 words)
This is the fun prompt and a chance to let your personality and the places and people that have most influenced you win the admissions committee over.
You should write from the heart. The admissions committee should feel your deep connection to whatever you choose to describe as home.
Remember the old grade school axiom: show, don't tell. Don't tell the admissions committee why a specific place or person is important to you. Demonstrate its importance through a description of your experiences or interactions with this avatar.
Brown PLME Essay Requirements
Applicants to the eight-year PLME at Brown must complete three special program essays.
PLME Essay Prompt 1
Committing to a future career as a physician while in high school requires careful consideration and self-reflection. What values and experiences have led you to believe that becoming a doctor in medicine is the right fit for you? (250 word limit)
Make your answer as specific as the prompt itself. Choose a real-life example to describe here, which can be anything from a personal experience to a news story you followed closely.
Being authentic will make this essay really shine. Don't say that you want to be a physician for the job stability or the chance to be featured in a medical journal. If you have never seen a person suffering from cancer up close, don't pretend that you have—the admissions committee will smell inauthenticity from a mile away.
Instead, truly reflect on something medically related that impacted you. Maybe you had a great experience with a doctor who helped you recover from a sports injury or loved interacting with your pediatrician who let you play with his stethoscope. Whatever you choose, it should be about you and you alone.
PLME Essay Prompt 2
Most people describe a career as a physician/doctor as a "profession", beyond a job. Describe for us what "professionalism" and "the profession of a physician/doctor" mean to you. (250 word limit)
This prompt can feel intimidating. How can someone outside the medical profession answer this prompt with honesty, integrity, and no guesswork?
Rest assured that there's no right or wrong answer here. The admissions committee is simply looking to understand what being a doctor means to you.
You need to pick qualities that are meaningful to you and will resonate with the admissions committee—not that doctors have good job security and often high salaries.
Think about what your life as a doctor will be like. How do you picture yourself in 10 years? Will you be researching cures? Will you be providing healthcare to underserved populations? Will you be handing out lollipops to the children who come to your neighborhood practice?
You should paint a vivid picture of how you anticipate acting as a doctor.
PLME Essay Prompt 3
How do you envision the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) helping you to meet your academic personal and professional goals as a person and as a physician of the future? (500 word limit)
For this prompt, you need to do your research about the PLME program at Brown. Don't be daunted by the length of the word limit—view it as an opportunity to show how much you know about the school.
The word limit for this essay is telling: the admissions committee at Brown wants to make sure that you are serious about the program—and serious for the right reasons. So be honest!
Reference professors you are excited to work with or classes that stand out as thought-provoking or supremely fun. What does Brown's medical program offer its students that other medical programs don't? Be sure to mention specific pieces of information.
You should also discuss why you're interested in PLME versus pursuing a typical undergraduate degree and then applying to medical school. PLME is a unique program, so highlight why this model is the right fit for you.
Brown-RISD Dual Degree Essay Requirement
One essay is required for applicants to the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program:
The Brown|RISD A.B./B.F.A. Dual Degree Program draws on the complementary strengths of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to provide students with the opportunity to explore and engage with diverse spheres of academic and creative inquiry.
The culmination of students' five-year program is a capstone project that relates and integrates content, approaches, and methods from two distinct learning experiences.
Considering your understanding of the academic programs at Brown and RISD, describe how and why the specific blend of RISD's experimental, immersive combined studio and liberal arts program and Brown's wide-ranging courses and curricula could constitute an optimal undergraduate education for you.
Additionally, how might you contribute to the Dual Degree community and its commitment to interdisciplinary work? (650 word limit)
For the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program essay, you'll need to pick out specific aspects of both Brown and RISD that appeal to you. Identify features of each school that you're attracted to, like particular classes or professors.
You should also indicate how you'll take advantage of each school. If you just wanted to study design, you'd apply to RISD. If you just wanted to study something else, you'd apply to Brown. So why do you want to go to both schools?
Describe how your work at one school will impact your work at the other. Perhaps your study of ancient Greek at Brown will inform the sculptures you make at RISD. You should depict how you see your studies at each school intersecting, and what this could possibly mean to the Dual Degree community and interdisciplinary research more broadly.
How to Write a Great Brown Supplemental Essay: 3 Tips
Regardless of which Brown supplemental essays you're responding to, you should keep in mind the following tips for how to write a great Brown essay.
#1: Use Your Own Voice
The point of a college essay is for the admissions committee to have the chance to get to know you beyond your test scores, grades, and honors. Your admissions essays are your opportunity to make yourself come alive for the essay readers and to present yourself as a fully fleshed-out person.
You should, then, make sure that the person you're presenting in your college essays is yourself. Don't try to emulate what you think the committee wants to hear or try to act like someone you're not.
If you lie or exaggerate, your essay will come across as insincere, which will diminish its effectiveness. Stick to telling real stories about the person you really are and not who you think Brown wants you to be.
#2: Avoid Cliches and Overused Phrases
When writing your Brown essays, try to avoid using cliches any overused quotes or phrases.
These include quotations that have been quoted to death and phrases or idioms that are overused in daily life. The Brown admissions committee has probably seen numerous essays that state, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Strive for originality.
Similarly, avoid using cliches, which take away from the strength and sincerity of your work.
#3: Check Your Work
It should almost go without saying, but you want to make sure that your Brown essays are the strongest example of your work possible. Before you turn in your Brown application, make sure to edit and proofread your essays.
Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. It's a great idea to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit them.
You should also have someone else read your Brown essays. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, a teacher, or a friend. Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check to ensure you haven't missed any typos or small writing errors. Having a second opinion will ultimately help your work be the best it can possibly be!
Recap: Key Tips for the Brown Supplement
The Brown supplemental essays cover a wide range of topics. Regardless of the questions you're answering, remember to follow these basic dos and don'ts as you're writing your essays:
- Be authentic and honest.
- Be specific when citing people, places, and experiences.
- Do your research about Brown and its unique academic model.
- Base your essays on what you think the Brown application committee wants to hear.
- Use cliches or broad sweeping statements.
- Try too hard to be funny and original—be genuine and your positive attributes will be visible to the committee!
If you're getting ready to apply to college, it's time to learn what colleges expect from you. This article will help you better target your application to suit what each school you apply to is looking for.
Worried about how to write an amazing college essay? Read our step-by-step guide on how to write a college essay and take a look at our analysis of 100+ real college essays to get a feel for what colleges want—and don't want—to read in an application.
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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.