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3 Top Tips for Writing Stellar Brown Supplemental Essays

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Posted by Hayley Milliman | Sep 13, 2021 1:00:00 PM

College Essays

 

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Brown admits around 5% 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.

 

2021-2022 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 any academic interests that excite you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue them while also embracing topics with which you are unfamiliar. (200-250 words)

  • Brown’s culture fosters a community in which students challenge the ideas of others and have their ideas challenged in return, promoting a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex issues confronting society. This active engagement in dialogue is as present outside the classroom as it is in academic spaces. Tell us about a time you were challenged by a perspective that differed from your own. How did you respond? (200-250 words)

  • Brown students care deeply about their work and the world around them. Students find contentment, satisfaction, and meaning in daily interactions and major discoveries. Whether big or small, mundane or spectacular, tell us about something that brings you joy. (200-250 words)


If you're applying to Brown's eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) or five-year Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program (BRDD) you must complete the special program essays.

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)

  • Respond to one of the following prompts (250 word limit): A. Health care is constantly changing, as it is affected by racial and social disparities, economics, politics, and technology, among others. How will you, as a future physician, make a positive impact? B. How do you feel your personal background provides you with a unique perspective of medicine?

  • 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 diverse spheres of academic and creative inquiry, culminating in a capstone project that interrelates the content, approaches, and methods from two distinct learning experiences.

Based on your understanding of the academic programs at Brown and RISD and the possibilities created by the BRDD program’s broadened learning community, specifically describe how and why the BRDD program would constitute an optimal undergraduate education for you. As part of your answer, be sure to articulate how you might contribute to the Dual Degree community and its commitment to interdisciplinary work. (650 word limit)

 

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All the 2021-2022 Brown Supplemental Essays, Analyzed

In this section, we'll be looking at the 2021-2022 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 any academic interests that excite you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue them while also embracing topics with which you are unfamiliar. (200-250 words)


This essay question is fairly straightforward. Brown wants to know what you're interested in pursuing academically, where those interests 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.

Finally, the prompt also asks how you’ll use the Open Curriculum to embrace topics you’re unfamiliar with, so your response needs to show that you’re considering how to expand your academic interests to include new topics while at Brown. For instance, say your core interest is in biology but you want to integrate that with visual arts in the future. Writing about your desire to explore science through the lens of art will show that you’re prepared to use the Open Curriculum to make meaningful connections across academic disciplines, which is a core value at Brown. 

 

Brown Essay Prompt 2

Brown’s culture fosters a community in which students challenge the ideas of others and have their ideas challenged in return, promoting a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex issues confronting society. This active engagement in dialogue is as present outside the classroom as it is in academic spaces. Tell us about a time you were challenged by a perspective that differed from your own. How did you respond? (200-250 words)

 

This essay prompt is asking you to tell a story that showcases how you respond to differences and challenges when you come face-to-face with them outside of the classroom. Brown wants to know that you’re committed to intellectual engagement and dialogue with your peers not only in the classroom, but outside of it too. 

Your response here is your chance to show that you’ll be an active participant in the intellectual community at Brown even when you’re not in class. To do this, write about an experience you’ve had addressing tough issues or exploring complex ideas with people in your community, whether that’s with your friends, family, a faith community, an online group, or somewhere unexpected! 

Don’t mistake this prompt for an invitation to outline your political affiliations or beliefs. Instead, you should describe a specific scenario in which you were challenged by a new or different perspective. Highlight who was involved, how the situation emerged, and, most importantly, how you responded. Brown wants to hear about what you learned from this experience and how it changed you. 

The way you responded to the challenge will give Brown a window into your ability to engage with different perspectives. Are you willing to argue your perspective while remaining kind and empathetic? Do you fly off the handle and leave the conversation when you’re challenged? Your response to this question will help Brown see what kind of community member you’ll be as a student at Brown. Make sure your response shows that you’ll fit right in.

For more tips on writing the "Why Brown?" essay, check out our full guide.

 


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Brown Essay Prompt 3

Brown students care deeply about their work and the world around them. Students find contentment, satisfaction, and meaning in daily interactions and major discoveries. Whether big or small, mundane or spectacular, tell us about something that brings you joy. (200-250 words)

 

This is the fun prompt and a chance to let your personality and the experiences 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 bringing you joy.

Remember the old grade school axiom: show, don't tell. Rather than explaining the reasons why your special something brings you joy, tell a story that portrays you experiencing that joy in real-time. Include vivid descriptions of how the experience or thing makes you feel and what it is about it that makes you feel that way. 

Finally, try to make a connection between your joy-bringing thing and how you’ll find joy as a student at Brown. This will show Brown admissions that you’re prepared to find meaning in daily interactions and discoveries during your future at Brown, not just your past. 

 

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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 how your experiences with medicine have impacted you, not what you think Brown wants to hear. 

 

PLME Essay Prompt 2

Respond to one of the following prompts (250 word limit): A. Health care is constantly changing, as it is affected by racial and social disparities, economics, politics, and technology, among others. How will you, as a future physician, make a positive impact? B. How do you feel your personal background provides you with a unique perspective of medicine?

 

There are two prompt options here, and you only need to respond to one. While they seem very different at first, both of these prompts are essentially asking: how does inequity, either in society more broadly or in your personal experience, affect your perspectives on health care?

The first prompt asks you to write about how you will take social issues and inequities into consideration in your future as a physician in order to make a difference. 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 see that you understand that there’s more to being a doctor than just doing surgeries and making diagnoses. Your response should show that you’re reflecting on how broader societal issues affect the work that doctors do, and how you’ll navigate those issues to make a positive difference in people’s lives. 

For instance, maybe you’re concerned about the spread of misinformation surrounding treatments for certain health issues. You could write about those concerns in your response, and talk about your dreams for what you might do to combat misinformation in healthcare in the future. You don’t have to know everything about the issues you choose to write about in order to make your response authentic--you just have to be honest, passionate, and mean what you say. 

The second prompt is actually quite similar. If there are things in your personal background that give you a unique perspective on healthcare, you should pick this prompt. These things don’t necessarily have to pertain to inequities, but if you have personal experience with social disparities, you can definitely write about that here. 

For instance, if your racial identity or economic situation impacted your family’s access to healthcare growing up and that motivated you to pursue a career in medicine, you can write about those experiences (to the extent that you feel comfortable). 

There are many other types of experiences that are applicable here as well. If you have a legacy of physicians in your family, you can write about how you want to carry on that tradition. 

The bottom line here is that whatever you choose to write about should truly be unique. This isn’t the place to write about how you loved your pediatrician or were inspired by the doctor who saved hundreds of people from contracting ebola. Your experience needs to be something that few other people have had. If something isn’t really jumping out at you, respond to the other prompt!

 

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 diverse spheres of academic and creative inquiry, culminating in a capstone project that interrelates the content, approaches, and methods from two distinct learning experiences.


Based on your understanding of the academic programs at Brown and RISD and the possibilities created by the BRDD program’s broadened learning community, specifically describe how and why the BRDD program would constitute an optimal undergraduate education for you. As part of your answer, be sure to articulate how you might 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.

 

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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 and 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 possible example of your writing skills. 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:

DO

  • Be authentic and honest.
  • Be specific when citing people, places, and experiences.
  • Do your research about Brown and its unique academic model.

DON'T

  • 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!

 

What's Next?

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
About the Author

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.



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