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    How to Write Brown's Supplement Essays 2018-2019

    4 Minutes Read

    Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the US, with an acceptance rate last year of 7.2%. In order to gain an edge in this highly competitive arena, you must write stand-out application essays that highlight your voice, unique story, and deep potential.

    Brown requires that all first-year applicants answer three essay questions. All answers must be 250-words or less (approximately one page, double-spaced), so it's crucial to get to the heart of your answer and make your impact quickly and succinctly. 

    Brown supplement essays Ivy league consulting

    As a resource for Ivy League admission consulting, we have developed key tips, approaches, and examples for each question to make you stand out from the crowd. Let’s examine each.


    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 coursework that may have broadened your interest.)  

    • You have to show an area of interest, but not necessarily have a declared major yet.

      • You can also show multiple interests if you are effectively able to relate them in an interdisciplinary manner.

    • Instead, show your interest and passion, but stay open to learning more about the world and yourself.

    • For your intro, open with an intriguing first line or a couple of sentences that require explanation. The goal here is to hook them into reading more and get them to ask elaborating questions.

    • Include sub-interests. These sub-interests should add intellectual vitality and depth to your life’s pursuit. Use them as a way to distinguish yourself within your larger area of interest.

      • Discuss their origin. In terms of the hero’s journey, this is the call-to-adventure. It is your inciting incident, your origin story.

    • If you share a rewarding or challenging skill or concept, be sure to tell a story. Don't lecture the reader about the concept. Rather, show the reader what you learned, where you learned it, who taught it, and how it challenged you. For example:

      • Instead of: Pediatrics is a branch of medicine focusing on the medical care of infants. It takes a proactive and preventative approach to the treatment of injuries and diseases. As a student at Brown University, I would focus my efforts in this area of interest.

      • Say it like: When I was in my formative years, my mother and I were hit by a drunk driver. The impact that the first-responders made on this life-altering event has continued to influence me. Their compassion and caring have sparked an interest in pediatric medicine.

    • Whatever story you share, be sure to connect the story to your interest. You're showing the reader where your passion was born, and you're demonstrating that experiences can shape you.

    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?  

    • Foremost, know what Brown's Open Curriculum is and talk about it with fluency. Incorporate the following keywords where appropriate.

      • Keep in mind the keywords from Brown's description of its Open Curriculum: "Like many institutions dedicated to the liberal arts, Brown encourages its undergraduates to study broadly, to become self-reflective, to engage in community life and to rigorously develop their communication skills. Unlike other American colleges and universities, Brown has no required core curriculum or distribution requirements that students must complete in order to graduate.  Students at Brown have unparalleled freedom to shape their own education and to make their college curricula a more thorough reflection of their own interests and aspirations."

      • Also, keep in mind the three principles of Open Curriculum: "The first is that students ought to take an active role in their education by assuming responsibility for the direction of their learning. Secondly, an undergraduate education is seen as a process of individual and intellectual development, rather than simply a way to transmit a set body of information. Finally, the curriculum should encourage individuality, experimentation, and the integration and synthesis of different disciplines."

    • Read course offerings and specific course descriptions to see how your interests align

      • Focus on what you want to learn and not necessarily your career aspirations

    • Demonstrate excitement, eagerness, and readiness to design your own education. Don’t simply state your excitement; show it with your verb choice. Demonstrate it with your preparation.

    • Refer to Question 1’s approach to sub-interests. They are the framework for demonstrating your niche.

    • Answer the question with a future vision: show the reader what you expect, anticipate, hope for, are nervous about, and look forward to. Yes, it is okay to be nervous and/or anxious. You don’t need to fit the mold of an individual who has every week for the next 20 years planned.

    • Don't forget the second part of the question! In addition to what you will experience, give specific examples of how the Open Curriculum will help you contribute to the university community.

      • For example: As an aspiring fintech entrepreneur, I hope to design a new mortgage risk assessment tool using AI which would eliminate the need for a credit score for recent graduates. With Brown’s open curriculum, I can tailor my classes around the specific areas of finance, entrepreneurship, and computer science I’ll need to create a fully-functioning beta.

    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.

    • You can define "home" in a unique way that really highlights your life experience, important places, and/or family structure.

      • Avoid cliches such as “home is where the heart is” unless you have a really unique take.

    • You can name more than one "home" to show complexity, travel, change, or development.

    • Remember that whatever you call "home" should be about belonging, acceptance, love, embrace, kinship, togetherness, commitment, and shared values.

    • Even so, "home" is a complex idea. It's not always perfect or good. It's okay to have a complicated, imperfect relationship with your "home."

    • Show  the reader your "home." Invite them in with details, stories, names, dates, sights, smells, textures, dialogue, voices, emotions, and self-reflection. Paint a vivid picture and don't be afraid to use metaphors.

    • Explain why your "home" is important to you. Importance can be shown through what the home has given you; how the home has formed or changed you; how you've been helped or helped others; how you've learned and grown; how you've acquired values or learned skills; and how you plan to return.

    • Tell the story about how your “home” came to be. Integrate your journey to discovering, building, or accepting your home.


    These three essay questions are your chance to show your passion, show you know Brown's structure, and show something special about your background. Use these tips to write a polished, stand-out set of supplemental essays that move you to the top of the application pile.

    For a more in-depth analysis of a Personal Statement that got one student into 5 Ivy League universities, check out our deconstruction of the notorious Costco Essay.

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