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How to Ace the Brown Supplement Essay (2018-19)

NOV 18, 2018 • 7 min read

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Supplemental essays are a crucial forum within your larger application to show the aptness of your fit at a particular school.

The supplemental questions for Brown University allow applicants to better explain their pre-existing interests and aspirations, as well as the ways in which they believe they could be furthered by a Brown education. In short, they ask ‘Why Brown?’

Brown Essay Prompts

Prompt 1: Extracurricular and Leadership Essay

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)

Prompt 2: ‘Why Brown?’ Essay

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)

Prompt 3: Community Involvement

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)

Tips to ace Brown University Supplemental Essays

Wondering how to make the most of your supplements for Brown? This guide will break down the essential strategies for these three essays.

Firstly, a general note: though Brown increased the word limit for supplements this year, it's still important to write concisely and avoid generalities. While writing each essay, ask yourself if each sentence adds something that couldn't have been written by any other applicant. To this end, the strongest essays will feature personal experience prominently, but will not pontificate needlessly about accomplishments for their own sake, instead relating them to your hopes and projections for a Brown experience.

For the first essay, the primary goal is to show genuine passion or intellectual curiosity in your area of interest. What was the experience through which you first became interested in this topic or area? Why--was it forged to help or challenge people close to you, or was it an entirely personal endeavor? The focus should be on the reasons why you find a subject so compelling, rather than why you're so amazing at it—your tone needs to stay humble and self-aware. Did a particularly inspiring book, teacher, or experience first get you interested in this subject? How has your passion for this subject grown or developed over time? It's perfectly fine to be undecided; if so, describe specific areas of interest you're deciding between. If you choose to talk about a particular skill you found rewarding or challenging, depicting a struggle will be much more interesting.

The second essay is the classic "Why our school?" prompt with an emphasis on how a student will benefit from the Open Curriculum. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Brown is that students can choose their own course of study in place of general requirements. A Brown student might be a biomedical engineer who has taken every Ancient Egyptian archeology course, a comparative literature student who originally intended to study applied math, or a neuroscientist double-concentrating in philosophy. Brown wants to know how you'll use this flexibility to explore your interests in a way that might not be possible elsewhere, and this will require some research. A strong response to this question would integrate gathered knowledge about Brown's specific offerings into a personal narrative based around experience, to demonstrate how the unique opportunities at Brown represent an obvious next step in developing your interests. Utilize the school's website as much as possible to brainstorm specific ways you'll contribute to the school community. Look through Brown's student organizations to see how you can pursue your extracurricular interests, check out the Swearer Center to see how you can become involved in the Providence community, and search Researchers@Brown to connect your interests with those of professors.

The third essay is meant as a chance for you to show your belief in the power of community as an educative force--that an education is not just given to individual students in a classroom, but that recognition and formation of communities are significant components of education and lie in general. You should be sincere and genuine in the way you talk about your chosen "home." Just as with the first question, this isn't the place to impress admissions officers (humility often wins more points than arrogance), but rather to describe something meaningful to you—whether it's a place, community, or group. Think about the structures in your life that are meaningful, whether religious, familial, academic, or interest-based. You may choose to talk about a part of your life that isn't expanded upon elsewhere in your application, or explain why something in your activities section was especially influential to you. Maybe you've moved around a lot and want to emphasize the diversity of places that have shaped you, or perhaps you've always lived in the same place and want to highlight your deep connection to your community. You could also talk about how you've impacted a group and how the group has impacted you in return. No matter what direction you choose to take this prompt, it's crucial to avoid vague takeaways. The most important thing is to reveal something insightful about yourself and confirm your faith in the power of community in education and identity formation.

Final Thoughts

These tips should give you a better idea of how to approach the supplemental questions for Brown University. As with all schools, Brown's supplements are crafted so you can show not only a more comprehensively personal side to your application, but also your interest in Brown's specificities, both academic and communal.

Good luck!

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