How to Write Brown's Supplemental Essays

Brown's supplement requires 4 essays. If you apply to any of the specialized programs (e.g., PLME), there are some additional essays. Here are some tips to optimize your supplemental essays for Brown:

Essay #1: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 word limit)

This short essay is a version of an essay that used to be required on the Common Application. When the Common Application eliminated this short essay requirement, many colleges including Brown began including a version of the essay in their supplements. How do you pick a good topic for this short essay? I would recommend taking a close look at your Activity List on the Common Application. There, you probably listed 10 or so activities that represent the most meaningful extracurricular experiences of your high school career. This essay should take one of those experiences (preferably one in the top 5) and elaborate on that experience. You should definitely avoid picking an activity that you already discussed in another essay.

Because this is a relatively short essay, you need to minimize the storytelling and focus more on packing lots of information into a condensed space. Don't just describe what the activity or experience is. Elaborate also on why and how you are involved in that activity or experience. Why did you pursue this? Why is it meaningful to you? How have you participated? How has the activity or experience changed you or made you grow? What have you ultimately put into this activity or experience, and what have you taken away? Remember that each piece of your application should provide more insight and information about you, and if there is a piece of your application that you have not yet been able to highlight sufficiently, this is your opportunity to explain its significance to your reader.

Essay #2: 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)

In your Brown application, you will be asked to pick two fields of concentration (i.e., majors) that currently interest you. Obviously, these choices are not binding, but Brown would like a sense of what your academic interests are. Although you should focus your essay on your primary area of academic interest, make sure that you dedicate space to each of the fields of concentration you choose. I would recommend dedicating one paragraph to each field of concentration that you choose.

Because your space is very limited, you want to keep your answer very focused and specific. Don't spend a lot of time praising Brown's specific academic programs--the next short essay is where you can spend time talking about Brown and its unique academic programs. This is more of an opportunity to showcase your own academic interests, background, and experiences. Provide specific and concrete examples of prior experiences and opportunities that sparked your interest in these areas. And try to connect these past things with your dreams and aspirations--specific short-term and long-term goals that you have.

Essay #3: 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)

Brown's Open Curriculum is one of its most unique features. Don't spend your essay describing what the Open Curriculum is. Brown already knows. Instead, you should be writing about how you hope to take advantage of this unique academic flexibility. Go through Brown's various concentrations and courses, and show how you might combine your various interests to pursue a concrete and meaningful academic plan at Brown, one that lets your explore, experiment, and grow. Demonstrate that you have researched the extraordinary academic opportunities available at Brown. Be specific and concrete in your response. You can list specific courses, programs, and professors to provide a rough sample of your interests and your academic plan to your reader.

Remember that this is a two-part prompt. It's asking you not only what you hope to take away from and through Brown's Open Curriculum but also what you hope to contribute to Brown's community. Thus, the second part of this essay prompt is a sort of diversity prompt: how will you add to the vibrancy and diversity of Brown's eclectic community? Identify communities, experiences, and opportunities at Brown that intrigue you. This will require you to research the school as if you were writing a "Why Brown?" essay. After you have identified these things that interest you, connect them to past experiences and present interests that you have. How do you hope to build on prior experiences that you have had? How will opportunities at Brown enable you to grow and build on those experiences? Be specific and concrete about how you hope to contribute and add to the school and its various sub-communities. Emphasize especially the ways you will contribute to Brown's academic and scholarly culture based on your intellectual curiosity and academic interests--after all, it is a school first and foremost. In this way, the first part of your response should inform the latter.

Essay #4: 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)

Regardless of how you approach this prompt (very literally or figuratively), the ultimate goal is to describe a meaningful community in your life--whether that is your family, your hometown, your school, your band community, your athletic team, or a random group of close friends. Identify spaces and places where you have had meaningful interactions with people. Use anecdotes and specific details to show the reader why you consider this particular community your "home." I would not recommend trying to discuss multiple communities--this essay is too short. Pick one of your most significant communities and elaborate.

Don't just describe what the community is or what your engagement with the community has been. Elaborate also on why and how you are involved in that community. Why did you join or participate in this community experience? Why is it meaningful to you? How have you participated? How has the community experience changed you or made you grow? What have you ultimately put into this community experience, and what have you taken away? In your opinion, what are the qualities of a "home," and how does this place or community fit those qualities? Ultimately, use this essay as an opportunity to express your individual identity within the context of a community.

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