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How to Write the Brown University Supplemental Essay

Brown requires three supplemental essays. If you are applying to PLME or BRDD, you must additionally answer their program-specific questions. Here’s a guide to answering the general supplemental essays:

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)*

To answer this question, you first need to research the Open Curriculum at Brown. Brown doesn’t have general education requirements, and instead encourages their students to explore their academic interests by taking courses in topics such as: business, education, sociology, music, and more. After you understand the philosophy behind Brown’s Open Curriculum, you should write about the passions you want to explore at Brown. Take a look at Brown’s course catalogue so you can mention specific classes you would like to take in your essay. Additionally, including particular professors or types of research that you’re interested in will go a long way towards showing admissions officers that you’ve done your research and have specific goals in mind. Talk about where your motivation to learn more about the areas you’re passionate about come from, and how Brown’s Open Curriculum will help you reach your intellectual and personal goals. For example, if you’re planning to study astrophysics, talk about an interesting class on exoplanets or a professor in the department doing interesting work on atmosphere composition that you’d like to conduct research with. Following this up by discussing an interest in a field unrelated to your intended major can show exactly how the Brown Open Curriculum can help you pursue your academic interests! Brown wants to see how you plan to take ownership over your education and how intellectually curious you are.

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)*

The purpose of this question is to demonstrate your maturity, either through a story about handling a challenge gracefully or by showing personal growth. In the first part of the question, Brown makes it clear that they are looking for students who are comfortable with having their ideas challenged. When you’re choosing your anecdote, make sure you’re focusing on what you learned from this experience and how it taught you to engage with different perspectives moving forward. You may want to focus on more recent challenges, rather than something you overcame when you were young and may not have had as many strongly formed opinions. If you do decide to describe something from childhood, make sure it was an impactful experience and follow it up with some details about how you’ve carried those lessons with you into adulthood. Finally, make sure you’re presenting both perspectives in a fair and reasonable way, regardless of your current feelings on the topic. This will demonstrate that you are prepared to engage with a variety of perspectives and treat them with respect to further your understanding!

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 question is designed to allow the admissions committee to gain unique insight into what you’re interested in. For this reason, avoid topics that may bring anyone joy, unless the reason you enjoy them is incredibly unique. Try to tap into your individual interests and don’t feel like you need to take this question too seriously! Focus on presenting an authentic viewpoint that will allow your excitement to shine through in your writing. Think about your favorite things, what you enjoy doing in your free time, what books you love to read, or the Youtube rabbit holes you get lost in. For example, you could write about how walking into your favorite coffee shop and chatting with the same barista every morning brightens your day or how corgis bring you joy because, despite everyone literally looking down on them, they always have a smile on their face! Once you’ve settled on your topic, try to talk about why it brings you joy. Describe the way it makes you feel, your curiosity, or what makes it special to you. With these tips in mind, go forth and write with joy!