The Requirements: 3 essays of 250 words; 4 short answers
This prompt sounds simple enough: describe what you want to study and why you like it—but not so fast. First things first: the Open Curriculum, a.k.a. the requirement-less Holy Grail, coveted by many applicants. It’s not enough to say, “I want to go to Brown because of its uniquely flexible curriculum.” You need to explore exactly how this curriculum—among Brown’s many other assets—will benefit you specifically. Is it because your areas of interest are so varied? Is it because greater flexibility will help you manage a learning difference? While you might be tempted to get technical or poetic, this essay will be more personal and memorable if you can share a story. What excites you and why? When was the last time you got drawn down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and what was the topic? While you don’t need to recount the unabridged origin story of your interest, try to zero in on a formative experience: the best book you’ve ever read, the first time you spoke French to an actual French person, that one time when you used PEMDAS in the real world! Then marry the concrete details of your story with Brown’s academic offerings, and you’ll knock your response out of the park!
Brown wants to accept students from a range of backgrounds who will contribute to their University community, so tell admissions about what makes you you and how you will be a meaningful addition to the student body. Think about times when you were challenged by or found strength in your identity, background, or skills. Maybe you were the only South Asian family in a predominantly white area and found inspiration by practicing classical Kuchipudi dance, which you intend to continue at Brown. Perhaps your aging grandparent moved in with you, and the changes to your household prompted you to take on more responsibilities, sparking a passion for leadership. What do you hope to share with others about your lived experience? How will you incorporate this element of your identity into your college experience? Show admissions that you’re eager to make your mark in their community. Bonus points if you can reference a specific component of the Brown experience (think clubs, the curriculum, volunteer opportunities, etc.) to demonstrate your interest and fit.
Try not to overthink your response to this question. Admissions even goes so far as to say that the focal point of your response can be big or small. So, go with your gut. Maybe, you love watching the sunset on your grandmother’s porch over a pitcher of lemonade and a game of checkers. Or, perhaps, you want to tell admissions about the look on your sister’s face everytime you agree to a custom makeover (neon eyeshadows only). If you want to write about something bigger, maybe it’s the app you’re building to help people find volunteer opportunities in their community or the scientific discovery you made last spring. Whatever it may be, be true to yourself, and you’ll ace this response.
Short answers like these give you a chance to show something that isn’t apparent in the other parts of your application, such as different aspects of your personality, background, and interests. The key to nailing this section is brainstorming. Free your mind and spend a few minutes jotting down as many answers as you can think of for each prompt. Literally set a timer and force yourself to keep your pencil moving (or fingers typing) for the entire time. The more you go with your gut, the more likely you are to come up with a unique and truly personal answer; in the end, that’s really what admissions is looking for. Sure, many applicants play extracurricular sports, but how is your relationship to your sport unique? For the final question, consider not only the research you’ve done on Brown, but also how you’ll fit in with the unique campus culture. The point is not to waste time agonizing over what you think admissions wants to hear, but to think about who you are as a person. Trust yourself.