Brown requires you to write three essays in addition to the personal statement. These are all fairly short, all requiring 250 words. We’ll give examples of well written Brown essays, and discuss what they’re looking for in responses below.
Our examples are from a few years ago, when Brown asked for four essays, which were slightly different. They still cover the same general ground, and we believe they still exemplify what Brown is looking for in supplemental essays.
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. *150 Words
Masked and gloved, I drove the empty streets of Sugar Land in pursuit of a summer job. From Baskin-Robbins to Ben & Jerry’s, no one was hiring. When I finally compromised my ice cream standards by walking into Menchies Frozen Yogurt, to my surprise, I was hired on the spot.
My joy at having found a job during Corona-times was quickly overshadowed by the fact that I was doing janitorial work for minimum wage. Furthermore, my boss forced me to close the store alone, which quickly became source material for recurring nightmares.
One fateful night ALL the yogurt machines broke down in a massive, sticky explosion. When my boss finally returned my frantic calls hours later, she proceeded to yell at me for closing two minutes early. My crumpled uniform now serves as a traumatic reminder of the dangers of rationalizing unfair treatment by so-called superiors.
The question asked here is very straightforward, as Brown wants some expanded detail on how you spend time outside of school. As there are two more essays which may describe your involvement in other extracurriculars, try to focus this essay on another activity. You want to give Brown a look at as many facets of your life as possible, as they know nothing about you save for what you tell them.
While the question is very broad, this essay is another chance to show admissions officers some of your values or accomplishments. The author above uses the essay to describe a learning experience, and how they dealt with the challenges posed by a bad boss. While we recommend not being overly negative, showing what you learned from a challenging experience gives depth to your application.
Consider what activities you’ve listed in the Common App, and what values and lessons you learned for each. The largest and most impressive likely show up in other essays, but a 150 word response is a good place for a small but impactful lesson or value. You can also reuse another essay that discusses an extracurricular. Avoid discussing community as one of the values, however, as there are two questions that address community specifically.
Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about an academic interest (or interests) that excites you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue it.*250 Words
From dead animals floating down my street to the threat of petrochemical spills, Hurricane Harvey turned my neighborhood into a sci-fi blockbuster. Add in the “effective immediately” evacuation mandates, and things turned truly apocalyptic. Rather than drowning my faith in government intervention (or lack thereof), I used the three weeks trapped inside of my house to wade into the muddy waters of public policy.
I learned that a 1970s flagship program called “Housing Houston” mobilized so-called “explosive property development” on low-lying lands. This get-rich-quick scheme prioritized economic growth over personal safety, not only opening the floodgates for dangerous conditions, but later costing the city $125 billion in Harvey-related damages. What’s more, the national flood policy has yet to be improved, inviting history to repeat itself.
How can we learn from such disasters to develop ethical crisis response methods? The Open Curriculum’s emphasis on seeing from many angles by engaging with a wide variety of disciplines will enable me to tackle the pressing social problems of my generation. I am eager to dive into the dialectical relationship between economic pursuits and moral responsibility, not only engaging with economics and political science, but also with philosophy, history, psychology, government, and untold other subjects. As I pursue an International and Public Affairs concentration, classes like Democratization as Metaphor and Reading New York will fuel my curiosity about how political systems can advocate for social justice, while courses like Approaches to the Middle East and Econometrics will ground my lofty ideals in concrete data.
The name we’ve given this essay is something of a misnomer, as Brown does not have specific majors, or even much in the way of organized courses of study. Instead, they have an open curriculum, and do not have any required courses, with students allowed to take any classes which catch their fancy which they meet the prerequisites for. As this is such a different system from most other schools, Brown wants to know how students plan to use this academic freedom, and which subjects or areas of study are their current favorites.
While you can use a Why Major essay you wrote for another school to respond to this prompt, you should tailor your response to directly respond to the opportunities offered by Brown. The open curriculum is a unique system, and as Brown does not have a separate essay about why you want to attend Brown, detailing some of why the open curriculum allows you to pursue your academic goals is recommended here.
The author in the example above does this well. The first part of the essay provides clear motivations for why they are interested in the subjects they are, while the final paragraph lays out how the open curriculum in particular will help them pursue their interests. They also mention several specific classes they want to take, showing they are already invested in what Brown has to offer.
When you write this essay, try to be as specific as possible when you discuss what academic opportunities you want to pursue at Brown. Are there specific courses you want to take or professors you want to work with? Do you have a specific concentration or subject in mind, or do you want to use the open curriculum to the fullest, and take classes in as many fields as possible? Make sure you specify how exactly Brown will fulfill your academic desires.
At Brown, you will learn as much from your peers outside the classroom as in academic spaces. How will you contribute to the Brown community? *250 Words
“I’m coming!” The crowd of teenage girls surrounding Ananya backstage parted as the lull of my voice cascaded over the chatter of 50,000 people echoing through the stadium. I ran through my signature pre-performance pep-talk, and five minutes later, Ananya was on stage dancing beside me with a beaming smile, leftover tears flinging from her lashes with each jati.
Until a year ago, I was the one having bi-weekly anxiety attacks. Something as inconsequential as misplacing a pencil would catapult me into panic. Despite practicing yoga and “taking deep breaths,” this persistent stress plagued me for years like a pinched nerve.
In 10th grade, my hip young English teacher spent an entire class discussing nihilism. Despite the harsh nature of a useless existence, I was captivated. A key passage from the Bhagavad Gita rang in my ears: “You have a right to ‘Karma’ [actions] but not to any of the Fruits [results] themselves.”
My newfound understanding of the sacred text of my childhood and the calm “detachment” it produced in me was a direct result of recognizing my own finitude. While I don’t remind hyperventilating dancers that they’re going to die someday, I do remind them that no one will remember the second girl from the left missing a beat. I am eager to continue to share and explore this liberating blend of Eastern and Western thought at Brown University.
This question is asking you to describe how you will contribute to Brown’s campus community. The easiest way to do this is to show how you have contributed to other communities you’ve been a part of, as the best indicator for future accomplishments is past success. Brown is looking to build a supportive and welcoming community, and you should demonstrate how your values and abilities make the communities you are part of better.
The author in the example above discusses their perspective on philosophy, a blend of traditions, as it relates to overcoming anxiety. This essay thus works in two ways. First, it demonstrates how the author gives back to their community, by helping one of their friends overcome their anxiety. Second, it shows the unique perspective they will bring to campus, in their melding of eastern and western philosophy.
Your own essay should try to convey what values you hold and how you will contribute to the community. While showing unique perspectives you hold is also helpful, Brown has another whole essay meant solely for that. If your perspectives fit naturally into this essay, then include them, but don’t try to force them in. The essay should show how you contributed, rather than making claims as to your contributions. This isn’t the activities list, you have room to expound upon your accomplishments.
Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? *250 Words
My life has been a succession of sprints toward an ever-moving finish line. From grades and test scores to hobbies and extracurriculars, my incessant pursuit of achievement has often left me exhausted and unfulfilled. When I started cross country my sophomore year, the seemingly unattainable finish lines in the distance sparked a shift in my understanding of a life well-lived.
As I prepared to run the first mile of my life, the track extended before me like a python coiling around its prey, and by the time I finally crossed the finish line, the other runners’ sweat had already dried. When my dad asked me how practice went, I lied and said I didn’t make the team, but he saw right through me. I resorted to syllogisms, puppy-dog-eyes, and everything in between, but he wouldn’t budge.
Although I had shaved more than two minutes off my turtlish mile time within a few months, I never even made the top 50% in the participation race. Running has enabled me to balance my pursuit of achievement with an appreciation for “the race” itself. Rather than getting frustrated, I slowly shifted my line of sight from the finish line to the track itself, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, aligning my breathing with each step, and embracing who I was in the moment: Meera, The Winded Cross Country Star.
This essay also asks about a community you have been a part of, but instead of focusing on how you contributed to that community, the essay focuses on how the community impacted you. Brown is looking to admit students with a wide variety of perspectives and outlooks, and this essay is how they look for those. They want to foster dialogue and connections between people with wide ranging opinions and views of the world, and want to know how your personal viewpoints were shaped.
There is no right answer, but any views you espouse should be ones which show you in a good light. Be cautious when espousing controversial views, for while schools do support free speech, there are limits within which they operate. Try to find unique viewpoints, as the worst thing you can be in this essay is boring. If the perspective you bring is one shared by a thousand others, what value do you bring that they do not?
The author in the example above does a good job of sharing a more unique perspective. While cross country is a fairly common sport, the way it impacts the author, and what she learns from it, are more unique. The lesson is perhaps cliche, a focus on the journey rather than the destination. The activity is common as well. But the combination of the two is unique, and not something seen often. This uniqueness is what Brown is looking for, and helps your essays stand out amidst their thousands of peers.