Writing the Brown Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Padya Paramita

Writing the Brown Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Brown University might be on top of your school list due to its self-directed academics or plethora of clubs and intramural sports. Or you could be convinced that the Modern Culture and Media department is everything your heart desires. Whatever your reason for applying, it’s time to put your impressive knowledge of the institute on paper by capitalizing on the Brown supplemental essays 2020-2021.

The admissions officers at Brown look for students who have a deep love for community involvement, are keen to make an impact, and aren’t afraid to explore new topics and interests. These qualities must shine through in your application, and the supplemental essays are the perfect place to show that you’ve got what it takes to be admitted. To guide you through the writing process, I’ve outlined the prompts, the do’s and don’ts of answering each of them, and additional tips for writing the Brown supplemental essays 2020-2021 to the best of your abilities. 

Prompts for the Brown Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

The Brown Supplemental Essays 2020-2021 offer three required prompts for all students. Applicants for the Program in Liberal Medical Education and the Brown/RISD dual degree are required to write additional essays on their interest in the respective programs. Since these questions are all required, you’ve got to bring your A-game to each of your essays. 

Let’s take a look at the prompts below, along with ways you could approach them. 

Prompt 1

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)

The most important piece of this prompt is conveying your knowledge of Brown’s signature Open Curriculum. Unlike other schools, you don’t need to meet certain distribution or course requirements at Brown. You can select courses that you believe will play an important role in your goals. This is a key reason why many students apply to Brown in the first place. But admissions officers want to know how it can help you. 

Since a 250 word limit isn’t too spacious, focus on one or two of your favorite subjects, followed by a couple of ways you are excited by the restriction-free nature of Brown’s course “requirement.” Is it the thought of taking four classes from four very different departments - Public Health, Physics, Literary Arts, and Archaeology - all in the same semester that draws you in? Does the added flexibility in course selection particularly suit your style of learning? Is it perfect for your goal to combine multiple of your interests? 

The key to writing this essay lies in making it as unique to you as possible. Admissions officers should read the essay and say, “I could definitely see this student thriving at Brown!” or “This student is interested in Archaeology and Computer Science - that’s so cool!” Don’t write a generic answer that will make you easily forgettable. Each sentence should convince the reader that you’ve done the research, have a strong understanding of how the Open Curriculum works, and are confident in your ability to take advantage of it. 

Nikki Champlin, a writing expert from Yale and the Iowa Writer's Workshop, gives her advice for writing supplemental essays here:

Prompt 2

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)

Brown appreciates students who are excited to make a difference in their communities, regardless of the scale. So in your answer to this prompt among the Brown supplemental essays 2020-2021, it would be wise to mention a couple of activities at the school that make you excited to collaborate with your peers and take on an active role while at Brown.

Draw on experiences from high school as evidence for how you’ll contribute to the Brown campus. For example, if you plan to get involved in Brown’s Student & Community Radio, you can mention the ways you might have improved the environment and member outreach at your school’s radio station, or how you became interested in broadcast journalism while writing for your school newspaper. 

Brown students are also deeply involved in their local communities. If you’re interested in outreach programs offered by the school, such as Brown’s partnerships with English for Action or Providence Public Library, why not go into detail about ways you’ve participated in community service? Write about the valuable lessons you’ve picked up from your initiatives to then make the segue into talking about how you hope you will contribute to Brown’s campus.

Don’t get too carried away discussing only your high school experiences. The main point of your essay should lie in demonstrating that you’ve done your research about Brown-specific programs and organizations. 

Prompt 3

Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? (250 words)

For your answer to this question, you can define “home” however you want, as long as you’ve found community there. It can definitely be a physical space - your school community, your neighborhood committee, your literal home. It can also be an organization, a sports team that feels like family, or an online community based on a shared interest. Feel free to get creative with the way you define “home”!

It’s important that you do more than simply describe the community and the people involved. Since the question asks about how it has shaped your perspective, the majority of your essay should be dedicated to answering that question. Have you felt safe and loved at this home in a way you haven’t elsewhere? What are the ways you’d be different if you hadn’t discovered this community? What characteristics make it home?

If you have space, you can also look to answer other questions about your community. What is a typical day like in the community? What makes it feel like home - is it the conversations, is it the deep trust with the members, or is it simply the combination of the people? 

It’s easy to get distracted and talk more about the community in general terms or forget to discuss your role within it, but remember it’s your college supplemental essay, so write about why it’s home to you and why you think it’s special.

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Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!

 

 

For Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) Applicants:

Prompt 1

Committing to a future career as a physician while in high school requires careful consideration and self-reflection. What values and experiences have led you to believe that becoming a doctor in medicine is the right fit for you? (250 word limit)

There are many ways in which you might have explored your interest in medicine while in high school: this could be through taking the most challenging STEM courses, interning at medical or science-related organizations, or participating in relevant extracurricular activities, to name a few. You can demonstrate your commitment by elaborating on experiences that have prepared you for a career in medicine, topics that you enjoyed the most in your STEM classes, or values that ideal physicians require that you believe you capture.

According to Mariama Adekomaya, our Former Admissions Officer from Brown, who actually read applications for PLME, the dedicated admissions team looks for students who have displayed strength in STEM subjects and have demonstrated a clear interest in pursuing medicine. So don’t just write about how you shadowed a doctor or loved your biology class. Your essay should convey that you’ve put serious thought into the idea of going to medical school and are ready to commit yourself to this grueling profession. Focus on your own unique angle within medicine. You’re applying to one of the most selective programs in the country. You must stand out. Don’t fall into the pool of typical pre-med candidates. 

Download the full interview with Mariama here!

Prompt 2

Most people describe a career as a physician/doctor as a "profession", beyond a job. Describe for us what "professionalism" and "the profession of a physician/doctor" mean to you. (250 word limit)

This essay should be divided into two parts. In the first part, go deeper into what “professionalism” means to you. You can talk about holding yourself to a high standard of integrity, honesty, and commitment. You can use an example of ways you have learned about adapting professionalism into your life. You don’t have to use instances from STEM-related classes or activities to have learned about professionalism. If your work assisting the school librarian taught you about professionalism, the reader will appreciate learning about a different layer of your experiences. 

When addressing the actual profession of a physician/doctor, talk about what continues to draw you to the medical profession. According to Mariama, PLME wants students who recognize the importance of doctors working with their community, and specifically with different people. As a result, you should prioritize your ability to connect with people across social, economic, and cultural boundaries in your writing through use of concrete examples. 

Don’t talk about how much doctors earn, or Grey’s Anatomy as your reason for choosing the profession. You’re not writing a dictionary entry either - you shouldn’t define professionalism generally. It’s about demonstrating the meaning that you find in professionalism and the medical profession.

Prompt 3

How do you envision the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) helping you to meet your academic, personal, and professional goals as a person and as a physician of the future? (500 word limit)

First and foremost, you must be well-versed in PLME’s curriculum, requirements, and goals. Once admitted to the program, you are not only guaranteed acceptance to Brown for college, but into the Warren Alpert Medical School upon graduation, without having to take the MCAT. You must also be a good fit for Brown as well as for the PLME. 

Unsurprisingly, the program is highly selective - only 60 students are selected per class. To prove that you are indeed a worthy candidate for this opportunity, you need to outline your goals and appear confident in your knowledge of both Brown University and PLME.

Since the word limit is quite generous, you should write about all three types of goals the question asks for - academic, personal, and professional. Ask yourself questions to generate ideas about what to write. 

Ask yourself the following questions on your experiences to get started on the brainstorming process:

  • What are your career plans? How did you come to this decision?
  • Why do you want to become a doctor in the first place?
  • What experiences have prepared you for the PLME program?
  • What are some examples of your interpersonal skills?
  • How have you given back to your community?
  • How would your teammates describe you?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What are your biggest aspirations? 

Think about how attending Brown and specifically the PLME can help you attain your goals. What are you looking forward to the most about PLME? You can write about how the chance to conduct research with faculty from different disciplines at Brown can allow you to combine two passions: for example, medicine and economics, or medicine and political science. 

This essay is the perfect opportunity to show admissions officers that you are exceptionally motivated, passionate about medicine, and have done your homework when it comes to knowing how the PLME is a perfect fit for you.

For Brown|RISD Dual Degree Program Applicants:

Prompt 1

The Brown|RISD A.B./B.F.A. Dual Degree Program provides an opportunity to explore your interests and prepare for the future in two distinct learning environments. Considering your understanding of both academic programs, describe how and why the specific combination of the art/design-focused curriculum of RISD and the wide-ranging courses and curricula of Brown could constitute an optimal undergraduate education for you. (650 word limit)

This prompt among the Brown supplemental essays 2020-2021 asks you to write a response the same length as your personal statement, so you have plenty of room to get your points across. This essay is your typical “why this school” question with the added twist of demonstrating knowledge in the unique offerings of not just Brown, but the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) as well. 

The generous word limit allows you to delve into your academic interests and goals. Admissions officers want to feel confident about a student’s knowledge of both schools and how they would take advantage of access to each institution’s course offerings. Expanding on the departments and courses you’re interested in each school is a great chance to show Brown that you have interdisciplinary interests and are excited to approach problems from different mindsets. 

To successfully write this essay, browse the curriculum offerings of both Brown and RISD. What activities or classes do you enjoy the most now that have led to your desire to study two different disciplines? You could write about how an optimal undergraduate education for you means studying both Photography at RISD and Public Policy at Brown in order to learn how art can affect changes in policy. Or you might lean more towards studying Computer Science at Brown and Furniture Design at RISD to get a better idea of the role technology plays in developing new designs. 

Support your desired majors with evidence from your current academics and extracurriculars to show that your decisions aren’t random. Have you already begun working on building an app that simulates furniture blueprints? When you’re not reading up on current policies are you busy at your school’s photo lab? Are there any connections between your two ideal fields that might not immediately meet the eye? Convince the reader of your authentic interest in the degree.

Moreover, emphasize (in a way that doesn’t repeat information from the first supplemental question) how a RISD education can add additional value to the Open Curriculum at Brown. Note that the question primarily asks that you focus on education and curricula, so while it’s okay to mention student organizations at RISD that you want to participate in, don’t dedicate entire paragraphs to extracurriculars at the two schools. 

Additional Tips for Answering the Brown Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Now that you’ve gone through the prompts, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you brainstorm your essays.

  • Emphasize community- Remember, Brown is interested in students who are determined to make a difference in their communities and in the world. Community comes up constantly in the prompts, and for a reason. You must be a community leader and willing to work with others. Admissions officers don’t always expect that impact to be on a huge scale - they know you’re still in high school. If you’ve made even a small change in your local community, that’s also something interesting you can focus on in your Brown supplemental essays 2020-2021
  • Avoid repetition - With all of these questions asking you about your interests and favorite topics and activities, it can be easy to want to talk about the same thing over and over again. Avoid that at all costs. Each of the Brown supplemental essays 2020-2021 are meant to add new information about you to your application. And the topic of your essay doesn’t have to stay true to the theme of your application. Brown appreciates multifaceted individuals, so don’t hesitate to write on something the reader might not have guessed about you! 
  • Connect your answers to Brown - A lot of students apply to Brown because of the Ivy League status or ranking. If you’re actually interested in Brown, the supplemental essays can assist you in proving to admissions officers that you know what you’re talking about. Go through social media pages and the Brown website to jot down what you like and in your responses, show the reader that you’re as good of a fit for the school as the school is for you. Be as specific to Brown as possible, weaving in your knowledge of the school to exemplify that you’re making a well-informed decision.

Since Brown receives a lot of applications, you need to find ways to stand out from the pack - and taking advantage of the supplemental essays is a great way to do so. Answering the Brown supplemental essays 2020-2021 is all about portraying who you are, the communities that matter to you, and the difference you wish to make in the world. So sit down and think about which activities and courses have meant the most to you - and show admissions officers how you will continue to make an impact on the Brown campus. You’ve got this!

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