Tips for Answering Brown University Supplemental Essay Prompts

Get tips for answering the Common Application prompts. This post about the Brown supplement to the Common Application is the first in a series of posts written to help you complete the 2015 Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools.  

In addition to the basic Common Application essay, the Ivy League schools require supplemental essay responses. These extra essays help these elite schools gain a deeper understanding of you, the applicant. They are your opportunity to explain how the school is a good match for you and vice versa. These schools want to know what is important to you and how they fit into your future goals!

When addressing each prompt, consider the overall character and focus of the school in relationship to your personal objectives. Visit the school website, read about their educational mission, and think about how the school supports your interests. Brown University is committed to undergraduate freedom and the process of free inquiry. For students this means that while you are guided by specific departmental concentration requirements, you must take responsibility as an “architect of your courses of study.” Take a close look at the distinctive Brown Curriculum on the school’s website.

Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated in our Member Section, earlier in this application? If you are “undecided” or not sure which Brown concentrations match your interests, consider describing more generally the academic topics or modes of thought that engage you currently. (150-word limit)

Begin by discussing the subject areas you are interested in studying. Then discuss what specifically attracts your interest. You can include examples from previous coursework, volunteer experience, personal research, or any other factors that influence your interests. How you respond to this question demonstrates your potential to succeed in Brown’s independent academic framework. Don’t panic if you are truly undecided. This is a great opportunity to reflect on how you approach learning and discuss which subjects engage you. You are providing insight into how you navigate the academic world.

Tell us where you have lived – and for how long – since you were born; whether you’ve always lived in the same place, or perhaps in a variety of places. (100-word limit)

Your response to this question provides context regarding your life experience. You can also include your impressions about where you lived. Were there specific cultural ties? Was it a diverse or homogeneous community? Did you feel comfortable there? Did your family move for job opportunities?

We all exist within communities or groups of various sizes, origins, and purposes; pick one and tell us why it is important to you, and how it has shaped you. (150-word limit)

Briefly describe your selected community/group and your place within it. Then focus your discussion on how the group affects you. This is about how you view yourself in relation to others. This prompt touches on the impact of groups on individual thinking and vise versa. What does your membership within this community reveal about you? Discuss how you are similar or different from the larger group.

Why Brown? (200-word limit)

This is a direct and powerful question. This is your opportunity to communicate how the college fits with you now and potentially in the future. It also allows you to discuss how you can contribute to the intellectual and social environment at the school. What specifically draws you to Brown that you cannot find anywhere else? What does Brown offer that you are passionate about? What are your thoughts about its educational approach? You might want to consider how the Brown Curriculum meshes with your learning style. Think about why you are attending college and how Brown supports your goals.

Note: If you are interested in Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Geology, Mathematics or Physics, you must complete additional Science/Engineering statements. Likewise, if you are applying to the 8-year Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) or the 5-year Brown/RISD Dual Degree Program (BRDD), you must also complete additional special programs statements.

Brown has a highly competitive applicant pool. It received 28,919 undergraduate applications for the class of 2017. Only 2,654 or 9.2% were offered admission and 94% of the students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class. Your essays make you more than a number.

In this environment it is essential to remain calm and focused. Keep in mind, while adhering to the designated word limits, your goal is to distinguish yourself from your peers by sharing your personal examples, anecdotes, and perspectives. In short, by providing sincere insight into what makes you, you! And why you are a good match for Brown! Be sure to allow yourself appropriate time to reflect on your educational goals and to convey your best self to the admissions committee through your essay responses.

The 5 Fatal Flaws of College Application Essays

Marie Todd By , Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.

Related Resources:

• Tips for Answering Common Application Essay Prompts
• Beyond Tests Scores and GPA: How to Wow College Application Readers
7 Signs an Experience Belongs in Your Application Essay

So You Think You’d Like to Become a Doctor

Download your complete copy of Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program? “So You Think You’d Like to Become a Doctor” is excerpted from the special report, Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program? To download the entire free special report, click here.

If you’d like to become a doctor, you are like thousands of high school students as they begin their college search each year. Medicine is one of the relatively few careers that high school students have direct exposure to. For some students, this exposure comes from a parent or sibling who practices medicine; but for almost all students applying to college, they themselves have been to the doctor.

If you are a student who has met with academic success, has an interest in science, and has a desire to help others, then medicine probably seems like a natural fit for you. As you talk about it with others, the path seems more and more appropriate. It’s an easy answer to one of the tough questions that adults ask during this process: “What are you going to major in?” Your reply is simple and met with satisfaction: “I’m going to be pre-med.”

At many colleges, however, pre-med is not a major. It is a series of courses that students must take in order to sit for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) and apply to medical school. Many of these classes dovetail with university requirements for a biology-related major, but at this point, you need not major in science to be a successful applicant to medical school.

If you are considering a pre-med path through college, your opportunities to explore start in high school. Spend time shadowing a physician. Gain bench research experience. Enroll in demanding science courses in your high school. Participate in health-related volunteer work. Each of these activities will further enhance your profile in the future and help you to understand and articulate your own desire to become a physician.

Coming up next in this series: Advantages and Disadvantages of Combined BS/MD Programs.

Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program? Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

• Identity, Community, and the World of Med School Admissions
Navigating the Med School Maze
How to Shadow a Doctor

Financial Aid and Health Insurance for International Students

Listen to the interview!If you are one of the adventurous souls planning on leaving your comfort zone to study abroad, we’d like to introduce you to a treasure trove of invaluable resources.

Listen to the recording of our conversation with Ross Mason, VP of Envisage International for important tips and information about international student loans, health insurance, and other topics that matter to you.

00:03:31 – Envisage: Helping international students.

00:06:02 – How Ross got involved and what’s changed in past decade plus.

00:10:08 – Advice for a US resident applying to school abroad.

00:14:00 – Advice for a non-US resident applying to school in the United States.

00:19:42 – Health insurance for a US student accepted to an international school.

00:22:48 – What a non-US resident accepted to an US school needs to know about health insurance.

00:24:43 – Finding insurance: where to turn.

00:25:51 – What else is out there for students going abroad?

00:28:00 – Top advice for an international student preparing to go to school out of the country.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!

*Theme music is courtesy of

Related Links:

•  International Student Loan
•  Financial Aid for International Students in the USA
•  International Financial Aid Resources
•  IEFA: International Financial Aid and College Scholarship Search
•  International Student Insurance Plans (Country pages on the bottom right)
•  US School Insurance Requirements
•  International Student Insurance Explained
•  International Student & Study Abroad Resource Center
• International Students and the Individual Mandate Under PPACA
• The Affordable Care Act and J1 Participants in Non-Student Categories

Related Shows:

• Global Business Leadership at Wharton’s Lauder Institute
• Non-Academic Careers for PhDs: A Talk with Dr. Paula Chambers
• CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans
• Is a PhD a Good Idea?
• An Inside Look at INSEAD
• Leadership is King: Interview with IMD’s Lisa Piguet
• Interview with SoFi Co-Founder, Daniel Macklin

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Tips for Answering Common Application Essay Prompts

For more college admissions tips, check out our College Admissions 101 Pages!

Tell the adcom something that is not already conveyed in your app.

If you are beginning your senior year of high school, this is the prime time to write your Common Application essay. The sooner you get started, the better. There are over 500 Common Application members in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. All these institutions have in common a commitment to a holistic approach to the admissions process. This commitment means they will look at more than just your test scores and GPA. They give significant weight to your essay responses.

Keep in mind that your essays help round out the picture of who you are and what is important to you. Regardless of which essay prompt you address, it is essential to give yourself time to think about the information you are conveying and what specifically it reveals about you. It is also important to invest the energy to revise your responses. Each rendition of your essay should work to clarify your intentions while projecting something meaningful about yourself. You want to tell the admission committees something that is not already conveyed elsewhere in your application.

In addition to the main Common Application essay, many of these schools require additional supplemental essay responses. But they will be the subject of other blog posts.

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Describe your unique background or story and explain in detail what it reveals about your sense of identity. Then discuss how this information/revelation/reflection/experience plays out in who you are and the way you look at the world. In short, why is the background or story you shared significant and how is it central to the way you view yourself?

Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

How do you deal with adversity and what does that say about you? Clearly describe the specific failure you experienced. Discuss what you learned from the experience and how it affects you in your day-to-day life. Don’t focus on the setback itself but rather emphasize what you learned about yourself and how that changed your perspective or behavior. Maybe you learned that hard work pays off? Or that balance is important in your life? Or that you want to make different decisions in the future? You want to demonstrate resilience.

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Recount a time when you stood up for something. Discuss what created the conflict that motivated you to take action. What do your actions reveal about you? Then think about whether or not you would make the same decision again and why. Make sure you clearly communicate your values and beliefs.

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Briefly describe the place or environment where you are perfectly content. Then focus on your experiences there and why they are significant to you. How do you feel? What are you thinking? What do these emotions/reactions reveal about your character/values/perceptions/assumptions? And can you apply this self-knowledge to your life?

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

This prompt asks how you gained independence and became more self-aware. Provide a rich context as you detail your selected accomplishment or event and then focus on how it demonstrates a significant transition in your life. Take it a step further and discuss how this new phase or different status can serve as a foundation in the future.

If none of the essay prompts immediately jump out at you, give yourself some time to reflect on your life experiences. Talk with your parents and teachers about your ideas. Eventually you will discover a topic that excites you and reveals something significant about yourself. The subject of your essay doesn’t have to be completely novel. However, it should reflect your unique perspective while clearly communicating your best self. Think about what is important to you and why. Remember, all the Common Application member schools are interested in learning more about you through your essays!

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Marie Todd By  who served for over 20 years in higher education as an Instructor, Mentor, Academic Advisor and Undergraduate Admissions Specialist at top universities including the University of Michigan. At Michigan, she reviewed over 5000 applications. She would be happy to help you with your or your child’s college application.

Related Resources:

Ivy League and Common Application Tips: How to Get Accepted
Important Admissions Tip: Be Yourself
College Admissions 101 Pages

6 Tips for Getting Started on Your Application Essays

Sit down, think, and start writing!

Sit down, think, and start writing!

Sometimes the hardest part of writing a personal statement or application essay for college or grad school is finding the discipline to sit down and focus. Often, once you accomplish that, the ideas begin to form and the words begin to flow. The following 6 tips will help motivate you to start writing, and then to continue writing until you’ve got some solid material for a compelling essay.

1. Words beget more words. Here’s an important concept to think about when it comes to getting started – one word leads to another. Once you BEGIN writing, your brain will begin to generate ideas that will inspire you to CONTINUE writing. So even if you don’t think you have anything to say, just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Set a timer for 10 minutes and don’t stop writing until the timer dings. I guarantee that when the buzzer goes off, SOME idea will have surfaced.

2. Write now, edit later. Do NOT get bogged down in the editorial details of your essay during the early writing stages. Now is the time to simply get your ideas out on paper (or computer screen). Write as you think – in fragments, in run-on sentences, or in vivid descriptions of images as they pass before your mind’s eye. Work on making them sound good later on.

3. Use details. During the brainstorming phase of your writing, as well as later on when you’re clarifying your work, you’re going to want to include details that will engage your reader. Think about what attracts someone to a good book – is it boring summaries and abstractions, or a few descriptions of people and places or specific dialog?

4. Include meaning. Description is key, but if you don’t internalize (and then show that you’ve internalized) the MEANING of the scene you’ve described, then the adcoms won’t care much about it. What do your experiences say about YOU?

5. Prove impact. Now that you’ve expressed what your experiences say about your qualifications or characteristics, it’s time to explain how those traits and strengths will contribute to your class. You’ve proven that you are a leader; how do you plan on using those skills?

6. Have faith.
 Maybe you’ve hit a wall and feel like you’ll never spin your ideas into a coherent essay. Have faith – the writing process takes time. Take a break and then return to your computer with a clear mind and a positive attitude to begin the brainstorming process from scratch.

Now, sit down, think, and start writing! Good luck!