This is part of a series of posts providing advice you can use when completing The Common Application for 2011. You can find the entire series, including tips for the Common App’s required essays and advice on completing the activities section at https://blog.accepted.com/acceptedcom_blog/tag/2011-common-application-tips.
A hallmark of the Brown University education is its flexibility. Unfettered by a core curriculum or even the distribution requirements of many other colleges, students at Brown pursue their own education. The courses a student chooses are based upon their own ideas of education and of challenge, interest, intellectual development. With these tenets of the Brown education in mind, consider the writing component of the Brown Supplement to the Common Application.
“Why does Brown appeal to you as a college option? Who or what has influenced your decision to apply?”
— Brown prides itself on its distinctive curriculum and its unique campus feel. You might have visited Brown, or learned about it from a friend, relative, or guidance counselor. Either way, it’s a place that students relate to, or don’t. Brown is seeking students who want to attend Brown. Be personal and specific about the reasons you are choosing Brown.
“Why are you drawn to the academic fields you indicated in Question #6?”
— If you haven’t learned about the New Curriculum of 1969, now called the Brown Curriculum, head over to the Brown website. Students not only choose a concentration, but outside of that have limitless possibilities in the open curriculum. Briefly reflect on an experience, academic or non-academic that has nudged you toward your current area(s) of academic interest
“Please respond to one of the following essay topics: A, B, or C (Upload your response or attach it separately, and include your full name, school, and birth date at the top of the page. We prefer that you limit your response to 500 words maximum, and that you avoid repeating the essay submitted for the Common Application.)
“A) Tell us about an intellectual experience, project, class, or book that has influenced or inspired you.”
–Brown, like other highly selective colleges is eager to know about the roots of your academic interests. Certainly, you have given thought to this question, if you haven’t already addressed it in another essay (or the short answer, above). It’s also possible that it will come up in an interview later in the application process. Whether you choose to address this question now or not, give some thought to the roots of your academic interest. Was it a book, a travel experience, current events, a teacher, a science fair project or something else that ignited your interest?
“B) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, and why?”
— This question begs for you to share a story that tells the reader more about who you are. The key to doing this effectively, is to share the advice, and maybe even the context for the advice, but more to share your reaction and internalization of the advice. How has it impacted choices you have made? No, the advice need not be wise, but your essay should demonstrate some introspection and self evaluation, even if the advice itself is humorous.
“c) French novelist Anatole France wrote: “An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” What don’t you know?”
–My daughter’s first grade teacher gave all of the students an eraser on the first day of school. She told them she expected them to make mistakes, and that is one of the ways to learn. No doubt, you’ve heard that before. But it is through trial and error, curiosity and creativity, that one learns. Resist the temptation to list a stream of consciousness list of philosophical questions in response to this. It’s not your turn to play on the “I’ve climbed Mt. Everest, but I have never been to college,” essay. It is an opportunity to be candid, and even potentially funny, as you address a topic that you don’t know, or don’t understand.
More than some other highly selective colleges, Brown’s writing prompts encourage applicants and seeks applicants who are interested enough in attending Brown that they are willing to spend the additional time to complete the application.