Brown Supplemental Essays 2023-24 Prompts & Advice

August 16, 2023

brown supplemental essays

Applicants to the Brown Class of 2027 were greeted with just over a 5% acceptance rate, similar to the year prior. Given that 19 of every 20 applicants are turned away–even many valedictorians with perfect test scores–aspiring Brown undergrads need to find a way to stand out from a pack of similarly credentialed teens. Fortunately, Brown provides exactly this kind of opportunity by offering three 200-250 word essays and a handful of short answers that provide applicants a chance to showcase their writing ability and craft responses that are genuine, compelling, and potentially needle-moving to the admissions staff at this Rhode Island-based Ivy. In the following blog, we will offer a detailed look at each of the Brown supplemental essays.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into Brown University? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into Brown: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

You’ll find the Brown supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle listed below. The College Transitions team will also share their advice about how successful applicants approach each of the Brown supplemental essays.

Brown Supplemental Essays 2023-24

1) Brown Open Curriculum Essay

Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about any academic interests that excite you, and how you might pursue them at Brown. (200-250 words)

Let’s begin by explaining exactly what Brown’s Open Curriculum is…in the university’s own words, the Open Curriculum allows students to “develop a personalized course of study — they have greater freedom to study what they choose and the flexibility to discover what they love.” Getting to be the architect of your own college program is a rare opportunity that few schools other than Brown offer. With this great privilege comes great responsibility and Brown wants to know precisely how you might take advantage of this virtually unparalleled undergraduate freedom.

What topics keep you up at night? Which subject makes you read books and online content until your eyes bleed? Are there particular interests that you’ve started exploring—either in or outside the classroom—and would like to continue pursuing? If you could address one problem in the world, large or small, what would it be? Moreover, if you’re interested in several areas (which is 100% welcome at Brown) how might an interdisciplinary approach benefit you? After you’ve selected your interest area(s), you’ll then want to connect them to specific resources or offerings at Brown, which could include academic departments, classes, professors, research opportunities, study abroad programs, or internships, to name a few.

2) Brown Supplemental Essay – Background

Students entering Brown often find that making their home on College Hill naturally invites reflection on where they came from. Share how an aspect of your growing up has inspired or challenged you, and what unique contributions this might allow you to make to the Brown community. (200-250 words)

This prompt asks you to not only share a particular life experience or element of your background/cultural identity but also describe why that experience or element of your identity will help you contribute to Brown in general. Essentially, it’s asking you to take your essay’s reflection one step further—you’ll need to share why the experience or element you’ve chosen has inspired or challenged you as well as why/how you believe it will allow you to positively impact the Brown community.

Brown Supplemental Essays (Continued)

First, choose a key aspect of your experiences, background, or identity that reveals something deep and meaningful about you. (Although you could choose more than one, we’d advise against it, given that you only have 250 words in which to respond.) As you brainstorm, consider the following avenues:

  • Your role in your family.
  • A challenge you’ve faced.
  • A formative experience or realization.
  • Important aspects of your upbringing.
  • Cultural, religious, community influence.

Second, you’ll need to describe both personal and future impact. Make sure that your answer reveals something about how you will live out Brown’s values or contribute to an academic/social community (note: this should be different from the offerings discussed in your Open Curriculum essay). For the latter angle, you could name a specific course, research opportunity, or extracurricular club, to name a few—perhaps living in a beach town has heavily contributed to your passion for the world’s oceans, and you seek to bring that perspective to the biology department’s research opportunities. Alternatively, you could discuss something more intangible—perhaps Brown’s mission to create inclusive communities resonates with you, and you hope to bring your experience of growing up with a neurodiverse sibling to on- and off-campus tutoring opportunities.

3) Brown Joy Essay

Brown students care deeply about their work and the world around them. Students find contentment, satisfaction, and meaning in daily interactions and major discoveries. Whether big or small, mundane or spectacular, tell us about something that brings you joy. (200-250 words)

What brings you glee, exuberance, jubilation, delight, elation, bliss…joy? There are a multitude of universal and highly relatable experiences that bring joy to one’s soul. For example, it could involve family, pets, hobbies, habits, scenes of natural beauty, literature, travel, etc. However, you could also talk about dreams for the future, more bittersweet moments, abstract thoughts, moments of glorious introversion, or a time that you unexpectedly felt joy.

4) Brown Supplemental Essays – Short Answer Questions (new this year!)

Help us get to know you better by reflecting briefly on each of the questions below. We expect that answers will range from a few words to a few sentences at most.

What three words best describe you?

No tricks here—the prompt literally only allows for three words. As such, make sure those three words are pulling their weight. For example, “interesting, hard-working, dedicated” could likely describe any number of Brown applicants. Instead, try to think of descriptive or evocative words that capture what makes you unique or what you most value—perhaps it’s your wit, your bibliophile tendencies, or your generosity, to name a few.

What is your most meaningful extracurricular commitment, and what would you like us to know about it? (100 words)

Out of everything you’re involved in, what stands out? What activity is near and dear to your heart? What activity has enabled you to grow the most or learned important lessons? If you could choose one of your activities to continue doing in college, which one would it be? After you’ve chosen, think about why this activity is the most meaningful or important to you—what it has allowed you to accomplish, how it has brought you personal fulfillment, and/or how it has pushed you outside of your comfort zone, among others.

Brown Supplemental Essays (Continued)

If you could teach a class on any one thing, whether academic or otherwise, what would it be? (100 words)

Firstly, you’ll want to select a course centered around a topic about which you are an expert or hope to become an expert. The admissions reader is well aware that you are a teenager and not someone who has yet earned a Ph.D. Therefore, being a self-taught, informal expert is perfectly fine. You’ll then want to explain “why”—why will (or should) your passion be made relevant to a wider audience? Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Quality answers often involve the intersection of two or more disciplines.
  • Course creation essays can and should reveal your ability to connect and synthesize information.
  • Make sure that the topic of your course is not overly broad or already offered. The topic should not be akin to a 101 college course like Intro to Psychology…be creative (this is Brown, after all)!

In one sentence, Why Brown? (50 words)

Here, think about why you believe Brown is the best fit for you overall. To accomplish that, list every reason why you’re applying to Brown and how you believe Brown will help you reach your goals. There should be at least a few that stand out, which you can integrate into one (very long) sentence. While you can reiterate reasoning shared on other parts of the application (such as how excited you are by the linguistics department) you don’t want this response to be a straight-up repeat. As such, the strongest answers will include academic as well as social or ethos-related elements, and can reference your own short or long-term goals as well.

How important are the Brown supplemental essays?

There are a whopping 7 factors that Brown considers to be “very important” to the evaluation process. These are: rigor of secondary school record, character/personal qualities, class rank, GPA, recommendations, extracurricular activities. However, the most relevant to this blog is, of course, the Brown supplemental essays. The essays undoubtedly play a significant role in the admissions process at Brown University. They can help the committee decide whom to admit when choosing between similarly credentialed (GPA, test scores, etc.) applicants.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance with your Brown Supplemental Essays?

We have over a decade of experience helping students compose essays that help them gain acceptance to Brown. If you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Brown supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.