Applicants to the Brown Class of 2025 were greeted with just a 5.4% acceptance rate, the lowest in school history. 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 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.

Brown University’s essay prompts for the 2021-22 admissions cycle are listed below along with accompanying advice about how to tackle each one:

Brown University 2021-22 Prompts

1) 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 use the Open Curriculum to pursue them while also embracing topics with which you are unfamiliar. (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 how precisely how you might take advantage of this virtually unparalleled undergraduate freedom.

What makes you tick? What keeps you up at night? Which subject makes you read books and online content until your eyes bleed? If you could address one problem in the world, large or small, what would it be? How might an interdisciplinary approach help create innovative solutions to challenging problems? If you are answering at least one of these questions, you are on the right track with this essay.

2) Brown’s culture fosters a community in which students challenge the ideas of others and have their ideas challenged in return, promoting a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex issues confronting society. This active engagement in dialogue is as present outside the classroom as it is in academic spaces. Tell us about a time you were challenged by a perspective that differed from your own. How did you respond? (200-250 words)

The United States today finds itself in an extreme state of polarization, where there seems to be little agreement even as to what constitutes “truth” or “facts”. Within this divided world, it can be hard for individuals with competing viewpoints to engage in civil and productive dialogue. Here, Brown is giving you the chance to show that you are an open-minded, intellectually curious, truth-seeking young person who is willing to engage in conversations/debates with people who hold opposing positions on topics of great importance to you. One key thing to remember when addressing this prompt is that you don’t have to be the hero of the anecdote—in fact, you may be one who learned to expand their thinking.

3) 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, whether it involves children, pets, scenes of natural beauty, 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.

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