How to Get Into Brown: Admissions Data & Strategies
Unlike its Ivy League peers, the undergraduates at Brown University shy away from a competitive, cutthroat classroom atmosphere in favor of a more intellectually-curious, artsy, and progressive vibe. Brown’s famous Open Curriculum gives students a chance to genuinely pursue their academic passions from their first moment on campus. Yet, earning the right to spend four years in Providence, Rhode Island studying the topics of your choice with world-renowned faculty is earned, not given.
Brown has undoubtedly been highly-selective for generations, but the acceptance rates of today are significantly lower than those encountered by applicants ten or twenty years ago. In 2000, the admit rate was 16.2%; for the Class of 2023, it was just 6.6%.
The intent of this article is to give those considering applying to Brown University:
1) A more accurate understanding of the odds you face.
2) Additional data on which to accurately assess your chances of admission.
3) Advice for how to get your application to Brown stand out.
To accomplish these goals we will touch on the following topics:
- Brown’s Class of 2024 ED acceptance rate
- Brown’s Class of 2023 acceptance rate
- SAT, GPA, and class rank of accepted Brown applicants
- Admissions trends from the Class of 2023
- A look at the demographics of Brown undergraduates
- The percent of accepted students that attend the university (yield rate)
- How Brown evaluates applicants
- Tips for applying to Brown
- Do I have a chance to get into Brown?
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
Brown: Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024
Of the 4,562 early decision applications received for a place in the Class of 2024, Brown accepted just 800, a 17.5% acceptance rate. ED applications were up 8% from the previous year and 40% in the last three years which contributed to a decline in the admit rate—ED applicants to the Class of 2023 were successful a slightly better 18.2% of the time. Additionally:
- 62% of admitted Class of 2024 ED applicants applied for financial aid, an increase of 14% from the previous year.
- 17% of 2024 early decision admits will become the first in their family to attend college.
Brown Acceptance Rate – Class of 2023
Out of the largest applicant pool in school history—38,674 to be exact—only 2,551 emerged from the process with an acceptance letter in hand. The prior year, the Class of 2022 encountered a 7.2% acceptance rate. The last time that Brown’s acceptance rate was in double-digits was for the Class of 2013 when 11.2% were accepted.
Brown Admissions – SAT, GPA, and Class Rank
Successful applicants from the Class of 2022 (the most recent year for which official data is available) possessed a mid-50% SAT range of 1420-1550; the ACT range was 32-35. Ninety-one percent earned a composite ACT score better than a 30, and 82% scored better than 700 on the math section of the SAT. A stunning 96% finished in the top 10% of their high school class and 98% placed in the top quartile.
Admissions Trends & Notes – (Class of 2023)
- Students were admitted from all 50 states and 80 nations.
- 58% of admitted students attended public high schools, 31% attended private schools, and 11% graduated from parochial schools.
- 49% of those admitted identified as students of color.
- The top intended concentrations included: engineering, computer science, biology, economics, political science, and business.
- Of 2,641 applicants, just 94 students were admitted into the dual bachelor’s/MD program with Warren Alpert Medical School.
Who Actually Gets Into Brown?
Let’s now turn our attention to the demographics of the Brown undergraduate student body.
The five states from which the most students were admitted to the Class of 2023 are:
2) New York
4) New Jersey
As at any Ivy League or other elite school, Brown is seeking geographic diversity. If you hail from the Deep South or a less-populated state like Wyoming or Idaho, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances than if you live in a state that produces a flood of applicants every year (like the five listed above).
The five countries from which the most students were admitted to the Class of 2023 are:
4) South Korea
5)the United Kingdom.
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the current Brown undergraduate student body is as follows (percentages do not add up to 100% as applicants can list multiple races):
African American: 1%
American Indian: 4%
Brown’s Yield Rate
Brown University’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 63%. This is the 12th highest figure of any school in the United States behind the likes of Harvard (82%), Stanford (82%), MIT (76%), Yale (70%), and Penn (67%). However, Brown has a higher yield rate than Dartmouth (61%), Cornell (60%), or Notre Dame (57%). This number tells us that the majority of students applying to Brown view it as their number one choice. This is further evidenced by the fact growing number of students applying through binding early decision each year.
How Brown Evaluates Applicants
Brown is looking for students who “possess an intense curiosity and aspire to make an impact.” To decide which 6.6% of the very talented and accomplished applicant pool best meets this standard, the university avoids any type of formulaic assessment and dives into a full-blown holistic admissions process. In the words of the Brown admissions office, this process “challenges us to discover how each applicant would contribute to — and benefit from — the lively academic, social and extracurricular activity here at Brown. We will consider how your unique talents, accomplishments, energy, curiosity, perspective and identity might weave into the ever-changing tapestry that is Brown University.”
Brown ranks the following eight categories as being “very important” to the admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, application essay, recommendations, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. Only extracurricular activities is rated as “important,” and interviews, first-generation status, legacy status, geographic residence, state residency, racial/ethnic status, volunteer work, and work experience are “considered.”
In terms of extracurricular involvement, Brown is not going to be impressed that you filled the ten spaces on the Common App Activity List; they are looking for genuine excellence in one or more activities. For example, you won a prestigious international science competition, you are a standout pianist, you published or coauthored an academic study, article, or work of fiction; or you started a charitable organization that made a monumental impact. Being an athletic recruit can also be a massive boost to your admissions prospects. Brown’s 38 varsity sports teams suit up 900 undergraduates every year. For advice about how to stand out on the extracurricular front, check out our previous blog entitled How Many Extracurricular Activities Do I Need for College?
Tips for Applying to Brown
If you plan on joining the 38,000+ Brown hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
1) Brown gives applicants the option of an alumni interview which can be conducted in-person or over the phone/Skype, or the submission of a two-minute video portfolio. Those electing for the latter option can upload a video into their Applicant Portal on whatever topic they choose. Popular topics include:
- Why you chose Brown
- Your academic interests
- An individual who has influenced you
- Your community
For those opting for the interview, advice on what types of questions you should be prepared to answer/ask can be found in our blog—College Interview Tips.
2) According to the university, a typical class includes 10-12% of students who can be classified as “legacies” meaning that they have an immediate relative (usually a parent) who attended the school. Those with Brown lineage will enjoy an advantage in the admissions process.
3) Brown does not consider “demonstrated interest” so, you do not need to worry about visiting campus or connecting via social media just for the sake of proving to the university that they are your top choice.
4) Teacher recommendations are read very closely at Brown. As our previous blog on asking for teacher recommendations suggests, you need to ask teachers in major subjects who you believe will be willing to use strong language about what a phenomenal student you are. Ask yourself, would any of my teachers say things like, “She is in the top 1% of math students I have taught in my career,” or “He is one of the very best, if not the best American Literature students I have encountered in my 20 years”. Bold declarations along these lines are what Brown admissions officers will be looking for.
5) Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays and short answers required by Brown. In the 2019-20 cycle, they are as follows:
a) 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)
b) 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)
c) Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? (250 words)
d) Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 words)
These four essays are EXTREMELY important in the admissions process. Brown sincerely wants to know a great deal about each student offered a place in their freshman class. Do your research, be sincere in what you express, and convince the admissions readers that you will be an active member of the community who takes full advantage of the Open Curriculum. Check out our previous blog on the subject for more tips on mastering the “Why this College?” supplemental essay.
Should I Apply to Brown?
If you are academically qualified, there is no harm in filling out a Brown application as long as you have the $75 to spare, but—as with all prestigious, highly-selective colleges in 2020, it can only be viewed as a “Reach” school, for almost all applicants—including those with pristine transcripts and perfect standardized test scores. Even the strongest applicants need to have an array of “Target” and “Safety” schools selected. For more on this, consult our blog—How to Create the Perfect College List.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).