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Charting a Path to Brown University: A Guide to the Admission Landscape

Understanding the nuances of applying to Brown becomes crucial as you navigate the competitive landscape of Ivy League admissions. Discover what sets Brown apart in this in-depth guide.


March 28, 2024 4 min read

In the picturesque city of Providence, Rhode Island, Brown University stands as a testament to innovation, academic freedom, and a commitment to social responsibility. Known for its distinctive approach to education and a campus buzzing with intellectual curiosity, Brown attracts students who are eager to chart their own academic journeys. As one navigates the competitive landscape of Ivy League admissions, understanding the nuances of applying to Brown becomes crucial. This article delves into Brown's admissions process, shedding light on its approach to standardized testing, key review focuses, and the unique facets that set Brown apart.

What Brown Looks for in Applications

Brown’s admission process is characterized by a holistic review, with a keen focus on the following elements:

  • Academic Excellence: A rigorous high school curriculum and strong academic performance are fundamental. Brown values students who challenge themselves and excel in their chosen areas of study.
  • Intellectual Curiosity: Brown’s open curriculum encourages students to explore widely and deeply. The university looks for applicants who demonstrate a genuine love for learning and an eagerness to engage with a broad range of subjects.
  • Community Engagement: Contributions to one's community and the ability to collaborate with others are highly regarded. Brown seeks individuals who have made a positive impact in their schools or local communities through leadership, service, or creative initiatives.
  • Personal Qualities: Through essays and recommendations, applicants have the opportunity to showcase their unique perspectives, resilience, and potential to contribute to Brown’s diverse community.

Brown’s Standardized Testing Update: A Strategic Shift

In a move reflecting its commitment to diverse and accessible education, Brown University will require SAT or ACT scores from first-year applicants starting with the Class of 2029. This reinstatement comes with a promise to evaluate scores within the broader context of each applicant's educational and personal background. This "Testing in Context" approach aims to ensure fairness, particularly for students from less-resourced schools, by considering test scores alongside other factors like academic performance and extracurricular involvement. Brown’s decision, informed by extensive deliberations on admissions policies, underscores its holistic review process and dedication to identifying potential across a wide spectrum of experiences. You can read the President’s letter addressing the motivations behind this shift here.

Distinctive Aspects of Brown University

  • The Open Curriculum: Brown’s open curriculum is emblematic of its approach to education, allowing students the freedom to design their own academic pathway without the constraints of general education requirements. This fosters a highly personalized and interdisciplinary learning experience, as seen in the creation of independent concentrations by students who wish to study topics that transcend traditional departmental boundaries.
  • Engaged Scholars Program: This program exemplifies Brown’s commitment to connecting academic work with community engagement. Participants combine coursework, research, and hands-on experiences to address social issues, demonstrating the university’s ethos of utilizing knowledge for societal benefit.
  • The Writing Fellows Program: Unique to Brown, this peer tutoring program embeds trained undergraduate writing tutors in various courses. They provide feedback on drafts, helping to foster a community of writers and scholars who support each other’s academic growth.
  • Global Learning and Innovation: Brown encourages global engagement through programs like the Brown International Scholars Program (BISP), which supports students in conducting research or academic projects abroad. This initiative reflects Brown's dedication to cultivating a global perspective among its students.

Applying to Brown University is more than just meeting application requirements; it’s about conveying how you align with the university's ethos of intellectual independence, community engagement, and a multidisciplinary approach to learning. Brown’s distinctive educational philosophy and its commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive community offer a unique backdrop for students to explore their passions and develop new ones. As applicants navigate through the process, highlighting how their experiences and ambitions resonate with Brown’s values can make a compelling case for their admission, paving the way for an enriching college journey at one of the nation’s most forward-thinking universities.

Discover how to stand out in your Brown University application—talk to an advisor today.

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