written by
Julia Riew

Brown University Essay Examples (And Why They Worked)

Essay Examples 8 min read
Image courtesy of Brown University

The following essay examples were written by several different authors who were admitted to Brown University and are intended to provide examples of successful Brown University application essays. All names have been redacted for anonymity. Please note that CollegeAdvisor.com has shared these essays with admissions officers at Brown University in order to deter potential plagiarism.

For more help with your Brown supplemental essays, check out our 2020-2021 Brown University Essay Guide! For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.


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. (150 word limit)

AUTHOR #1

Brown’s open curriculum, along with its great emphasis on interdisciplinary concentrations is unique among universities. As a student interested in courses like NEUR 1740, The Diseased Brain: Mechanisms of Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders and ANTH 0300: Culture and Health from two seemingly unrelated concentrations, I would love to take the opportunity to explore widely as an undergrad at Brown. Doing research under professors like Dr. Mason, exploring anthropological viewpoints in class and looking at the stigma surrounding HIV testing in Taiwanese/Chinese culture would allow me to draw upon my own cultural experience.

The cultural and social nexus also fits issues I encountered at Teen Line; callers talked about their own community’s condemnation about LGBTQ identity. The attention to social issues found at Brown will become my home away from liberal California where I can speak to mental health issues in various cultures.

Why this Brown University essay worked, from an ex-admissions officer

This essay worked because it is very specific. The applicant clearly did their homework in terms of the types of classes that are offered down to the individual courses that resonated with them. From there, the author connected these classes from different fields to demonstrate their particular academic curiosities and their desire to take advantage of the freedom to pursue them in a way that suits the author’s needs.

This essay is also successful because it gives a glimpse into the social issues that concern this student and how they have dedicated some of their time in high school to supporting the LGBTQ community. They demonstrate the desire to not only make connections to their personal experiences from a cultural perspective, but to understand how others experience similar issues within their respective culture.

This author was successful in demonstrating their fit by giving the admissions officers a strong sense of how they will apply what they learn in the classroom as well as how they will contribute to and enhance the Brown University community.

AUTHOR #2

As someone who places great emphasis in words, the idea of analyzing the cognitive aspects behind linguistics, whether philosophically, psychologically, or computationally fits my ideal of using interdisciplinary methods to study human behavior holistically.

I am also concerned with quantitative methods. For example, AP Psychology allowed me to talk about the ethics and methodology. I had read about the Asch conformity tests. But when my teacher set up the experiment with three classmates as subjects and the rest of us as confederates, two subjects did not conform; our ratio of nonconformity was lower than Asch had found. Could it be a trait of the magnet population and experience?

Should I remain pre-med, a strong background in neuroscience will support my study of anatomy and help me become a better physician. Directly linking biology and behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience will contribute to my holistic view of my patients.

Why this Brown University essay worked, from an ex-admissions officer

This essay is great because it shows how multifaceted the author truly is in terms of their intellectual pursuits. By highlighting their various interests alongside the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum at Brown University, the author successfully demonstrates their academic fit. The reader understands that this student enjoys questioning and analyzing methods, theories, and concepts for a deeper understanding.

This student has a strong sense of what they want to do but also has a high level of self-awareness and knows that they might change their mind in terms of their career aspirations. Either way, it is evident to the reader that this student has depth and will positively contribute to Brown’s academic community.

AUTHOR #3

To many, mathematics is little more than calculating how much flour Mrs. Smith needs to bake her famous apple pie. I felt this same way until I got to calculus. There, I was examining the fundamentals of change, infinity, and nothingness daily.

During one discussion with my teacher, he expressed his belief that the Fibonacci sequence was a proportion of divine handiwork. I’d never considered any application of mathematics outside of hard sciences. As I sat at my kitchen table that night calculating the instantaneous velocity at time t, I understood that mathematics, despite a well-defined set of laws, contains the philosophical ambiguity I find so stimulating.

Though finding the volume of a sphere may not fit the traditional idea of aesthetics, it serves the same purpose — as a study of structure and order. This intersection between mathematics and philosophy is one I hope to continue to explore.

Why this Brown University essay worked, from an ex-admissions officer

This essay is effective because, being one of the “many” the author refers to, it drew me in and piqued my curiosity. Whereas another reader who enjoys math would probably feel excited about this connection to philosophy.

Despite the author’s self-proclaimed propensity for the ambiguous, this essay is anything but. Besides clearly pinpointing what they want to study, the essay also provides a glimpse into the kind of student the author will be, one who is engaging and eager to make connections. The author’s excitement about learning is clearly conveyed throughout this essay.

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)

The summer of 2013, I participated in a Brown Leadership Institute course on Identity, Diversity, and Leadership that challenged me to consider my social values and individual identity. After those two weeks, I felt more motivated than ever to make a change in my society. I believe Brown is a place for students who, like me, are passionate about leading initiatives that can make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Brown is the place where all the aspects of my personality would thrive. In addition to stellar academic programs, its emphasis on free inquiry and global engagement really speak to me. It is vital for me to attend college where both academic rigor and openness to the world are widely promoted. In addition, the Swearer Center for Public Service is an amazing resource. Service has always been important to me, and I would like to continue in this path throughout college. Brown students and faculty are motivated, active, and inspiring in the ways that inspire me. At Brown, I would grow both academically and socially in an international and open-minded environment. It would be an honor to spend the next four years in such an incredible college.

Why this Brown University essay worked, from an ex-admissions officer

This essay works because the author effectively demonstrates fit with the Brown community. This applicant clearly lays out their values, characteristics, and interests and matches them to what Brown University has to offer. Furthermore, the author demonstrates their commitment to service and desire to continue their efforts throughout college, thereby providing a glimpse into the type of student they will be on campus. You get a strong sense of this student’s self-awareness and interest in learning from, and contributing to Brown’s diverse and open-minded community. Furthermore, they find a true value in this type of environment both inside and outside of the classroom.

Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? (150 word limit)

I don’t feel that I necessarily belong to one specific place due to my international background. However, I feel I belong the most to a specific group of people: my immediate and extended family. My parents and my older sister are an inspiration to me, and I look to them for guidance and advice. My grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins are also a very important part of my life. Like us, an American-Lebanese- Colombian family living in Madrid, my extended family all have very international backgrounds and have lived all around the world. I have American-Lebanese-Austrian cousins living in London and American-Lebanese-Belgian cousins living in Hong Kong. Even though we all have lived very different lives, we have something in common – the feeling of being citizens of the world, immersed in a plethora of distinct cultures, yet being part of one close-knit family.

Why this Brown University essay worked, from an ex-admissions officer

This essay works because the author exemplifies the spirit of community and diversity. Although “family” is a fairly standard response, it’s the explanation of how varied and spread out her family is, with a common American-Lebanese thread and shared experience, that makes them a community. This essay shows that there is not one clear cut definition of community, and it’s certainly not bound by location.


These essay examples were compiled by the advising team at CollegeAdvisor.com. If you want to get help writing your Brown University application essays from CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.

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