written by
Elinor Martinez

Brown University: PLME and Brown-RISD Essay Guide

Essay Guides 7 min read
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In this PLME and Brown-RISD Essay Guide, we will cover how to approach the 2020-2021 supplementary essays for Brown University’s specialized undergraduate programs. 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.

First, we will discuss Brown University’s PLME program. Then, we will cover the supplementary essay question for the Brown-RISD dual-degree program. For Brown University’s general undergraduate application essay guide, click here.

Brown University: Program in Liberal Medical Education - PLME Essay Guide

“PLME” stands for Program in Liberal Medical Education, and it is Brown University’s combined baccalaureate-MD program – the only one in the Ivy League. If you are accepted to this program, then you are accepted into Brown not only for undergrad, but for medical school as well, at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School. You won’t have to take the MCAT or fill out medical school applications. This is an 8-year program, from which you will receive your MD upon completion. It is, suffice to say, a huge commitment. With this in mind, Brown only wants to accept students who are extremely serious about their desire to become a physician.

1. Committing to a future career as a physician while in high school requires careful consideration and self-reflection. What values and experiences have led you to believe that becoming a doctor in medicine is the right fit for you? (250 word limit)

If you have any experience in healthcare, such as volunteering at a nursing home, shadowing a doctor, or taking a CPR class, now is the time to write about it. Make sure to be specific about what you loved about this experience and how the things you loved about it are also relevant to what a physician does.

You can also draw upon experiences that aren’t directly related to healthcare, but that have informed your decision to pursue a career in medicine, such as anything that involves science, working with people, and helping others.

Make sure you don’t skim over the word “values” in this essay – the PLME admissions officers aren’t asking for values or experiences, they’re asking for both. So put some serious thought into what you think is important in life, and why being a doctor is aligned with those beliefs and values. For example, you could write about empathy, and connect it both to your experiences volunteering at a hospital, as well as babysitting.

2. Most people describe a career as a physician/doctor as a "profession", beyond a job. Describe for us what "professionalism" and "the profession of a physician/doctor" mean to you. (250 word limit)

For this essay, you need to do some deep reflection and be ready to show why being a doctor is what you believe you are meant to do. Explain how you’ve gained an understanding of what it means to be a doctor, ideally through your experiences in healthcare. This could be through extracurricular activities like shadowing or volunteering, or it could even be through personal experiences, such as dealing with illness in your family.

Make sure to be specific, using anecdotes to detail why you feel the way you do. For example, maybe you’ve realized that being a doctor isn’t just about having expertise in your field and lots of research experience, but also about making connections with patients, and gaining their trust.

Another possible route would be to share your views on the role of healthcare in society, or on what qualities a good doctor must possess. This essay needs to be colored by your unique experiences, beliefs, and ambitions.

How do you envision the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) helping you to meet your academic, personal, and professional goals as a person and as a physician of the future? (500 word limit)

The key idea here is that the PLME program allows you to craft an education for yourself that is truly interdisciplinary and free of the constraints that a typical pre-med student faces. Many PLME students choose a concentration that isn’t directly related to medicine, such as a language, art, or even economics.

It sounds counterintuitive, but you may benefit from thinking first about your goals and interests outside of science and medicine. Once you’ve done that, tie them into medicine. For example, maybe you’ve really enjoyed your high school economics classes and you’d like to pursue that subject more. You could write about how important it is to understand the relationship between health and economics – there’s lots of overlap, through concepts like insurance, productivity, and infrastructure.

You should get specific by naming classes, concentrations, and professors you find interesting. Make sure to also look into the different programs offered by the Warren Alpert Medical School. Since you won’t have to spend junior and/or senior year preparing for the MCAT, perhaps you’d like to write an undergraduate thesis or pursue some other interesting project.

Don’t forget to talk about your personal goals outside of academics and being a doctor. Brown has a very unique campus culture that emphasizes community, collaboration, independence, curiosity, and social justice. Consider your values and write about how you want to further pursue them, and why the PLME program will allow you to do so. For example, perhaps you would like to get involved in clubs at Brown such as Thoughts, Prayers, Action, which deals with issues like gun violence. Or maybe you’d love to become a mentor to a young refugee through BRYTE (Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment).

The Brown|RISD A.B./B.F.A. Dual Degree Program - Essay Guide

The Brown|RISD A.B./B.F.A. Dual Degree Program draws on the complementary strengths of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to provide students with the opportunity to explore and engage with diverse spheres of academic and creative inquiry. The culmination of students’ five-year program is a capstone project that relates and integrates content, approaches, and methods from two distinct learning experiences.

1. Considering your understanding of the academic programs at Brown and RISD, describe how and why the specific blend of RISD's experimental, immersive combined studio and liberal arts program and Brown's wide-ranging courses and curricula could constitute an optimal undergraduate education for you.

Additionally, how might you contribute to the Dual Degree community and its commitment to interdisciplinary work? (650 word limit)

The Brown-RISD dual degree program is an incredibly selective, 5-year program in which students are fully enrolled at both colleges and graduate with two degrees. When answering this prompt, you need to emphasize that you would not be able to achieve your personal, academic, and professional goals without attending both schools.

You should identify why it is you are interested in both art and the liberal arts, and how your different interests intersect with and complement each other. For example, maybe you are very interested in medical illustration, and you want to have a solid understanding of both biology and illustration in order to pursue that career path. Or perhaps you love fashion design and creating clothing, but you also are fascinated by business and hope to start your own brand. By the end of reading your essay, it should be clear that both schools will be equally essential in preparing you for your career.

Don’t forget to answer the second part of this question as well: the Brown-RISD dual-degree community is very small and tightly-knit, so it’s important that they admit people who will be a good fit. You will have already addressed your own interdisciplinary interests in your answer to the first part of the prompt; now, think about your experiences and beliefs around collaboration and community. You could talk about the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will inspire and motivate you, or you could write about your excitement at potentially creating art and doing research with other members of the Brown-RISD community.

Applying to Brown University

In this essay guide, we covered how to approach the supplementary essays for both the PLME and the Brown-RISD programs. For Brown University’s general undergraduate application essay guide, click here.


This PLME and Brown-RISD essay guide was written by Elinor Martinez, Brown University ‘21. If you want to get help writing your Brown application essays from Elinor or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.