written by
Chloe Webster

Brown University Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022

Essay Guides 9 min read
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Brown University supplemental essays are a key part of your application to Brown University. Not sure how to approach the Brown University essay prompts? With tips from a current Ivy League student, CollegeAdvisor.com’s guide to the Brown supplemental essays 2021 will show you exactly how to write engaging Brown essays and maximize your chances of admission.

For more CollegeAdvisor.com resources on Brown, click here. Want help crafting your Brown supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.


Brown Supplemental Essays 2021 Quick Facts:

  • Brown has an acceptance rate of 7%—U.S. News ranks Brown as a highly competitive school.
  • We recommend answering all Brown supplemental essays—optional Brown University essay prompts included—comprehensively and thoughtfully.

Does Brown have supplemental essays?

In order to apply to Brown University, you must submit your primary personal statement, typically through the Common or Coalition Application. Additionally, Brown requires three shorter Brown supplemental essays for first-year applicants.

This guide to the Brown supplemental essays 2021 does not include the additional Brown University essays that you must complete for Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education or the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program. However, the Brown University essays covered below will provide the guidance necessary to complete those other Brown University supplemental essays.

Need tips on writing your Common App essay? Check out our blog article.

What are the Brown supplemental essays?

Specific details on the Brown supplemental essays 2021 can be found on Brown’s Undergraduate Admission page. The Brown University essay prompts are also available on the Common App site.

How do you write a Brown supplemental essay?

First, you’ll need to decide which topics you want to write about in your Brown supplemental essays. You only have a limited number of Brown University essay prompts to communicate whatever you may want Admissions Officers to know about you, so avoid making your Brown essays repetitive.

The Brown supplemental essays 2021 should highlight a different side of you as a student and as a person. For instance, if your personal statement focuses on your passion for social justice, you might write about your love of the piano in one of your Brown University supplemental essays. You want to emphasize certain characteristics, interests, and activities throughout your application: that’s your application narrative. However, it’s also important to highlight hobbies, community involvement, and other experiences that tell more about you in your Brown University essays.

Although these Brown supplemental essays will ultimately be shorter than your personal statement, you should plan on dedicating just as much time and effort to them. Each of the first-year Brown University essay prompts is only 200-250 words in length. This means that you’ll have to be very intentional about what goes into the final product. Aim to be as concise as possible by asking yourself which details are truly important and how you can express them in a clear, straightforward manner. In these Brown supplemental essays, content should be your main concern; you can focus a bit more on style in your personal statement.

Does Brown have a “Why Brown” essay?

The Brown supplemental essays 2021 do not include a traditional “Why Brown” essay. However, the first of the Brown University essays for first-year applicants does ask students how they may use Brown’s unique curriculum to their educational advantage. See more details on Question 1 below.

Brown Supplemental Essays—Question 1 (Required)

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)

This first of the Brown University supplemental essays puts a bit of a spin on the customary “Why Brown?” question. It narrows the scope and focuses specifically on Brown’s signature Open Curriculum. The university’s unique course of study frees its students from the constraints of general education requirements and allows them to fill their schedules with courses they are passionate about. Admissions officers want to see that you will truly take advantage of this academic flexibility if you attend Brown.

One key component of Brown essays, including this prompt, is connecting your personal interests back to Brown. These connections should be clear and concrete. Rather than using this space to discuss the benefits of the Open Curriculum, show that you’ve done your research. Cite a fascinating Brown course that you wouldn’t consider if you had to worry about requirements. Write about all of the different facets of your prospective major that you’ll get to explore if you’re not bogged down with other obligatory classes. Your goal is to communicate why the Open Curriculum is the right fit for you as specifically as possible.

Keep in mind the balance of this essay when drafting it. 3Additionally, double-check that Brown actually offers the majors or classes that you bring up in this essay!

Brown Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Have you included both your existing academic interests and some potential new interests as well?
  • Are your interests linked clearly and concretely to Brown’s Open Curriculum?
  • Do your descriptions reflect your genuine passion for these subjects?

Brown Supplemental Essays—Question 2 (Required)

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 most important thing to keep in mind while writing this essay is respect. Brown is known to be a very inclusive and accepting community (you can find the mission statement from their Office of Institutional Equity and Inclusion here), and you want to demonstrate that you are a good fit. Admissions Officers want to see that you are open-minded, no matter what your specific beliefs may be. Even if the differing perspective in question did not change your own, you must demonstrate respect for everyone involved. Remember, you never know the identity and beliefs of those evaluating your Brown University supplemental essays.

Moreover, sometimes insensitive stories may not appear to be insensitive at first glance. In your Brown University essay prompts, beware of privilege narratives that may come off as ignorant and condescending. For instance, avoid writing about an interaction with a poor person that led you to realize that the working class works harder than you initially thought. Though you may write this kind of piece with the best of intentions, Admissions Officers will likely see you as short-sighted when it comes to your own privilege. To avoid mistakes like this, make sure you get several pairs of eyes on your Brown essays.

To make your Brown University supplemental essays more engaging, you’ll want to “show, not tell.” This common writing advice encourages you to include sensory details in your piece in order to draw your reader into the world of the story. This is especially important to keep in mind when writing this essay—otherwise, it can quickly become very general and therefore less compelling. Some potentially successful examples could include an enlightening debate in class, a brand new kind of work experience, or a transformative conversation with somebody in your community. Whatever the scenario may be, zooming in and then out can add intriguing layers to your Brown University essays.

Brown Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Have you clearly communicated what your perspective was both before and after this challenge arose?
  • Do you include some sensory details that draw the reader in?
  • Have you demonstrated that you are open-minded and able to grow?

Brown Supplemental Essays—Question 3 (Required)

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)

Brown University supplemental essays are spaces where you can be your most creative. While there is certainly no right answer here, consider exploring a topic other than your academics or extracurriculars, especially those which you’ve already discussed in other Brown University essays. The most important thing here is to be genuine. True joy comes through in a piece of writing, and Admissions Officers will be able to tell if you’re only worried about impressing them in your Brown essays. One potential pitfall would be writing about how you find satisfaction and meaning in volunteering. Not only is this an overused response to these kinds of Brown University supplemental essays, but it may also be seen as virtue signaling. Read more on the CollegeAdvisor blog about how to write about your service experiences.

Keep in mind that this essay will also be used to assess who you are as a person. There is no need to try to be as profound as possible, but your topic should say something about you. For example, let’s say you’re a prospective computer science major and a dedicated tennis player. You may use this opportunity to discuss your love of watercolors: while it’s not one of your primary extracurricular activities, it’s a pastime that truly brings you joy. In this theoretical essay, you might expand upon how painting encourages you to appreciate the beauty of the world around you. Think of the things that make you unique and show that you care deeply.

Brown Essay Draft Key Questions:

  • Does this piece reflect a side of yourself that you haven’t yet written about?
  • Have you defined what joy looks like for you and expressed it toward the subject that you’re writing about?
  • Does this thing that brings you joy say something about who you are?

What does Brown look for in essays?

Your Brown essays (both your personal statement and supplements) are perhaps the most important element of your application because they are the part over which you have the most control. They round you out as a person and allow you to introduce new facets of yourself into your application. No college wants to admit a robot that can only churn out good grades—they are interested in the human who is applying to be a part of their community. Strong writing can even offset lower grades and test scores on your application. Your Brown University supplemental essays are your opportunity to show off any side of yourself that you desire.

Additionally, Brown is intentionally a very diverse community. Therefore, there are no “correct answers'' to the Brown University essay prompts. Try to put your best foot forward, of course, but remember to stay true to yourself.

To see examples of essays written by our advisors who were admitted to Brown, check out this article.

Brown Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

Writing Brown University essays is an important commitment, and the process can create a lot of stress. However, keep in mind that Admissions Officers are excited to hear about your interests and experiences and want to see you succeed.

Use this Brown supplemental essays 2021 guide as a way to help you craft engaging Brown University essays with as little stress and confusion as possible. You also have the help of your family, friends, teachers, and counselors to guide you through. Remember to allow plenty of time to review and revise your Brown essays before submitting them. Most importantly, remember to stay true to yourself throughout the application process.


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This 2021-2022 essay guide for Brown University was written by Chloe Webster. For more CollegeAdvisor.com resources on Brown, click here. Want help crafting your Brown supplemental essays? Create your free account or schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.

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