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Last updated April 5, 2023

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How to Write the Brown Supplemental Essays

Key Takeaway

For your Brown supplemental essays, you'll be writing about an academic interest, a time your perspective was challenged, and a part of your life that brings you joy. The key to acing the Brown supplement is finding balance across all your essays.

You’ll have three supplemental essays to write for your Brown application. Each will be 200-250 words, so you’ll be writing somewhere between 600 and 750 words in total.

Let’s take a look at the prompts.

Prompt 1

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)

Here we have an academic interest supplemental essay mixed with a “why us” essay. You’ve got the option to write about multiple academic interests, so think about what makes the most sense for you. Specifically, you’ll want to consider how your academic interests would be best served by Brown’s Open Curriculum. How will the Open Curriculum allow you to explore and deepen your existing academic interests? How will it help you explore new academic areas?

This last point is essential, and it's one many students miss. Don't just write about your academic interests. Also write about how the Open Curriculum will help you embrace those topics "with which you are unfamiliar."

The key here is striking a balance between a) showing that you have clear and determined academic interests, b) demonstrating an understanding of and interest in the Open Curriculum, c) indicating an awareness of what you have yet to learn, and d) emphasizing school fit by showing how the Open Curriculum is the perfect fit for your academic pursuits.

Prompt 2

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)

In this diversity essay prompt, you’ll need to write about a time your perspective was challenged.

When picking a challenge, make sure it’s a significant one. In most cases, you probably won’t be writing about a casual sibling disagreement or the time you were upset when your parents said you couldn’t go to Homecoming. The challenge you pick should be deeply meaningful. You might think about disagreements, confrontations, or conversations you’ve had in the classroom, with your friends, with your family, or even with a stranger.

Once you have your dialogue chosen, describe it in a way that lays out the details without weighing too much on the negative. You’ll want to give enough context to explain the situation and then spend a good portion of your essay discussing that last question: How did you respond? What action steps did you take? What reflection did you do? How was your perspective changed, or how did you change their perspective? Why are you better for having had the conversation? Answering these questions will show thoughtfulness, maturity, and an ability to engage in meaningful conversation.

Prompt 3

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)

If you’ve written any of your other supplemental essays yet, you might know that these “what brings you joy” questions are pretty popular. You might be thinking, Who cares what brings me joy? This is about college. But the truth is that your admissions officers do care what brings you joy! They’re sifting through tens of thousands of applications, and questions like these help bring applicants to life.

So take advantage of the opportunity to show a little personality and character. What you choose to write about will reveal to your admissions officer something that’s important to you. If you need ideas, take a hint from the first two sentences of the prompt: What about your own work or world do you care deeply about? What brings you joy in your daily life? What big parts of life bring you joy? Start there.


Remember: across all your essays, you're aiming for a perfect narrative balance, one that communicates something about your strengths to your Brown admissions officer.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our How to Get into Brown guide and Brown Common Data Set post for more insights into Brown’s admissions process. See you there. 👋

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