Brown Interview: What It’s Like + My Experience

Like many other selective colleges, Brown offers applicants the opportunity to interview with a local alumnus. The interview is entirely optional, and receiving one is in no way indicative of your application’s strength; instead, you will be offered one based on the availability of interviewers in your area.

 

At CollegeVine, we always recommend taking this opportunity if offered! It’ll only take about 40 minutes of your time (not including prep), and it’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know somebody who has graduated from the school you hope to attend. You may meet virtually or in a calm, quiet, public setting, like a coffee shop.

 

The interview is typically a sign of demonstrated interest, which Brown doesn’t track. Still, it’s a fantastic way to gauge your own fit and interest for the college by talking to someone who has already attended. Since your interviewer will be submitting a short interview report on your behalf, it’s also a great opportunity to make an impression on your admissions officers.

 

Though I was not ultimately accepted to Brown, my interview provided a few key takeaways for use in future interviews. Hopefully, these insights will be useful to you too! In this post, I’ll go over my interview experience and offer my tips for a smooth interview.

 

How is Covid-19 Impacting Brown Interviews?

 

Due to complications posed by the pandemic and access issues from previous years’ interview processes, Brown has suspended the Alumni Interview Program for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. 

 

To compensate, Brown will be hosting multiple webinars during the college application process which will give ample opportunities to listen and interact with Brown alumni. Like the interview, demonstrated interest via webinar attendance will not affect your application’s chances.

 

In lieu of an interview, Brown Admissions encourages its applicants to submit an optional video portfolio showcasing their voice and personality. The video has no specific prompt and will not be evaluated on editing or production quality. Instead, it’s meant to provide some insight regarding your interests and personality in a similar way to how an alumni interview would.

 

Although you may not be prepping for a Brown interview this cycle, this article may still be of use to applicants to the Brown class of 2026 and beyond. If you’re applying to other schools which offer alumni interviews, you may benefit from this post, or our article regarding virtual interviews.

 

Setting Up Your Brown Interview

 

My interviewer Henry* reached out to me via group email on January 26, 2020, almost exactly two weeks after I had submitted my Brown application. He gave us his number, his Skype email, and some time slots to choose from.

 

Since he gave no instructions regarding interview dress or formality, I opted for a business-casual top, which is usually the safest bet in these sorts of interviews. Although your interviewer won’t be able to tell, I really recommend wearing nice pants, too, if you truly want to feel put-together. 

 

Note: I am name-changing for privacy and paraphrasing for clarity.

 

What the Brown Interview is Like

 

I’m going to be frank: this interview was not my best one. There were plenty of moments of disconnect and discomfort. Luckily, you’re here to learn from my mistakes, not make them!

 

For starters, I hadn’t slept much the night before, which I foolishly tried to compensate for with copious amounts of coffee. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation and caffeine make me anxious, so I came into the interview jittery and scatterbrained. Remember, prospective Brunonians: there is no good substitute for a good night’s sleep!

 

Luckily, Henry was an affable person, and he asked me several questions tangentially related to our conversations as the interview progressed. What were my hobbies? What was my family like? What was it like being the oldest sibling? What made me happy? 

 

Since not all of his questions were common interview questions, I had to rely on my iffy improvisation skills instead, which led to a few hiccups. At one point, he asked me for my thoughts on the Chinese-American trade war, which I was woefully uninformed about. 

 

Times like these call for transparency, so I truthfully told him that though economics and foreign relations are fascinating fields, I had not researched this particular issue enough to have a justifiable opinion on it. I followed that up with some rambling about multifaceted issues, dual perspectives, the importance of staying well-informed, etc. He seemed satisfied enough with that, and we moved on.

 

At another point, Henry asked me if I’d completed any internships. I told him I hadn’t, and after a brief silence in which I seriously reconsidered my high school years, I said, “But I’ve volunteered!”

 

Grateful for a talking point, he listened attentively to my account of the volunteer work I’d done at an environmental nonprofit over the summer.

 

My takeaway? You can’t possibly predict every question they will ask you, and that’s okay. Your interviewer is likely simultaneously kinder and less emotionally involved in your responses than you think they are. They have likely interviewed many students before you and will continue to interview many more after you. They know teenagers like you aren’t all-knowing entities.

 

So if a question doesn’t present you with an opportunity to flex your knowledge or experience, use it as an opportunity to showcase something else, like your open-mindedness or improvisation skills. There’s no shame in taking a few moments to collect your thoughts before speaking, either!

 

Another hiccup came in establishing a solid connection. In previous interviews, I’d fallen into a smooth conversational flow through bonding with my interviewer over shared interests like women’s safety and education. I’d been granted the ease of speaking to relatable alumni, most of whom were women like me. However, I didn’t have too much in common with Henry, and while the interview is ultimately about showcasing your authentic personality, it never hurts to meet someone who resonates with your experiences and outlooks. 

 

Luckily, Brown values open-mindedness and interdisciplinary thinking, so meeting someone with completely different interests from yours can be a great opportunity to showcase your curiosity and broaden your horizons. Though it may be harder to find in some people than others, it’s always possible to find common ground; at least you’ll have a shared interest in Brown! I asked Henry about his experience there and his reasons for choosing it as the place to complete his postgraduate education. We discussed its academic environment and student culture, both of which were hugely important to me.

 

The interview was forty minutes long and filled with ups and downs. I didn’t get into Brown, but I think that’s moreso attributable to my supplemental essays than my awkward interview. It’s okay, though, because I truly am a better fit for the school I will now attend. Some things are just meant to be.

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Tips for the Brown Interview

 

Most of my tips for the Brown interview are applicable to any college. Come in on time, well-rested, well-fed, and with a few solid questions prepared. Treat the interview like a conversation and show genuine interest in the person you are speaking to. Be authentic and arrive in good spirits.

 

More specifically, Brown tends to value creativity of diverse kinds, open-mindedness, and intellectual curiosity, so if these are traits you embody, try to express them throughout your interview as you talk about your interests and experience. Don’t force anything though; in most cases, your alumnus will treat the interview like a conversation, so your personality will shine through regardless. 

 

Finally, try to come into the interview with a calm mind and a positive outlook. Look at it as an opportunity to add to Brown’s complex understanding of who you are, talk to a (hopefully) interesting person, and learn more about a fantastic school! While the interview is lightly considered in the selection process, Brown’s Common Data Set shows that your academics, essays, and letters of recommendation will hold far greater weight. A good one will certainly give you a small boost, while a bad one will hardly make or break your application—barring exceptional cases, i.e. you offend your interviewer.

 

If you approach your alumnus with confidence and empathy, however, that likely won’t happen. So best of luck, aspiring Brunonians! Be your open-minded, curious self!

 

If you have any questions about the interview process, you can use our Q&A forum to get answers from peers and verified experts. Just sign up for your free CollegeVine account to get started!

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Michelle Foley
Essay Breakdown Writer

Short Bio
Michelle Foley is currently taking a gap year before starting at Yale College in Fall '21, where she is considering majoring in Art, English, or Cognitive Studies while earning her Spanish certificate. In her free time, she likes to paint, run, and read!

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