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How to Write Brown’s Perspective Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Shane Niesen and Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



The second Brown University supplemental essay asks students to respond to the following prompt:


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 article, we discuss why this prompt is so important, how to be aware of a reader’s bias, and why having someone else proofread your essay is essential. 


Why This Prompt Is Important


Brown’s second essay is all about being challenged by a perspective different from your own. One of the trickiest parts about this essay is to avoid focusing on presenting the two perspectives and the battle between them. This is not the point of the prompt. Brown admissions officers want to read about your perspective and your thought process when challenged. 


The goal of this prompt is to demonstrate how you think about the world, address challenges, and approach conflict. There is no avoiding conflict in life—over the past few years, for example, our society has experienced a great deal of friction due to opposing perspectives—so do your best to share your thought process around conflict. Dive into how you approach being confronted with differing opinions. 


Avoiding Admission Officers’ Biases


There are a few questions that you can home in on for this prompt. You can write about your perspective, who challenged you, how it felt being challenged, and if that changed your perspective. This doesn’t mean you have to write about the exact time and place when your mind changed—maybe you felt even stronger about your beliefs after being challenged. The point is that you want to demonstrate that this confrontation had some sort of impact on you. 


Don’t be afraid to step away from the broader issues in our society or politics. Try to focus on a personal situation for this prompt. This will not only make you stand out from the crowd, but it will also help you avoid the biases of the admissions officers. Of course, admissions officers are aware that they will read the essays of students who share different perspectives than their own, but by writing about a personal conflict or issue, you’re more likely to avoid this issue entirely. 


Why Someone Else Should Read Your Essay


Appealing to the admissions officers is a crucial part of your essay. You want the reader to like you or at least empathize with your perspective. This is why you should check yourself and your opinions while writing. You can do this by sharing your essay with someone else and asking for feedback. If that person tells you that they didn’t like how you talked about your opinion, that’s a sign that the admission officers won’t like it either. 


Ask your reader for feedback on the structure and content of your essay. A big mistake that students make is spending too much time narrating the problem rather than reflecting on the story. Your essay will ideally contain deeply personal topics, so most of it should focus on your emotions and headspace.