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How to Write the Essays for Brown’s Special Programs

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:



If you are applying to the Brown University Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) or to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Dual Degree Program, then in addition to the general Brown supplemental essays, you are required to write either three additional 250-word essays for PLME or one 650-word essay for the RISD Dual Degree Program. 


In this article, we discuss the essay prompts for PLME and RISD, along with strategies to strengthen your responses based on the goals of each individual program.


The Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) 


Brown’s PLME enables you to get accepted to both Brown and Brown Medical School directly out of high school. Guaranteed medical programs like this are quite rare, with only about 30-40 in the United States. Programs like the PLME tend to be quite competitive, even at schools that aren’t already highly selective like Brown, and they usually have application metrics and acceptance rates that are on par with Ivy League schools.


At PLME, this competitiveness gets taken to another level. Additionally, the application process is slightly different than that of other guaranteed medical programs, specifically in terms of how the essays are used. Many other programs tend to have a medical-school style to their essays, where they ask you to talk about your patient care experiences or discuss why you want to be a doctor. 


While the PLME essays cover some of that, at just 250 words each, they are much shorter than the essays of other guaranteed medical programs. Ultimately, you have a limited amount of space to develop these concepts and demonstrate to Brown that PLME is the right fit for you.


The First PLME Essay


For Brown’s PLME, the first essay prompt is:


Committing to a future career as a physician while in high school requires careful consideration and self-reflection. How do you feel your personal background provides you with a unique perspective of medicine? (250 words)


In this essay, you will share your personal connection to medicine and the unique perspective that you bring to the field. This prompt is vital to admissions officers because it helps them evaluate whether you are genuinely committed to this unique program. 


There are plenty of Brown students who will go to Brown, graduate, and then apply to medical school through a more “typical” path. When you write your PLME essays, you need to make a strong case as to why you should be locked into this guaranteed medical pathway right from the start.


The Second PLME Essay


The second essay that you have to write for the PLME is about how you, as a future physician, will make a positive impact through your PLME healthcare training. Applicants are asked to respond to the following prompt:


Healthcare is constantly changing, as it is affected by racial and social disparities, economics, politics, and technology, among others. How will you, as a future physician, make a positive impact? (250 words)


This essay is important because it helps Brown understand that you are passionate about medicine and deeply motivated to enter the field, not only because it’s a financially lucrative, prestigious, and stable career but also because it’s an opportunity to make a difference.


Brown cares that students are focused on making positive impacts on the world. Even if you are driven to medicine for the ancillary benefits of stability and earning potential, you still have to make a compelling case in this essay that you are also driven to benefit the world around you.


The Third PLME Essay


The last essay for the PLME program asks students to respond to the following prompt:


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? (250 words)


While this prompt is fairly straightforward, it is just as important as the other essays. As you approach this essay, deeply reflect on why you want to enter the PLME and your future goals. Consider why the PLME in particular will help you achieve these goals over any other program.


One thing worth noting as you respond to the PLME prompts is that these are short essays, with just a 250-word limit for each. It’s much harder to thoroughly address the prompt than with a 500- or 600-word essay. Polishing your essays and focusing on being concise will ensure that you clearly demonstrate why you want to enter into Brown’s guaranteed-admission, accelerated medical program.


The Brown-RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) Dual Degree Program


The Brown-RISD Dual Degree program is similar to the PLME in that it has a low acceptance rate, particularly because the Brown-RISD program grants you admission into two institutions. Through this program, Brown students earn a degree from Brown and from RISD, a highly selective art and design school.


As you write the Brown-RISD Dual Degree essay, your focus should be on demonstrating to admissions why you need to be fully admitted to both schools. This is crucial because Brown and RISD are neighboring schools with an agreement that Brown students can take a few courses at RISD and vice versa.


For example, if you’re a Brown student and your planned academic program requires you to take history at Brown and arts at RISD, you need to explain in this essay why you need to be in the specific dual degree program rather than just taking a few art classes at RISD through the normal pathway. You have to demonstrate that you truly need to earn a full degree at RISD and a full degree at Brown for your future goals and academic success. This Brown-RISD essay is used to weed out students who do not have a compelling reason to complete degrees at both schools.


Writing the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program Essay


For this dual degree program, applicants must respond to the following prompt in under 650 words:


The Brown | RISD 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 diverse spheres of academic and creative inquiry, culminating in a capstone project that interrelates the content, approaches, and methods from two distinct learning experiences.

Based on your understanding of the academic programs at Brown and RISD and the possibilities created by the BRDD program’s broadened learning community, specifically describe how and why the BRDD program would constitute an optimal undergraduate education for you. As part of your answer, be sure to articulate how you might contribute to the Dual Degree community and its commitment to interdisciplinary work. (650 word limit)


In this essay, you need to draw on the complementary strengths of Brown and RISD. Based on your understanding of the academic programs at both institutions and the possibilities created by their broader learning community, specifically describe why and how the Brown-RISD dual degree program would constitute an optimal education for you.


As you write, elaborate on your education plans and show why this specific program is necessary. Similar to how the PLME wants to weed out anyone who might drop out of the program halfway through and therefore reduce its medical school acceptance rate, the Brown-RISD Dual Degree program wants to ensure that admitted students are highly committed to completing the program and making the most of the opportunity.