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4 Great Brown University Essay Examples

What’s Covered:


Brown is a highly-selective school, so it’s important to write strong essays to help your application stand out. In this post, we’ll go over some essays real students have submitted to Brown, and outline their strengths and areas of improvement. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).


Alexandra Johnson, an expert advisor on CollegeVine, provided commentary on this post. Advisors offer one-on-one guidance on everything from essays to test prep to financial aid. If you want help writing your essays or feedback on drafts, book a consultation with Alexandra Johnson or another skilled advisor.


Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 


Read our Brown essay breakdown for a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental essays.


Essay Example 1 


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)


My mother exclaimed in shock as she saw the title American Murder: The Family Next Door as the latest title on our Netflix watch list. “Why on earth would you want to watch that?” It made no sense to her that I spent free time watching documentaries about the psychopathic tendencies of serial killers.


From listening to neuropsychology podcasts on my long runs to reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I’ve been eager to explore the intersection between neuroscience, society, and the role they play in human nature. Brown’s Open Curriculum would allow me to double concentrate in Neuroscience and Science, Technology, and Society with a theme in Health and Medicine. Classes like Philosophy of Biology and The Moral Brain would begin to answer my questions about the relationship between neuroscience and human ethics. Perhaps I’ll finally understand why Raskolnikov thought he could get away with his crimes.


As an eight-year Latin scholar and five-time Percy Jackson reader, I hope to take classes in the Brown Classics department. I’m also intrigued by Ancient Greek Philosophy, and I plan to explore classic texts such as Plato’s Symposium in Introduction to Greek Literature. Courses like Hippocratic Medicine would allow me to learn about connections between the Classical world and medicine today. 


The brain’s unique composition creates an intricate link between science, history, and modern society that I can only explore at Brown. More importantly, Brown’s diverse environment would introduce me to people with entirely different opinions about Raskolnikov’s motives.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay is structured incredibly well. The author uses an anecdote to explain their interests in the opening paragraph. “My mother exclaimed in shock,” is the beginning of an opening sentence that draws the reader in, as the reader wants to learn the reason behind the mother’s shock. This opening allows the writer to speak about an interest of theirs, murder documentaries, then tie it to what they’re interested in studying. 


When discussing an academic interest, the author does a great job of providing specific examples connected to Brown. This allows the writer to share how they plan to take advantage of Brown’s unique Open Curriculum. They write, “Classes like Philosophy of Biology and The Moral Brain would begin to answer my questions about the relationship between neuroscience and human ethics.” By sharing specific classes, it’s clear that the author has done some research about Brown and is truly interested in attending. 


The writer chooses to spend their last paragraph sharing more interests and how they could pursue these interests at Brown. They did a great job sharing a variety of interests, and they made it fun by writing that they’re a “five-time Percy Jackson reader.” Sharing details like this about yourself can help make your essays stand out because you come across as relatable, and your essay becomes more engaging and entertaining for the reader!


What Could Be Improved 


While it’s nice that the writer mentions various interests, including both neuroscience and classics, there doesn’t seem to be a strong connection between the two topics. The essay would be better if the author improved the transition between the second and third paragraphs. They could say how it’s not common to be able to study both neuroscience and classics because of how different the subjects are but that Brown’s open curriculum lets you pursue both.


More simply, the writer could share why they want to study both topics. Will they both be relevant for their career goals? Are they just curious about exploring a variety of subjects and classes at Brown? No matter the reason, a connection between their interests and a better transition would strengthen this essay.


Additionally, the essay prompt asks students to talk about both topics that interest them and “embracing topics with which you are unfamiliar.” It’s always important to keep the prompt in mind when outlining or writing it. This student wrote a lot about their interests, but it’s a little unclear how they plan to embrace topics with which they’re unfamiliar. Clarifying which topic in this essay the writer hasn’t studied would improve the response and ensure that it directly answers the prompt.


They could say, for example, that the open curriculum allows them to formally study crime, which they’ve always been interested in from listening to true crime podcasts. If the author chooses to include this in their essay, it’s important that they do so to ensure that they’re properly answering the school’s prompt.


Essay Example 2


Prompt #2: 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)


I remember being a fourth-grade “puella”, discovering the joy of chanting declensions with my classmates. Since then, my passion for Latin and mythology has expanded by reading books like Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods to Homer’s The Odyssey. I’ll never embody a character as well as I played the mythological Psyche in my fifth-grade Latin presentation.


I’ve always compared my Latin homework to my math homework. It’s very methodical, translating each phrase and then trying new ways to create a coherent sentence. Whenever I’d spent a good twenty minutes sorting through the puzzle of words to make a sentence, that moment where it finally made sense was euphoric. 


These translation and mythology skills I’d developed over the years would become essential about halfway through my freshman year Latin class when I was introduced to the revolutionary game of Certamen. Certamen is like Latin jeopardy with questions themed after classical history, mythology, translation, and grammar. A familiar feeling of competition surges through me each time my teammate of three years and I start a game of Certamen. With our handy doorbell buzz button and endless knowledge of Latin derivatives, we currently maintain a three-year Certamen win streak that I intend to keep until I graduate. The light-bulb that goes off in my head whenever I finally grasp the meaning of a Latin passage has become addicting throughout the years, and I hope to continue experiencing that joy at Brown University.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay does a great job of answering the prompt! Brown wants to know about something that brings you joy, and the student shared multiple responses, “chanting declensions with my classmates,” “sorting through the puzzles of words to make a sentence,” and “Certamen.”


While this student shares several things that bring them joy, they all fall under the theme of Latin which reveals the student’s broad interest in the subject. Further, the student does well making their interest relevant to Brown by hinting in the last sentence that this is something they want to continue to experience at Brown University. The reader learns not only about the writer’s interests but also that they’re going to bring this interest in Latin to their time at Brown. It’s always great when the reader can get an idea of what you want to do as a student on campus at their university!


The writer also describes the game of “Certamen” well by showing and not telling. For example, sentences like, “With our handy doorbell buzz button and endless knowledge of Latin derivatives…” and “A familiar feeling of competition surges through me,” paint a picture of the game. The reader understands that the writer loves the game of Certamen just by these descriptions; the student doesn’t have to directly say “I love Certamen.” Try showing and not telling in your own essay to make your essay more interesting and to showcase impressive writing skills. 


What Could Be Improved 


The second paragraph of this essay shares a bit about why the writer likes their Latin homework, but other than being about Latin, this paragraph doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the essay. Latin homework and puzzles aren’t mentioned in either of the other paragraphs, and the transitions between paragraphs could be stronger.


Right now, the writer connects the second paragraph to the third by saying, “These translation skills.” This could be improved by the student writing a stronger transition sentence from the first to the second paragraph. They could say, “In middle school I started getting more homework for Latin, but I didn’t mind because I’ve always compared it to my math homework.” This would emphasize their love for Latin and show that it’s a subject they’ve studied throughout the years. Transition sentences are important so that each paragraph contributes to the essay.


The writer could also improve the essay by focusing more on recent stories and examples of their love for Latin and mythology. They spend the first two paragraphs starting with fourth grade and going through the years until they reach high school in the final paragraph. It’s okay to share an interest or something that’s brought you joy for a long time, but when you mention the distant past, it’s best to keep that part limited. The reader wants to learn more about who you are now and your current interests. The writer could have instead given examples of recent translation projects or recent mythology books they’ve read. 


Essay Example 3


Prompt #2: 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)


Sitting behind the steering wheel, with the low hum of my music and the engine as background noise, I breathe in the familiarity of the 5-mile radius I generally commute within. My windows are rolled down and my sunroof is wide open, weather permitting, as the wind threatens to defenestrate my possessions. But I enjoy it immensely. The drive is refreshingly liberating: it feels like I can do anything and go anywhere I desire. As someone who frequently feels overwhelmed by the idea that most of my life is outside my control, a drive will often cure that feeling. The freedom of driving dissipates those worries.


My most frequent destination is Starbucks, not the one closest to my home, but rather the franchise that is a mile or two further. It allows me to enjoy the drive for longer than just a few minutes, extending an otherwise hasty experience to offer more time in reflection. Upon arriving and picking up my mobile order, I return to my car and savor my coffee, all while appreciating the music and experience. The coffee is an impeccable companion, both in its rich taste and the endeavor of acquiring it.


During my most stressful weeks, I can rely on my trips to get coffee as an outlet to forget my assignments and worries. The solitude of the activity is a rare opportunity for reflection: a joyful adventure all around.


What the Essay Did Well


It isn’t easy to make a mundane topic like driving to get coffee interesting, but this student was able to do just that! They did a great job of beautifully describing an outing that gives them joy. Specifically, the writer uses imagery well in sentences like: “My windows are rolled down and my sunroof is wide open, weather permitting, as the wind threatens to defenestrate my possessions.” It’s easy for the reader to imagine the possessions about to fly away!


Other strong description words help with this, as well. The writer describes the “rich taste” of the coffee and the “engine of background noise.” By painting a picture of some of the five senses, the writer is able to bring the reader into the moment and create a compelling story. 


The writer does a great job of sharing why the act of driving to Starbucks brings them joy. These details help this essay go beyond just a pretty story by helping the reader to learn about the student.


From moments like, “As someone who frequently feels overwhelmed by the idea that most of my life is outside my control, a drive will often cure that feeling,” readers learn one of the reasons why driving brings the student joy. Additionally, readers learn that this is a joyous moment for the writer because it serves as a time for reflection. These small details are great to include because they show why the reader is joyful!


What Could Be Improved 


While the writer does a good job of inserting details that explain why they love driving to Starbucks, the reader still only learns a limited amount about the writer. The only interests shared are that the reader enjoys driving and Starbucks.


Supplemental essays like this are a great chance for students to share interests that they don’t have a chance to include anywhere else on their application. For example, the writer could have written about their love for photography and how taking photographs of dogs brings them joy. That would teach the reader more about who the writer is as a person and what they would bring to Brown University.


Some sentences do a great job of sharing details and painting a picture of the scene; however, there are a few places where the author could provide even further details. For example, what kind of coffee are they drinking? Is it a grande iced white mocha, or a venti java chip fracchino? What music are they listening to on the radio? Sharing this allows the reader to learn more about the author and their interests, which is great for a topic like this, where the goal is for the student to share an interest they have not mentioned in their application.


Essay Example 4


Prompt #3: 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)


“Spend $300,000 to study ENGLISH!?” my friend chucked. “And do what? Teach A for Apple, B for Buffalo to primary kids?


“B for Ball” I whispered to myself. On my way home, I kept mulling. “Everyone knows English, what’s the need to STUDY it?” his words echoed in my head. Since I was young, I had been intrigued by the beauty of language. Fresh parchment was my petrichor. I could almost smell the raw, crisp paper sending pheromone-releasing signals to my brain, luring me to wield my pen and spill beads of ink on the virgin sheet of emptiness. Words were woven threads of thought, emanating the ineffable processes of the mind. Poetry was my mode of escapism; debate -my partner in crime. “’A for apple, B for ball’, I sadly pondered. 


We got down at our houses and I waved him goodbye. My imminent desire to ‘respond’ cowered back into its hole. But maybe I didn’t have to reply. Because curiosity prefaces career and we all have varying definitions of both. Maybe the reason why our choices are challenged is to test if we would hold on to them. This tiny incident taught me 2 crucial lessons- A: Silence is a sign of maturity, not cowardice, and B: Having faith governs the prowess to excel. The next day when I met my friend, I simply smiled and said “The reason we can converse critically is because someone taught us the alphabet. Maybe being a teacher isn’t a bad idea after all.”


What the Essay Did Well


This essay is incredibly well written and does a great job of using dialogue throughout the story. The writer begins with an exclamation that grabs the reader’s attention: “Spend $300,000 to study ENGLISH!?” The use of capitals really emphasizes that the problem idea being challenged isn’t the amount of money being paid, but rather that the writer wants to study English. 


The dialogue continues as the student describes their internal thoughts and remembers what their friend told them. This is a great way for the reader to learn exactly what the author is thinking and how they feel about what is being said.


The use of “A for apple, B for ball,” becomes a theme and a symbol throughout the essay, as it’s used to symbolize both the writer’s interest in the teaching profession and their friend’s belief that it’s not a good idea.


Finally, the essay ends with dialogue as the writer counters their friend’s doubts and becomes more secure with their own goals. “Maybe being a teacher isn’t a bad idea after all.” This ending reveals how the author ultimately chose to respond to their friend, as well as that the author ultimately remained strong in their own beliefs. 


The “A” and “B” theme comes up again when this student spells out the two lessons that they ultimately learned from this experience: “A: Silence is a sign of maturity, not cowardice, and B: Having faith governs the prowess to excel.” This does a great job of summarizing the lessons that the author learned and how they chose to respond to the situation. It’s nice to have this concrete conclusion in an essay containing a lot of lines on thoughts and feelings. 


What Could Be Improved 


This essay is beautifully written; however, it could be improved by better answering the prompt. The prompt wants to know about how students handle intellectual debate so that Brown University can “promote a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex issues confronting society.”


It seems more like this student’s decision to be a teacher was challenged, rather than a belief about a complex issue. Whether the student should be a student is not presented in this essay as an issue with two reasonable sides, but rather one student’s condescending and unsupported belief that teaching is not a worthy profession. 


This is further evidenced by one of the lessons the student takes away, “Silence is a sign of maturity.” Brown University is seeking an essay about a topic that can be debated, not one where the response is silence. The university wants to see how students will handle learning from others who have different views about politics, for example. 


If the writer wanted to stick with this topic, then they would need to present the other student’s view as one with which they could have a discussion. Maybe the other student presented valid points about education being a path to increase one’s earning potential. Then, the writer could have a debate with them about the purpose of higher education and its role in their own life.


Make sure that your answer to a prompt like this shows the university how you will handle discourse at their university as you encounter others with views different from your own.


Where to Get Feedback on Your Essay 


Want feedback like this on your Brown University essays before you submit? We offer expert essay review by advisors who have helped students get into their dream schools. You can book a review with an expert to receive notes on your topic, grammar, and essay structure to make your essay stand out to admissions officers.


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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.