How to tackle the 2013-14 Brown Supplement Essays
Note: this blog post has been updated for the 2016-2017 application cycle. To view the most recent version, click here.
The Brown Supplement essays are infamous for the myriad questions posed, all of which can be a bit difficult to write due to their rather open-ended nature. Further, all of Brown’s essays are relatively short, limiting applicants in their ability to craft full responses. Luckily, Vinay has written another guide to get you through these essays.
1) Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated in our Member Section, earlier in this application? If you are “undecided” or not sure which Brown concentrations match your interests, consider describing more generally the academic topics or modes of thought that engage you currently.
Vinay: This essay is relatively straightforward; Brown wants to understand how you will engage academically with the school. This, however, must be construed as believable, and thus requires support from your high school career. If you are already decided on a major, write about how your interest in that field has developed over time, but specifically point to what about that field has been appealing. For example, I would write about my introduction to economics through my involvement with Fed Challenge, and use my discovered love of empirical analysis to improve society as a springboard to explain my desire to continue studying the field. If you are undecided, use this essay to explain the subject that most excites you. Even if you are not intending to major in such a field, Brown still wants a window into your academic interests.
2) Tell us where you have lived – and for how long – since you were born; whether you’ve always lived in the same place, or perhaps in a variety of places.
Vinay: If you have lived in only a few places your whole life, this topic lends itself to describing your background as the origin of your identity. Point to some unique quality of your residency – perhaps its diversity (or lack thereof), some cultural phenomenon (obsession with some local tradition), or something physically distinctive (wide-open landscape), and write about that quality has influenced your development. If you are one that has moved around a lot, use this essay to explain how your perspectives have changed as a result of the places in which you’ve lived.
3) We all exist within communities or groups of various sizes, origins, and purposes; pick one and tell us why it is important to you, and how it has shaped you.
Vinay: This essay is essentially asking, “To what community do you belong” an essay topic that tries to gauge what you identify with and why that’s important to you. The key to this is to demonstrate passion about something – whether it’s a movement you strongly support, or a sanctuary you’ve found within a particular activity or friend group. For example, I would speak to the aviation community and all of the friendships and fun that has emanated from being a part of that (as well as the skills learnt). Try to avoid speaking about ethnicity, as this will be largely overdone for this essay.
4) Why Brown?
Vinay: This is just a classic “Why” essay, however it is important to note that you are relatively restricted in what you can say due to word limits. Focus on some particular characteristic of Brown that makes it unique (notice the difference between a characteristic and a feature; a characteristic is a quality of a school that defines its persona while a feature of a school is a tangible program of the institution). Relate this characteristic to yourself or what you wish to study. Ultimately, you are not answering why you want to go to Brown, but rather, why you are a good match for Brown. Thus, it’s important to fit yourself directly into the school through this essay.