Elizabeth Suneby
10 How to Get Into

How to Get Into Brown: Admissions Stats + Tips

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What’s Covered:

 

If you’re considering applying to the extremely selective Brown University, undoubtedly you are drawn to the unique characteristics of this Ivy League school which can be summed up as flexible, rigorous, and community-oriented. Brown is known for its:

 

  • Open Curriculum (which puts students in charge of their own education)
  • Collaborative and spirited culture
  • Reverence for the liberal arts and interdisciplinary learning
  • Respect for diverse experiences and perspectives 
  • 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio with 100% of faculty teaching undergraduates–so students are ensured of substantial face-to-face time with professors and 70% of classes with fewer than 20 students
  • Intellectually-curious, passionate, creative students determined to make an impact in the world

 

Located in the small but vibrant capital city of Providence, Rhode Island (known for its arts scene, culinary offerings, and unpretentious vibes), this beautiful college on a hill is an easy train ride or drive to Boston and New York City as well as a 30-minute drive to the beach.

 

How Hard Is It to Get Into Brown University?

 

Extremely hard. 46,568 students applied to the undergraduate Class of 2025. 2,569 were admitted–a 5.5% acceptance rate. 885 of the 1,724 first-year students were admitted Early Decision–approximately half of the class. 

 

The five-year Brown University/Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Dual Degree program is also highly competitive with 696 applicants for 15 enrolled–a 2.2% acceptance rate. 

 

The eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME – combining undergraduate education and professional studies in medicine) is even more competitive with 3,516 applications for 53 enrolled–a 1.5% acceptance rate.

 

These numbers attest to Brown’s popularity in attracting stand-out candidates. While Brown’s acceptance rate is incredibly low, your personal chances of acceptance may actually be higher or lower, depending on your profile strength.

 

To better understand your chances at Brown University, we recommend using our free admissions calculator. Using your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance, and give you tips on improving your profile!

 

Average Academic Profile of Accepted Brown University Students

 

GPA

 

Brown does not publish the GPAs of its student body.

 

SAT/ACT

 

70% of the incoming class submitted SAT scores; 43% submitted ACT scores. The table below shows you the middle 50% range.

 

 

25th Percentile

75th Percentile

SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

710

770

SAT Math

730

790

SAT Composite

1440

1550

ACT Composite

33

35

ACT Math

30

35

ACT English

34

36

ACT Writing

8

10

 

Class Rank

 

100% of Brown’s incoming students were in the top quarter of their high school graduating class; 98.7% in the top tenth. 

 

Only 23% of the first year students submitted high school class rank.

 

What is Brown University Looking for?

 

Brown’s stated goal is to prepare each student to “flourish as an independent thinker, innovative collaborator, and an active global citizen.” As such, the school values self-motivated students who:

 

  • Embrace challenges and take risks in and outside of the classroom
  • Have the intense intellectual curiosity and initiative to shape and navigate their own academic journeys
  • Are comfortable leading and collaborating
  • Are driven to make the world a better place

 

Brown is looking for students who will explore their passions and forge connections among different disciplines by taking full advantage of the Open Curriculum. Even for prospective STEM majors, Brown values students who engage with the liberal arts. For example, a strong applicant may seek to combine computer science and classics to use digital modeling for the purpose of reconstructing ancient artifacts.

 

Given Brown’s mission to “serve the community, the nation and the world,” the school is interested in enrolling students motivated and able to partner with fellow students and faculty to address the “challenges of a complex and changing world.” The school takes pride in being a diverse community of passionate individuals.

 

Brown also places a relatively high value on profiles with an artistic component, including visual arts, writing, drama, etc. Not surprisingly, the school expects well-written, creative personal essays from applicants.

 

Your extracurricular profile is also an important part of your candidacy. Brown is looking for students with unusual and/or deep experiences that show commitment, perseverance, and personal growth beyond pure achievements. This is not a “check of the boxes” type of school.

 

How Brown Evaluates Applications

 

According to their 2020-2021 Common Data Set, Brown considers the following factors “very important”:

 

  • Course rigor
  • Class rank
  • Academic GPA
  • Standardized test scores
  • Application essay
  • Recommendations
  • Talent/ability
  • Character/personal qualities

 

These factors are “important”:

 

  • Extracurricular activities

 

These are “considered”:

 

  • Interview
  • First generation
  • Alumni/ae relation
  • Geographical residence
  • State residency
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Volunteer work
  • Work experience

 

And these are “not considered”:

 

  • Religious affiliation/commitment
  • Level of applicant’s interest – “Brown does not track demonstrated interest, and students who have been unable to visit campus will face no disadvantage in the admissions process.”

 

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Brown University

 

Brown states that its admission process is holistic, and the school reviews every application regardless of test scores, GPA, or class rank. To gain perspective on their candidacy, the university encourages applicants to review the provided list of Brown Facts with grade and score ranges for the Class of 2025. The Admission FAQs are also helpful to read.

 

Here is a summary of how Brown evaluates each applicant’s high school record: 

 

“The most important consideration in the admission process is your high school performance and preparedness. When it comes to assessing performance, we look beyond your grades to also consider how well you have mastered certain skills associated with learning. We review your teacher recommendations to get a sense of your curiosity, problem-solving abilities, openness to different points of view, ability to express yourself orally and in writing, work ethic, etc. To assess preparedness, we review the depth and breadth of the academic learning you have undertaken thus far. We want to know whether you have taken advantage of the courses available to you in your school, whether you have challenged yourself in advanced classes, and whether you have stretched yourself with outside-of-school educational opportunities.”

 

Based on the eight admission factors (course rigor, class rank, academic GPA, standardized test scores, application essay, recommendations, talent/ability, character/personal qualities) that Brown lists as “very important,” here are suggestions for how to improve your chances:

 

1. Rank in the top tenth of your high school graduating class while taking the most challenging classes available.

 

While Brown considers class rigor, rank, and GPA as very important factors in admission decisions, there are no minimums or cutoffs in Brown’s application review process. 

 

Nonetheless, it is extremely helpful to earn top grades (all or mostly A’s) in the most challenging classes your school offers.  (If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA.)

 

Brown recognizes that not all high schools offer AP classes. The school states: “We recognize that communities vary widely in what they can provide in their high schools, and consider students in the context from which they are applying. Our strongest applicants have taken full advantage of what is available to them in their own schools, and many motivated students find outside learning opportunities (e.g., local college courses, independent study) to supplement their high school curriculum, especially when they have exhausted available courses.”

 

Brown’s Rural and Small Town Student Fly-In Program demonstrates the university’s commitment to attracting students from all types of high schools. The school brings students from across the country to the campus for a college prep boot camp–for free.

 

If your school offers AP classes, note that students at an Ivy League college typically complete between 8 and 12, often more.  CollegeVine offers guidance on how many AP classes you should take.

 

2. Aim for a 75th percentile score: 1550 SAT or 35 ACT score

 

 

25th Percentile

75th Percentile

SAT Composite

1440

1550

ACT Composite

33

35

 

Scores on the upper end of the range will make you more competitive, but any score in the range is acceptable. Brown states that they do not have minimum standardized test requirements, and review all applications regardless of test scores provided. While Brown does receive many applications from students with high test scores, the school considers scores in the context of all the other information about a candidate. 

 

Due to COVID-19, Brown has extended its test-optional policy to first-year applicants in the 2021-2022 admission cycle, but encourages applicants who have the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT to submit test scores. In fact, students who submit scores are accepted at higher rates than those who do not.

 

Brown does accept Score Choice and superscores within the SAT. CollegeVine recommends students take the test two to three times as needed to maximize their superscore. If you decide to focus on improving your standardized test scores, check out these free CollegeVine resources:

 

 

Remember, you can get advice on whether or not to apply test-optional using our free Chancing Engine. 

 

3. Consider applying Early Decision

 

While Brown states that demonstrated interest is not considered in the application process, the fact is that approximately half of the class of 1,724 first-year students enrolled in 2021 were admitted ED. While recruited athletes are often encouraged to apply ED, it likely makes sense to seriously consider this option if you are convinced that Brown is your top choice–whether or not your goal is to play college sports. 

 

4. Write engaging essays

 

Your essays provide a chance for you to go beyond the quantitative statistics of your application to illuminate your unique attributes, values, interests, and authentic voice. 

 

Brown states that talent/ability and character/personal qualities are very important attributes of your candidacy, so make sure your essays bring these characteristics to life. Brown also values community, so be sure your essays demonstrate your fit with the school culture. Last, Brown values creativity, so work hard at the style of your essays.

 

Brown’s application requires three relatively short supplemental essays:

 

  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)

 

Three essays are required for applicants to the PLME:

 

  • Committing to a future career as a physician while in high school requires careful consideration and self-reflection. What values and experiences have led you to believe that becoming a doctor in medicine is the right fit for you? (250 word limit)
  • Respond to one of the following prompts (250 word limit): A. Health care 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? B. How do you feel your personal background provides you with a unique perspective of medicine?
  • 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? (500 word limit)

 

One essay is required for applicants to the Brown|RISD Dual Degree Program:

 

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)

 

This blog post provides tips on how to write the 2021-2022 Brown University and the PLME essays. Make sure you give yourself time to brainstorm, draft, and edit your essays until they shine.

 

5. Nurture strong recommendations

 

Brown lists letters of recommendation in the very important column and asks for three: one from a school counselor and two from teachers of major academic subjects (such as science, social studies, mathematics, a foreign language or English). 

 

Brown also considers talent/ability and character/personal qualities important factors in admission, so be sure you select teachers who can speak to these attributes as well as to your academic performance. 

 

Remember, busy teachers do not get paid to write recommendations. It is critical you make it easy for them by giving them sufficient time and relevant information. Read CollegeVine’s 9 Rules for Requesting Recommendations to optimize your chances for getting top-notch references.

 

6. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)

 

While Brown lists extracurricular activities as important, not very important, in the admission process, how you spend your time outside of the classroom speaks volumes about your character and talents–two factors the school lists as very important.

 

Not all extracurricular activities are created equal. The 4 Tiers of Extracurriculars provides a framework for how to cultivate and showcase your extracurricular activities.

 

  • Tier 1 activities are the most compelling; they demonstrate outstanding achievement and are unusual.  Think first place awards you’ve earned, such as at the International Biology Competition or a USTA national ranking. 
  • Tier 2 extracurriculars showcase stellar leadership and achievement but are more common than Tier 1 activities. Tier 2 activities include qualifying for an all-state selection in band or being elected president of your high school’s debate team.
  • Tier 3 extracurricular activities showcase smaller leadership roles and achievements, like being treasurer of your high school club.
  • Tier 4 extracurriculars are participatory, such as volunteering at the local food pantry or learning a new instrument.

 

Competitive applicants typically have one or two Tier 1 or Tier 2 activities on their resumes–revealing a highly developed interest known as a “spike,” rather than a list of unrelated interests. 

 

How to Apply to Brown University

 

Deadlines

 

Application Timeline

Deadline

Early Decision

November 1

Regular Decision

January 5

 

Application Requirements

 

Brown applicants are to complete the Common Application. The school requires:

 

  • Supplemental Essays
  • Transcript
  • School Report completed by counselor
  • Midyear School Report and Transcript
  • Counselor Recommendation
  • Two Teacher Evaluations/Recommendations: Two letters of recommendation from teachers who have taught you in major academic subjects (science, social studies, mathematics, a foreign language or English)
  • Bachelor of Science and PLME Recommendations: If you are considering a concentration in a STEM field, or the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), at least one of your recommendations should come from a math or science teacher.
  • $75 application fee or a fee waiver.

 

Learn more about Brown University

 

Ready to learn more about Brown?  Here are a few articles for you to read:

 

 

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Short Bio
Elizabeth graduated from Brown University with a degree in American Studies and has used the analytic and writing skills she developed in college in various marketing management positions, freelance writing gigs, and as an author of children's books and magazine articles. She has written for a range of clients serving college-age students, including several universities and publications. And she has supported a son and a daughter through the college and graduate school application and selection process.

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