The Question: What should I think about for my Brown application?

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Welcome to The Question, where you’ll get answers about life at Brown all year long! I’m Celina Stewart, and I’ll be bringing you insights (and photos!) into my fourth year at Brown and my answers to some of the questions I wish I’d asked before college. 

Note: I’m not affiliated with the Admissions Office at all, and this advice is mine alone. However, I do think there are several things you can do to make your application to Brown stand out that may be useful for those of you frantically finishing them up!

I remember being in your shoes, four nervous years ago, anxiously checking and re-checking my grammar as I submitted application after application to schools I barely knew anything about. Maybe that’s you, or maybe you have always dreamed of attending Brown, have a parent (or two!) who attended here, or you’ve visited and decided its the place for you. Or any combination therein, really.

I feel I have the responsibility to stress is this: applications matter, they do. But your mental health and the quality of your experience is something you should strongly consider before taking on student debt or paying roughly $250,000 on your experience. Not every school has the same type of community; not every school has the same type of student. So, if you’re applying to Brown, what should you think about?

First and foremost, think about you. I remember sitting at my wooden table at home in Tennessee, clicking through the Common App, hoping that at that time the following year, I would be sitting somewhere diverse, engaging, sipping coffee with intellectual friends. Luckily, that became my reality, although the reality has never been as glamorous as I imagined. I didn’t truly consider the community, never visited, and honestly never thought about Brown before adding it to the end of my Common App’s incredibly long list of potential schools. Fortunately, Brown has helped me to grow and given me a strong education- however, I wish I had considered my ‘fit’ before applying.

If that sounds familiar to you, definitely apply to Brown. When you get your acceptance packages (hint: the bigger the envelope, usually the better the news) take the time to pour over the literature. Visit if you can, and do something like Experience Brown where you can spend time overnight on campus. Take your time to speak with as many students as possible. Be realistic with yourself and speak with advisors or professors from a variety of departments you might be interested in. Try to see the dorms. Mostly, think about you. The name of an institution can be a powerful motivator to take on student loans or attend a school you feel so-so about. From my experience, your happiness should be weighed against those motivations.

What can you do to stand out on your application?

Highlight you. One thing I think many people try too hard at is rounding themselves out for applications. Yes, show that you are involved with leadership and have many interests, but what is really captivating about you? What thing are you most interested in, and how will you contribute that to Brown? One thing about this school is that everyone is an individual- this may seem silly, but truly people here have a passion and they go for it. Some people know that coming into school, some people (like me) find it and chase it while they are here.

Try to differentiate yourself- if you play a sport or an instrument, you can send in a supplement to your application, likely in video or other recording format that will make you stand out. When I was accepted to Brown, I got an email from the choral director to come and sing for him in person- I know for a fact that my supplement influenced my admissions decision and helped me get in.

Be friendly and don’t try too hard in your application essay. The admissions officers are a group of young, interesting people. They remember students whose essays they have read if you go and talk to them. Don’t try to paint yourself as something you aren’t- they read literally thousands of essays and can probably read through you if you try to pad your story.

There is no perfect answer for your application, but if you’re thorough and authentic to yourself, you have a good shot. Good luck, everyone!

Want more photos and FAQ updates? Check out @thebruinclub on Twitter! Have questions or comments for me? Want more details?  Send an email to celina_stewart@brown.edu and I’ll get back ASAP!

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