Brown University Admission Counselors

A Guide to the Brown Admissions Process - Essays, Interviews & Deadlines

Brown University Admissions Counselors

What is Brown Admissions Looking For?

Independent thinkers. Risk takers. Experimenters. Unlike the other Ivies, Brown seeks a very specific breed of student that seeks academic freedom and that takes risks.

Since Brown has an open curriculum and concentrations instead of majors, they look for students who are independent and who thrive instead of self-destructing when given unlimited freedom.

Applicants really need to communicate this theme throughout their Brown supplemental essays.

Brown rates every applicant in two separate areas on a 1 to 6 scale (6 being the highest and 1 being the lowest):

  • Academic Rating
  • Personal Rating

Academic rating

An applicant with the highest Academic Rating of 6 out of 6 at Brown would have these credentials:

  • Top 1-2% of high school class
  • Most challenging courseload of AP courses
  • SAT/ACT scores in the 99th percentile
  • Glowing letters of recommendation indicating that student is best out of applicants from past several years from his/her high school
  • Intense love of learning, as evidenced by academic research outside the classroom with a college professor leading to publication in a journal
  • Potential to be leader in academic field in future


An applicant with an Academic Rating of 5 out of 6 at Brown would have these credentials:

  • Top 5% of high school class
  • Most challenging courseload of AP courses
  • SAT/ACT scores above the 95th percentile
  • Strong but unexceptional letters of recommendation
  • Lacking the intense love of learning of other students, with some independent reading outside the classroom but no published research with a college professor
  • Driven to achieve by competition more so than by a true love of learning

Personal rating

Examples of applicants with the highest Personal Rating of 6 out of 6 at Brown would be:

  • Published author
  • Intel STS Finalist (top 40 in country)
  • Olympic medalist
  • Soloist at Carnegie Hall
  • US Math Olympiad Qualifier (USAMO)
  • Awards at the national level
  • Patent pending (without parental involvement)

Examples of applicants with a Personal Rating of 5 out of 6 at Brown would be:

  • Awards at the regional level
  • Significant commitment at a high level to a few activities
  • Student Body President
  • All-State Orchestra
  • Captain of a varsity sports team
  • Nationally ranked debater
  • Well-rounded and involved but not the most passionate about anything

Engineering applicants to Brown get an extra read by an engineering faculty member during the read process at Brown. In addition, all applications at Brown go to the admissions committee for voting.

Brown Supplemental Essays Approach

Since Brown looks for a very specific type of student that embraces academic freedom and risk taking, the supplemental essays at Brown carry a great deal of weight. Solomon Admissions provides an extensive primer on Brown supplemental essays to its clients, and here is a brief excerpt from this primer:

Brown University Application Essay

Why Brown? (100-word limit)

The “Why Brown” question is the most important supplemental question at Brown.

Applicants must address why their learning style and academic interests fit with the academic philosophy at Brown.

Applicants must address why they are risk-takers. Brown’s open curriculum, with no required core, demands that students be independent and can handle freedom. This essay must address a concrete example of an instance where the applicant was given freedom academically and thrived given that privilege.

In addition, applicants interested in designing their own concentration at Brown should discuss their interest in an interdisciplinary curriculum. This is the tip of the iceberg. For more information on how to approach the Brown supplemental essays, feel free to contact us.

For more information about the Brown University application process, contact us at one of the following: