Brown University is a private Ivy League research university that accepted just 7.24 percent of applicants for the class of 2022. That means out of 100 applicants, only about 7 will receive an acceptance letter.
To earn acceptance to a competitive school like Brown, it’s important to thoroughly understand the admissions process.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered! In this guide, we’ll share:
- Important info about Brown
- Can’t-miss application deadlines
- Application essay topics
- How to apply, step-by-step
- Tips for applying successfully
Keep in mind that the information in this guide is not intended to intimidate or discourage you, but to give you the advantage of being a well-informed applicant.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to submit a highly competitive application to Brown University. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
Founded in 1764, Brown is the seventh oldest college in the United States. It has a storied history as the first college in the United States to accept students regardless of religious affiliation, the first Ivy League institution with an engineering program, and one of just nine colonial colleges chartered prior to the American Revolution.
Brown is also known for its New Curriculum, adopted in 1969 and sometimes referred to as the Brown Curriculum. With this curriculum, general education distribution requirements were eliminated, and students became the “architects of their own syllabus.” Students still build their own academic programs without general requirements today.
Notable Brown alumni include eight Nobel Prize laureates, 21 Pulitzer Prize winners, leaders and founders of Fortune 500 companies, 54 members of the United States Congress, royals and nobles, eight billionaires, John F. Kennedy Jr., CNN founder and media mogul Ted Turner, and actress Emma Watson.
At Brown, students have a wide variety of possibilities: There are 81 bachelor’s degree concentrations, 32 master’s programs, and 51 doctoral programs. The school utilizes a semester-based academic calendar.
Enrollment, Tuition, and Financial Aid
Undergraduate enrollment at Brown totals 6,580. There are also 2,255 graduate students and 545 medical students, as well as more than 6,000 summer, visiting, and online students. With a faculty of around 900, the student/faculty ratio is 7:1. The most frequent class size at Brown is 10-19 students.
Brown estimates that the total annual cost of undergraduate attendance is $73,892, although this number may vary from person to person. This estimate includes tuition and fees ($55,556), room and board ($14,670), books ($1,595), and personal (estimated at $2,071).
However, Brown strives to create a socioeconomically diverse student body and has need-blind admissions. This means that your ability to pay for your education is not factored into admissions decisions, and Brown is committed to ensuring that talented students from all income levels can attend.
The university’s website states that 100 percent of each student’s demonstrated financial need is met by Brown.
In fact, the university has an initiative called “The Brown Promise,” through which they’ve replaced all packaged loans in all financial aid packages for Brown undergraduates. These loans have been replaced with scholarships that don’t have to be repaid. The average amount of each freshman package is $46,731.
Brown spans 146 acres in the city of Providence, Rhode Island. Located atop College Hill, the school has a fun, friendly college town feel.
Thayer Street, which runs through campus, is the center of student social activity, with a variety of shopping and dining options. The city of Providence is also filled with enrichment and entertainment opportunities.
For students who crave the bustle of a bigger city, Boston and NYC are nearby and perfect for weekend trips.
Brown’s most popular majors include Economics, Computer Science, Biology and Biological Sciences, Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Studies, and Political Science and Government. It’s known for its liberal arts and science programs, and the medical school is highly ranked as well.
Brown has a stellar freshman retention rate, with 98 percent of freshmen returning for their sophomore year. The Princeton Review ranks Brown #17 in the category “Their Students Love These Colleges,” and students praise the academic flexibility of the Brown curriculum. Professors are described as “engaging, personal, and incredibly dedicated” and “the heart and soul” of the school’s most successful programs.
Student Body and Extracurricular Activities
Brown students hail from all 50 states and more than 150 countries. 54 percent of students are female and 46 percent are male, and 95 percent of students are full-time. The students describe themselves as intelligent, quirky, and passionate about global issues.
There are 445 registered student organizations on campus, with everything from ballroom dancing to a comedy magazine. The Greek community is described as “small but vibrant,” with 10 chapters and some co-ed organizations. About 10% of students join a fraternity, while 9% join a sorority.
The school also has about 35 NCAA Division I teams, which compete in the Ivy League. Athletic teams are dubbed the Brown Bears, and the men’s soccer team is especially successful.
As you might expect at such a historical university, Brown has a number of long-running traditions. For instance, the Van Wickle Gates on the Quiet Green open just a twice a year: inward to welcome new students at Convocation and outward for graduating seniors during Commencement. Legend has it that any student passing through the gates more than on these two occasions will be cursed with bad luck.
Every Halloween at midnight, students gather in Sayles Hall to listen to the university organist play a selection of spooky tunes on the world’s largest remaining Hutchings-Votey organ. And every spring, students are treated to Spring Weekend Concerts on the College Green. Acts over the years have included Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and more recently Nas, The Shins, MGMT, and Snoop Dogg.
All first-year undergraduate students live in “units” of 50-60 other first-years and several peer counselors. Community Directors provide supervision and guidance to the peer counselors of several first-year units.
Common activities in the freshman units include “hallway hackeysack, music, cookie baking, hanging out, and late-night discussions.” It’s common for units to migrate together to the dining halls at meal times, and your unit is likely to become your Brown “family.” A questionnaire is used to match students with compatible roommates.
74 percent of undergrads live on campus, while students in upper years pick their exact room through an annual housing lottery. Brown’s program housing provides opportunities to live and learn in a community of common interests, with options like Art House, Interfaith House, Tech House, Greek life, and language and cultural housing.
There are nearly a dozen eateries across Brown’s campus, among them Kosher and Halal meals, vegetarian options, and convenient snack carts. The two major dining halls are the Sharpe Refectory and the Verney-Woolley (the Ratty and V-Dub), which serve a variety of options all day.
Applying to Brown
Now, let’s take a look at the most important information you’ll need to know to apply to Brown University.
Average Admitted Student
Since Brown accepts roughly 7 percent of applicants, it’s important to know how your numbers compare to the average admitted student’s statistics. This gives you a good idea of your chances of acceptance. And if you’re not applying to colleges just yet, you can take action to make your application more competitive.
Brown’s average admitted student has an SAT score of 1500 out of 1600. The 25th percentile score is 1440, while the 75th percentile score is 1580.
Here’s what that means for you:
If you want to go to Brown, you should aim for a 1440 at minimum. Almost anywhere else, this is a fantastic SAT score, but at Brown, it still puts you on the lower end of the accepted student spectrum. To be on the safe side, it’s best to score a 1500 or get as close to 1580 as possible.
Brown is extremely competitive when it comes to GPA as well, and the average admitted student has a GPA of 4.08. This means you’ll need to take challenging courses, make nearly straight A’s, and be at or very near the top of your class.
What if My Numbers Are Lower?
If you’re already a junior or senior, you don’t have much time to boost your GPA. Instead, you should focus on increasing your SAT score as much as possible, securing high-quality letters of recommendation, and writing excellent college application essays. But if you have time to spare, work on taking honors or AP classes, performing well in these classes, and raising your GPA.
Even if your GPA and SAT scores are lower than those mentioned here, you can still apply to Brown and see what happens.
Brown’s website explains that they look at more than just the numbers when considering potential students. The site reads, “We will consider how your unique talents, accomplishments, energy, curiosity, perspective and identity might weave into the ever-changing tapestry that is Brown University.”
Still, we encourage you to be practical throughout your college application journey. It’s important to understand that if your numbers are much lower than those of the average admitted student, your chances of acceptance aren’t great.
Here’s the bottom line:
Pursue your dreams by applying to Brown, but protect yourself by applying to “safety schools” that are a better fit for your numbers.
You have two options if you’re applying to Brown: Early Decision or Regular Decision.
Early Decision is binding, and Brown’s website explains that you must withdraw all other applications if accepted early. The deadline for Early Decision applicants is November 1. Students can be admitted, denied, or postponed to Regular Decision. Admissions decisions are announced in mid-December.
The Regular Decision deadline is January 1, and decisions are released online on March 28.
The commitment deadline for Regular Decision students is May 1.
Should I Apply Early?
If you’re sure you want to go to Brown, applying early allows you to find out whether or not you’ve been accepted several months ahead of time.
But does applying Early Decision give you an advantage in the application process?
According to Brown’s website, “The Board of Admission makes the same decisions under Early Decision that it would make under the Regular Decision plan.”
However, some evidence suggests an early application might give your chances a slight boost. According to Business Insider, Brown accepted 21.9 percent of Early Decision applicants, a number significantly higher than the acceptance rate for Regular Decision. It’s possible that higher quality candidates applied early, but there could be other reasons for this difference as well.
An early application indicates that you’re passionate and committed to Brown, and you’ll also be compared to a smaller pool of applicants.
Of course, you should only apply early if you’re certain that Brown is absolutely your first choice. Applying early also means you’ll need to have your standardized tests, letters of recommendation, essays, and application completed by November.
Applying to Brown: The How-To Guide
To apply to Brown, you’ll need to complete the Common Application, along with the Brown supplement.
The Common App is accepted by over 700 colleges and universities. To complete it, you’ll need to create a student account at commonapp.org and add Brown University to your “My Colleges” list.
You’ll be prompted to provide general information about your grades, course activities, test scores, exam dates, and parents/legal guardians. During the process of applying to colleges and scholarships, it’s a good idea to keep all of this information together in one place.
The Common App also has a required personal essay. In brief, the seven topic options include:
- Meaningful background, identity, interest, or talent
- Lessons learned from a challenge, setback, or failure
- A time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea
- A problem you have solved or would like to solve (ethical dilemma, intellectual challenge, or research query)
- An accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth
- A captivating topic, idea, or concept that you find fascinating
- A topic of your choice
When you fill out the Common App, you’ll also complete Brown’s writing supplement. This supplement, which we’ll discuss in-depth momentarily, is a highly important piece of your application.
When you apply to Brown, you’ll also write a series of short supplemental essays. The questions are as follows:
- Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 words)
- 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. (100 words)
- 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. (100 words)
- Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated 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. (150 words)
- Why Brown, and why the Brown Curriculum? (200 words)
All applicants must answer the questions above. In addition, applicants to some specialized programs must write additional essays:
- Brown/Rhode Island School of Design Dual Degree Program: The Brown | RISD Dual Degree program provides an opportunity to explore your interests and prepare for the future in two distinct learning environments. Considering your understanding of both academic programs, describe how and why the specific combination of the art/design-focused curriculum of RISD and the wide-ranging courses and curricula of Brown could constitute an optimal undergraduate education for you. (500 word maximum)
- Program in Liberal Medical Education Prompt 1: Most high school seniors are unsure about eventual career choices. What experiences have led you to consider medicine as your future profession? Please describe specifically why you have chosen to apply to the Program in Liberal Medical Education in pursuit of your career in medicine. Also, be sure to indicate your rationale on how the PLME is a ‘good fit’ for your personal, academic, and future professional goals. (Please limit your response to this question to 500 words.)
- Program in Liberal Medical Education Prompt 2: Since the Program in Liberal Medical Education espouses a broad-based liberal education, please describe your fields of interest in both the sciences and the liberal arts. Be specific about what courses and aspects of the program will be woven into a potential educational plan. (Please limit your response to this question to 500 words.)
Remember that through these essays, Brown wants to get to know more about you! Write about topics that haven’t been extensively covered elsewhere in your application, and write in your own unique voice. Don’t write what you think Brown wants to hear—you’ll just come off sounding stiff, dull, and unoriginal. Let your true personality shine through!
Additional Application Materials
You will also need to pay a $75 application fee. If this represents a financial hardship, you may submit a fee waiver request.
In addition to the materials outlined above, your application must also include:
- The School Report
- Two teacher evaluations
- Official SAT or ACT scores with writing
- Official transcript
- The Midyear Report, when mid-year grades are available
- Any additional items required by the school to which you’ve applied (SAT subject tests, portfolio items, etc.)
- Optional Alumni Interview
About Alumni Interviews
Once Brown receives your application, your contact information is provided to volunteer alumni interviews in your area. These alumni interviewers will contact you via email to set up an interview.
After the interview, your interviewer will send their thoughts about your personal strengths to Brown, and this information will be added to your application file.
Early Decision interviews run from late October through early December and Regular Decision interviews run from December through early March.
Brown doesn’t offer on-campus interviews, and sometimes an alumni interview won’t be possible due to availability issues. If this is the case, Brown will not hold it against you when considering your application.
Freshman applicants are required to submit either ACT with Writing or SAT with Essay scores. Brown also recommends, but does not require, that you submit two SAT Subject Tests of your choice.
If you’re applying to the PLME program, the school strongly recommends that you submit a subject test in either biology, chemistry, or physics.
Official test results must be sent to Brown either by the College Board or the American College Testing Program, which administer the SAT and the ACT, respectively. You may use the College Board’s Score Choice option, but this can potentially delay your scores, in which case Brown won’t read your application until official scores are received.
After completing your application, be sure to save copies of all materials for yourself. Check your email regularly for communication regarding your application, and ensure that Brown emails (or emails regarding alumni interviews) are able to bypass any spam or junk filter.
Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll receive access to the Brown Applicant Portal. Through this portal, you can check the status of your application. If you don’t receive access within 48 hours of submitting your Common Application, double check your spam, junk, and promotion folders. Add brown.edu to your domain safe list.
Conclusion: Applying to Brown
When applying to Brown, you’ll need to complete the Common Application, in addition to the Brown Supplement. Applications must be submitted by November 1 for Early Decision and January 1 for Regular Decision.
Brown also requires the SAT or ACT with the writing portion, transcripts (including mid-year and final updates), and two teacher recommendations. Two SAT subject tests are optional but encouraged, as are alumni interviews.
You have the best chance of being admitted to Brown if your SAT is at least a 1500 and your GPA is at least a 4.08. Brown admits around 7 percent of applicants, meaning admission is highly competitive. If your numbers are below those of the average admitted student, don’t forget to apply to a few safety schools as well.
At the same time, don’t feel discouraged: Brown considers many factors in addition to test scores and grade point averages. Build up your SAT and GPA as high as possible, and write engaging, reflective college application essays that help admissions officers get to know you and all you have to offer.
By using the information and tips here, plus the advice in our guide on getting into the Ivy League, you’ll make your Brown University application as competitive as possible.