Brown University is a private Ivy League research university in Providence, Rhode Island. It’s ranked the No. 13 university in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. 7,125 undergraduates attend Brown, and it has a total enrollment of 10,425.
The university is known for its customizable Open Curriculum, strong programs in science and liberal arts, and exceptional faculty. With so much to love about Brown, it’s no surprise that the university receives over 50,000 applicants each year.
Standing out from the crowd isn’t easy, but this guide is all about how to increase your chances of acceptance. Keep reading for statistics, information, and advice on putting your best foot forward with Brown.
Founded in 1764, Brown is the seventh-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The leading research university has a spirit of academic freedom and student-centered learning, best represented by its famous Open Curriculum.
Through Brown’s Open Curriculum, every student develops a personalized course of study. They can explore a range of subjects and discover what they love before diving into one of 80-plus concentrations for in-depth, focused study. Brown’s curriculum is both flexible and rigorous, preparing students to think creatively and develop innovation solutions to pressing issues.
Brown’s world-class faculty prioritizes undergraduate education. Students describe their professors as “engaging, personal, and incredibly dedicated” and say they “connect with students on a very human level.”
Students at Brown have more than 500 student organizations to choose from, and they describe the university as a “very happy place with many activities and events going on all the time.” Athletics and Greek life play a smaller role at Brown than at many universities, but students enjoy movie screenings, parties, showcases and performances, and visiting downtown Providence for fun. The popular Providence Place Mall is within a short drive or a 20-minute walk, and Boston and New York are just a short trip away.
Is It Hard to Get Into Brown?
Brown has an acceptance rate of 7.7%. For every 100 applicants, about eight are accepted. The other 92 applicants receive a rejection.
In comparison to other universities, Brown’s acceptance rate is extremely selective. Still, it is one of the least selective Ivy League universities — Harvard, for example, has an acceptance rate of about 4%.
GPA and Test Scores
Students admitted to Brown have an average GPA of 4.08. To compete with other Brown applicants, you’ll need to be at the top of your class and have nearly straight A’s.
You’ll also need a challenging schedule, with several AP or IB classes. Performing well in these classes shows top universities like Brown that you’re ready for the rigor of college coursework, and they also boost your GPA.
If your GPA is lower and it’s still early in your high school career, you have time to improve your grades and raise your GPA. If you’re already a junior, focus on high-quality extracurricular participation and excellent test scores.
Brown is test-optional for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle. This means if you apply without ACT or SAT scores, it won’t put you at a disadvantage. If you choose to admit test scores, however, they will be considered as part of your application. We highly recommend submitting test scores unless you believe they reflect poorly on your academic ability.
The average ACT score for students admitted to Brown is 34. The 25th percentile score is 32, and the 75th percentile score is 35.
Now, we’ll look at an SAT score breakdown for students admitted to Brown.
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
When apply to an extremely competitive school like Brown, scoring in the 75th percentile can improve your chances of acceptance. So, based on the numbers we’ve shared, you should aim for a:
- GPA of at least 4.08
- ACT score of 35, OR
- SAT score of 1550, with a 790 in Math and a 760 in Reading
While these numbers are exceptional, the data shows that students with lower (but still strong) scores also get into Brown. Your GPA and test scores matter, but Brown considers many other factors when evaluating applicants.
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What Other Qualities Does Brown Look For?
Brown’s website explains that while they review every application holistically and in context, the most important consideration is your high school performance and preparedness. But they will “look beyond your grades” to see how well you have mastered important skills associated with learning.
They will evaluate what you have accomplished with the opportunities and resources available to you in high school, along with considering your potential to thrive at Brown.
More specifically, the Board of Admission looks at your:
- Unique talents
- Intellectual curiosity
- Openness to different points of view
- Communication skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Work ethic
The university aims to prepare students to flourish as independent thinkers, innovative collaborators, and active global citizens. With that in mind, it’s also helpful to demonstrate creativity, independent thinking, collaboration, and a desire to serve your community throughout your application.
Ultimately, Brown strives to build a class of highly motivated, intelligent students who represent different extracurricular and academic interests, may come from diverse backgrounds and cultural heritages, and who bring a spectrum of ideologies to the campus community.
So, as you work on your Brown application, don’t focus on your numbers alone. The Board of Admission wants to know who you are and what makes you tick. They’re looking for creativity, curiosity, work ethic, problem-solving skills, a heart for service, and many other qualities beyond your test scores and GPA.
What Should You Do in High School?
We’ve shared lots of information and data, so now let’s talk strategy! What should you do in high school to improve your chances of getting into Brown?
Excel in Challenging Classes
To earn a spot at a school as selective as Brown, you must take and excel in the most challenging classes available at your school. This may include AP, IB, honors, and dual enrollment courses.
The average student admitted to Brown has a GPA of 4.08, so you’ll need to earn nearly straight A’s in your classes. Excelling in rigorous classes will show academic preparation for Brown, which is listed on the school’s website as one of the most important considerations in the application process.
So, take notes in your classes and review them each week. Study for all tests and turn in all assignments on time. If you struggle with the material or start to fall behind, be proactive before it hurts your grades. Ask for help from your teacher, a classmate who’s doing well in the class, or a tutor.
Earn High Test Scores
The SAT and ACT give you another opportunity to showcase your academic ability. When applying to Brown, you can either self-report your scores, upload them, or have official scores sent directly.
Although Brown is currently test-optional, we strongly recommend taking test prep seriously and aiming for the highest score possible. If you have excellent grades, good test scores can help you stand out from other applicants with excellent grades. And if your grades aren’t quite where you’d like them to be, test scores can help make up for it.
Start prepping for the SAT/ACT a few months in advance, using the following process:
- Take timed practice tests for both exams to determine which one plays to your strengths the most.
- After choosing an exam, use information from the practice test to build a personalized study plan. Pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses and the skills or question types that are most difficult for you.
- Consider buying an ACT/SAT study guide. Set aside time each week to read high-level texts, work on practice questions, and practice the skills you need to brush up on.
- Keep taking practice tests to work on your pacing and track your progress, adjusting your plan as needed.
- When your test date is one month away, focus solely on your area(s) of weakness.
- If your score is lower than you hoped for, use the score report to create a plan for improvement. With your updated study plan, repeat this test prep process and take the exam again.
If you don’t get a score you’re happy with, remember that you aren’t required to include it in your application to Brown. Still, impressive test scores can boost your competitiveness, so do your best to earn an SAT/ACT score you’re proud to share with Brown.
Pursue Your Passions
Brown looks for passionate, talented applicants who are motivated to pursue their interests both in and outside of the classroom. And when it comes to extracurricular activities, they aim to build a class with diverse interests.
Instead of participating in activities you believe will impress Brown, follow your passions. What excites you? What can you talk about for hours? When you have free time, what’s your favorite way to spend it? What’s your dream job, and what relevant activities are available to you?
Find a few activities you love, and commit to them long-term. Try to take on leadership roles, whether formally or informally (like spearheading a new initiative or introducing original ideas), and aim for awards and recognition that showcase how talented you are in your area(s) of interest.
Throughout your high school career, keep a record of your extracurricular participation. Record when you started each activity, how you contributed, and any associated accomplishments. This will make it easier to thoroughly report your activities on your application to Brown, and it may even spark ideas for an awesome application essay.
Serve Your Community
Brown hopes their students will become “active global citizens,” and the university has a history of social justice movements and activism. The best way to demonstrate your potential to serve the world is to start by serving your community in high school.
Serve people in your school, community, or beyond in ways that are meaningful to you. Beyond helping others, you should do so in a way that makes you feel inspired and energized. What social issues matter to you? What problems in your school or community do you consider most important? And what can you do about it?
Join a service organization in your school or community, or start an initiative or organization of your own. Successful Ivy League applicants often launch their own nonprofit organizations or successful lead impactful initiatives in their communities. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something meaningful to you that will make a positive impact on others.
Just as you record your extracurricular participation, keep a record of your community service involvement. What did you do and why? How did it make an impact on your school, community, or even the world? Making an impact in your community now shows your potential to be impactful on campus at Brown and in the wider world after graduation.
Build Relationships with Your Teachers
On Brown’s website, it explains that teacher recommendations help the Board of Admission “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.”
These are all important qualities for Brown applicants, meaning your letters of recommendation are a vital portion of your application.
Letters of recommendation must come from core academic teachers who know you well enough to give useful insight to Brown. It’s important to let your teachers get to know you, beyond your performance in their classes. They need to know you as a person and be able to comment on qualities like your creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, and more.
When your teachers know who you are as a person, they’re more likely to write a meaningful letter of recommendation that comes from the heart. They’ll want you to succeed, so they’ll write a letter that shines a positive light on you as a future Brown Bear.
You should also use proper etiquette when requesting letters of recommendation, including giving plenty of advance notice, sharing a list of some of your accomplishments, and avoiding excessive follow-up.
Brown Application Process and Checklist
To apply to Brown, you must complete the Common Application.
The application includes:
- Test scores (optional)
- Activities list
- School Report completed by a counselor
- Counselor evaluation
- Two teacher evaluations/recommendations
- Common App essay
- Brown supplemental essays
- Two-minute video introduction (optional)
If you choose to do a video introduction — which we recommend — it can be on any topic in any format. Brown’s website offers examples like:
- A tour of your hometown
- Talking about your favorite place
- Sharing a time you were moved by music or art
- Describing something you could talk about for hours
- Discussing how your friends would describe you
- How you feel about the Oxford comma
- Describing how you were influenced by a book that changed your perspective
- Talking about something that makes you happy
As the website states, “No two Brown students have the same story, and we don’t expect that any two video introductions will either.” The Board of Admission simply wants to hear your voice and learn more about who you are and why you’re interested in attending Brown.
Applicants who are accomplished in musical or visual art may include additional supplements through SlideRoom.
Brown University Supplement
In addition to your Common App essay , Brown requires three supplemental essays of 200-250 words.
The current supplemental essay questions are:
- 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.
Write from the heart about an academic interest that genuinely excites you. You may want to start with a (very) brief anecdote about how your interest in this area was sparked, or something you do to independently pursue this interest (like reading related books, conducting your own research, etc.).
Then, do your research so you can write an accurate, informed description of how you’ll pursue this interest through Brown’s Open Curriculum. Don’t forget that the prompt says “while also embracing topics with which you are unfamiliar.” It’s a good idea to list a few other topics you’d like to explore at Brown, along with your reasoning. Taking the time to do your research shows that you’re truly interested in attending Brown.
- 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?
As you write this essay, remember that being open to other perspectives is a quality Brown values in its applicants. So, think of a time you were interested to a new perspective and made an effort to hear and understand it. Show that you’re committed to considering new ideas, having hard conversations, and being a lifelong learner.
Explain how you responded and what you learned from the experience. If you were able to have the conversation again, would you do or say anything differently?
Try to avoid especially polarizing topics, like religion or hot-button political issues. You don’t know who will read your essay or what they believe, and you don’t want to risk offending them.
- 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.
This is an extremely broad topic, with plenty of room to be creative. Your topic for this essay can be “big or small.” It can be about a favorite meal your grandmother cooks, a book that transformed you, quality time spent braiding your sister’s hair, the feeling you get when playing the violin, or even the nonprofit you started or the app you launched. Often, the topics that seem “small” are the most unique and impactful.
Try not to overthink it — when you first read this prompt, what came to mind? If you don’t have a standout idea, jot down as many ideas as you can for two minutes. Don’t try to edit yourself or second-guess your ideas. You can do that later. When you’re done, read through your brainstorm and see which idea you feel most excited to write about.
When you write your essay, paint a picture. Use specific details to capture why this topic brings you so much contentment, satisfaction, or meaning. Through these concrete details, the Board of Admission will get to know you, and sharing who you are as an individual will make you memorable.
Additional Essay Tips
General tips for both the Common App essay and your Brown Supplement include:
- Stick to the topic. These questions come straight from the Board of Admission, so they’re asking you something they want to know about their applicants. It’s important to stick to the topic and answer all parts of the question. With such a limited word count, avoid unnecessary tangents or overly long introductions.
- Write in your authentic voice. Your essays should “sound” like you. They shouldn’t sound stiff or overly formal, or like someone trying too hard to use impressive vocabulary words. The Board of Admission wants a glimpse of who you are as a person, so be yourself.
- Reflect. Your essays should show your ability to reflect and think critically. In addition to answering the questions, briefly reflect on why the topic is important, how it’s impacted your life, or what you’ve learned from the experience you’re describing.
- Proofread carefully. Of course, you want your essays to be completely free of errors. They should show attention to detail, your ability to communicate, and the time and effort you invested in your application. Proofread carefully, then have a parent, teacher, or trusted friend proofread it too.
Should You Apply Early to Brown?
Brown offers both Early Decision and Regular Decision. The Early Decision deadline is November 1, and applicants receive a decision by mid-December. The Regular Decision deadline is January 5, and applicants receive a decision by early April.
Brown’s Early Decision program is binding. If you apply early, you may not apply to any other school with a restrictive early action or early decision plan. And if you’re accepted to Brown, you must withdraw all pending applications and enroll at Brown. This means you should only apply early if you’re certain that Brown is your first choice.
But will applying early to Brown give you an advantage? According to Brown, no. The website says, “Please do not assume that your admission chances are improved by applying under the Early Decision plan. The Board of Admission makes the same decisions under Early Decision that it would under the Regular Decision plan.”
However, Brown’s Early Decision acceptance rate is 17.5%, significantly higher than the overall acceptance rate of 7.7%. This could be because the Early Decision plan attracts a higher percentage of exceptionally qualified applicants. Whatever the reason, applying early certainly won’t hurt your chances. It shows your commitment to Brown, and you’ll be compared to a smaller pool of applicants. Plus, you’ll receive a decision from Brown much sooner.
If Brown is your top choice and your application is ready in time, we recommend applying early.
Final Thoughts: How to Get Into Brown
Although less competitive than some of its Ivy League counterparts, Brown is an extremely selective university. You’ll need an exceptional GPA and test scores, but Brown also values talent, passion, intellectual curiosity, a strong work ethic, a willingness to serve your community, and openness to other perspectives.
Here’s how to increase your chances of acceptance:
- Take rigorous classes and earn a GPA of at least 4.08.
- Score a 35 on the ACT, OR a 1550 on the SAT. (You can still get into Brown with slightly lower scores, and the school is currently test-optional, so you don’t have to submit your scores if you aren’t happy with them.)
- Commit to extracurricular activities you’re passionate about, taking on leadership roles, making significant contributions, and aiming for awards and recognition when possible.
- Serve your school, community, or beyond in ways that are inspiring and meaningful to you and impactful to those around you.
- Build positive relationships with your teachers and get strong recommendation letters that speak not just to your academic ability, but also to your best personal qualities.
- When you write your essays, stay on topic, do your research, write in your authentic voice, be creative, and proofread carefully. Showcase your ability to reflect, and give the Board of Admission insight into who you are.
- If Brown is your first choice, apply Early Decision.
When you combine these strategies with your academic talent, your application will shine. You’ll make a great impression and increase your chances of becoming a Brown Bear.