Brown University

College review by Lisa Bleich

Brown has a very pretty brick, urban campus with two main quads (one of them has a large gate of entry.)  Thayer Street sits adjacent to campus and is a mix of bars, standard college eateries, bookstores and shops that integrates seamlessly into the campus. A new $35 M center for innovation was recently completed near the performing arts building.

The hallmark of a Brown education is the open curriculum and a culture of kindness. Everyone carves a different path to his/her own concentration. Brown allows a two-week shopping period, which gives the intellectually curious, articulate students the opportunity to test out professors and other students before choosing their classes. Faculty and peer advisers also provide a good resource to help students craft their educational path.

Brown students

Brown students are impressive.  They truly enjoy learning and knowledge for the sake of learning.  They are highly engaged in their learning and the community because they want to not because they think it will “look” good.  They are the type of students who keep questioning themselves and others because they are genuinely curious and want to understand others’ perspectives.

I sat next to Bora from Berkeley, CA at breakfast.  She was concentrating in English and Environmental Science.  I asked her about her most intellectually engaging class and she told me about a Biology of language class that she took that explained the physiology behind the use of language.  She was clearly impassioned by the subject.

She had an internship at an environmental non-profit this summer and hoped to pursue a career in public policy or teaching English and Science.  She pursued her leisure time with as much intention as she loved going to live music concerts and enjoyed the music scene available in Providence. I enjoyed her genuine passion; she came across as intelligent, unassuming, articulate and interested in the world and people around her.

The other students on the panel were equally engaged.  Many of them participated in the peer mentor program on campus.  Three of the students were part of Brown’s Program in Liberal Medicine (8 year medical school track.)

Brown Famous Gates

The majority of the panel participated in research ranging from Cardiology research at the medical school to substance abuse among female prisoners to attention disorders among Alzheimer patients.  Brown provides a directory of research opportunities, which facilitates finding a position. 

Some of the other activities that students participated in included Varsity Men’s swimming, mentoring a local high school in debate, dance team, tennis team, farmer’s market, biology TA, creating a civil war exhibit for the Brown museum.  You name it and one of these highly involved students participated in it.


Becoming part of this stellar community is fiercely competitive.  This year Brown received 29,000 applications to fill a class of 1515.  The acceptance rate was 9.5%.  To be considered, students need the grades and test scores (top 10% of their class with the most challenging academic curriculum across all subjects and 720+ in all SAT areas or 33+ ACT with writing.)

This gets you in the game.  To stand out, admission wants to see students who will fit into Brown, students who question and then question again, students who will contribute in a meaningful way, students who want to expand their knowledge and truly enjoy learning for the sake of learning.  Students mature enough to craft their own academic and personal journey while in college.

With that said, it’s great to be an athlete (1/3 of the class was), or an underrepresented minority (16% of the class were first generation students), or a full pay international student from one of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Korea.) The most common applicant is a white girl from NJ or CA interested in English, so if that is you, make sure you have an interesting angle.

Admissions read applications by territory and they will read all of the applications from one high school at the same time.  This allows them to determine who is really stellar based on counselor and teacher recommendations.

They turn over every word on the application with a fine tooth comb.  They can project the prose on the screen and discuss the nuances of the application.  This helps them cull out the fluff and get to the heart of an applicant.

Brown is needs blind for domestic students and truly does meet financial need.  Families with incomes <$60,000 have no expected family contribution and families with incomes <$100,000 will graduate loan free.  They are, however, needs aware for international students. 

Campus Vibe

Brown student reading a statue

As I walked around campus, students sat on the grassy quad under a tree studying, reading, or painting.  Girls wore cute dresses, jeans, and scarves while boys wore a mix of khakis, button down shirts, t-shirts, and shorts.

As I was leaving campus, I grabbed a surprisingly delicious turkey sandwich from the Brown bookstore café for my ride back -fresh turkey, pickled onions, lettuce, and flavored mayonnaise on a fresh ciabatta roll.  This delicious blend of the highest quality ingredients created a unique combination of flavors which perfectly mirror the Brown Student body and experience.


Brown University
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