A Visit to Brown University
During the last pandemic year I did an interview with Joie Mills, currently a senior at Brown University. Joie gave the most visited student interview I-ve ever had on this site. I can see why. Brown University is everything that she says it is, based on my most recent campus visit. I also found a few photos of Brown on Pinterest for you. It’s really silly for me to make a report card about Brown. It has every resource that a college student needs to succeed, including financial aid and unique financial aid incentives. If you can get in, you’re less likely to have loans in your aid package than you might have at other schools.
However, it’s exceptionally hard to get into Brown. Less than six percent of applicants for the Class of 2025 were accepted. Nearly 47,000 people applied for just over 1,700 seats in the class. That’s up from 37,000 applicants the year before. Brown accepted 18 percent of Early Decision applicants for the Class of 2024. They made up 46 percent of the Class of 2024. Brown considered test scores to be Very Important in the admissions decisions to select the Class of 2024. Eighty-six percent of applicants who took the SAT scored between 1400 and 1600. Ninety-two percent of those took the ACT scored between 30 and 36. But like other colleges, Brown went test optional for the last cycle. The university accepted 16 percent of the Early Decision applicants for the Class of 2025. They made up more than half of the class. The university also reported that the numbers that applied Early Decision increased by 22 percent.
What are some important differences between Brown University and other Ivies?
I already covered most of this during the interview with Joie and the article around it. Brown has a truly open curriculum with absolutely no required courses. Everyone must choose a concentration, Brown’s term for a major, and many choose more than one. But there were some new things that I learned on my visit:
- Two-thirds of Brown students are undergrads. To lend perspective, they are only one third of the population at Harvard.
- Brown requires only 30 courses towards a degree, yet most students will take 32, four per semester, over the course of their education
- There are no “plus” grades. You earn an A, B or C, No Credit or Satisfactory/No Credit
- Students can take as many courses pass-fail as they want
- Engineering students take 22 courses, making it difficult for them to have more than one concentration
Brown students are obviously very bright. But it helps to have some ideas about your intended concentration before you come. You have four semesters to get to a final decision, though you should commit earlier to engineering. Brown was probably the first school I have visited where your resume and your selection of courses matter as much as the grades that appear on the transcript. A graduate school or a future employer likes to know that you planned your undergraduate education around possible future plans, not around earning the highest possible GPA.
Brown is more like a liberal arts school than Penn or Cornell
If you can get into Brown the university presumes that you can do the work in any major. You are not admitted into one school, Arts & Sciences or Engineering. You are admitted to the university. However, that tells me that Brown’s admissions office expects excellence across the board in your high school program. That makes sense. You might enter Brown with the feeling of “I’ll never take (insert name of least favorite course) again.” But you might need to take it later to complete a concentration or get the research opportunity, internship or job that you want.
Brown feels more community oriented than most urban schools I have visited.
Everyone must live on campus for six semesters, though juniors may petition to move off. Greek social life is not important here. Before the pandemic it attracted less than 15 percent of the men and only ten percent of the women. Brown is also one of the “less athletic” Ivies, although it has produced a Formula One champion and Indy 500 winning race driver (Mark Donohue) as well as the very first pick in Major League Baseball’s annual draft in 1974 (Bill Almon). While Brown is not known today as a football school, Joe Paterno and John Heisman are alumni. So is Fritz Pollard, one of the first African Americans to play in the NFL. New York Giants fans like me also remember Zac DeOssie, a long snapper who earned two Super Bowl rings.
Brown has the best setting of the urban Ivies
This is just an urban planner’s opinion, but Brown’s location blends the best of big city and college town. You can hang out near campus and enjoy the more collegiate amenities on Thayer Street nearby, or you can trek on foot or via free public transportation into downtown Providence. Brown students can go anywhere in Rhode Island on public bus for no charge by showing their ID, even the beach run by its neighbor, Rhode Island School of Design. There’s absolutely no reason to bring a car to campus. You wouldn’t want to. There’s more congestion for cars than there is for people at Brown.
Brown would be “my Ivy,” but it’s not for everybody
As someone who entered college undecided on a major, I would have liked Brown. This school gives you the opportunity to find your passion, then take it to a realistic place in terms of plans for a career or further education. However, it is not the school for someone who would prefer a “pre-professional” degree program outside of engineering. I also happen to like Providence as a college town, though it is not like Boston, New York or even Philadelphia. However, I like the college community feel of this campus versus being a “student citizen” of a larger city.
Need help on the journey to college? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.
Want to know more about me? Check out these podcasts!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!