In a recent announcement by the Office of College Admission, Brown University has made significant changes to their undergraduate application for the class of 2028. These changes include a fresh essay prompt and four new “very short answer” questions up to a 100 words.

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Key Takeaways:

  • The application now requires three supplemental essays of 250 words each. One of these prompts is new, urging students to reflect on their upbringing and the unique contributions they might bring to the Brown community.
  • Four “very short answer” questions have been added to the application, asking students to provide quick insights into their interests and perspectives.
  • The prompt changes follow a Supreme Court ruling on the use of race-conscious admissions, and while not explicitly encouraging or restricting the discussion of racial background, the new essay format allows students to delve into their personal experiences.

Personal Essays and “Very Short Answers”: What’s That About?

A new prompt has replaced the previous question, which asked students to discuss a time when they encountered a perspective that was different from their own. The new question asks students to reflect on an aspect of their upbringing that has inspired or challenged them and encourages them to consider what unique contributions they might bring to the Brown community.

“Each applicant has a unique set of experiences they can contribute to the Brown community, and we want to learn more about them,” Associate Provost for Enrollment Logan Powell wrote in an email to The Herald.

Beyond the longer essays, the application now features four “very short answer” questions. These prompts seek a few words to a few sentences from applicants, providing a concise insight into their interests and perspectives.

The new shorter answers replaced a previous, longer essay asking applicants why they are applying to Brown. “These new prompts are intended to be concise thought exercises that allow us to gain insights into the interests and perspectives of applicants,” Powell explained.

The Reason Behind Those Changes

This change in application process comes in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that restricted the use of race-conscious admissions. However, Chief Justice John Roberts clarified that universities could still consider an applicant’s discussion of how race affected their life, such as through discrimination or inspiration, in essays.

While the new essay prompt does not explicitly mention race, it leaves room for students to explore their personal experiences. The Office of the General Counsel at Brown will hold workshops and information sessions for admission officers and members of the community to help navigate this new landscape in higher education.

Prospective students for the class of 2028 must submit early decision applications by Nov. 1 and regular decision applications by Jan. 3.

Reflecting on Your Roots and Identity in University Applications

The emphasis on personal backgrounds and experiences in Brown’s application indicates a trend among universities to understand their prospective students at a deeper, more personal level. This focus on introspection and identity is not just about diversity in race or nationality, but encompasses a wider scope that includes various life experiences, socio-economic backgrounds, personal challenges, and unique achievements.

Reflection on one’s roots and identity can provide crucial insights into a student’s resilience, adaptability, and capacity to contribute to the university community. It emphasizes the individual’s journey, their personal growth, and the unique perspective they bring along.

A few suggestions to keep in mind when reflecting on your roots and identity in university applications:

  1. Self-Reflection: Use this as an opportunity to dive deep into your experiences. Reflect on how your upbringing has shaped your worldview and what values or traits you have derived from it.
  2. Honesty and Authenticity: Be genuine in your self-reflection. Authenticity resonates with admissions officers who read hundreds of essays.
  3. Relevance: While reflecting on your roots and identity, consider how your experiences might contribute to the university community. Universities value students who can add a unique perspective or enhance the campus’s cultural and intellectual life.
  4. Show Growth and Learning: Discuss how challenges have spurred personal growth or inspired you to act or think differently. This demonstrates resilience, a quality highly valued by universities.
  5. Respect Diversity: Acknowledge that your perspective is just one among many, and express a willingness to learn from others’ experiences. This displays a readiness for the inclusive and diverse environment at university.

By encouraging students to delve into their personal histories, universities like Brown not only ensure a diverse pool of applicants but also foster a community that appreciates the rich tapestry of backgrounds and experiences its students bring to the table.


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