The most important essay on the Brown Writing Supplement is this one:
Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about an academic interest (or interests) that excites you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue it. (250 words)
Why College? essays are always tricky, because they require you to do research about the school, instead of just yourself. But this one doesn't ask just about Brown, but also the specific pedagogy that makes Brown so unique.
But what can you say about Open Curriculum that the other 38,674 high school seniors who are applying to Brown won't also say?
The first thing you need to do is understand Why This Question?
In short, the purpose is to make sure you are someone who will thrive under Open Curriculum — which, in Brown's own words, is "a tremendous responsibility."
There are different kinds of intelligence among the world's top high school students, and their intelligence manifests itself in different ways.
Some students are great because they will work tirelessly to achieve any goal. They thrive under structure and pressure. With the right direction, they can accomplish anything.
Others are great because they have been unusually self-directed and proactive in the pursuit of their learning. They have connected what they learned in one class or internship to something entirely different. They thrive when given the freedom to explore.
I believe either kind of student could succeed at Brown, but someone who is more self-directed will likely get more from the experience.
Beyond the ability to develop a personalized course of study, the freedom to study what you choose, and the flexibility to discover what you love, Open Curriculum also offers these tools and features:
Now that you know this, it's time to brainstorm your essay. Remember: the purpose of the essay isn't to teach the admissions officers about Open Curriculum. They already know, and 80% of this year's applicants are going to re-explain it to them, anyway.
The purpose of this essay is to help the Brown admissions team understand you. So start by brainstorming about yourself. Here's an example, assuming I'm the same student as the one in How To Write Your "Optional" COVID-19 Essay:
1. What is interesting/special/unique about me that I didn't have a chance to share in my Personal Statement?
Now that I have this list, I can start connecting it back to Open Curriculum. Here's a sample essay:
“Eva, you’d make the best surgeon! I can always see your tips!”
This essay is fantastic, because without womansplaining what Open Curriculum means, I've shown how I would benefit from it. I've shown creativity, engagement, and original thought process. I've also shown an important relationship I have with a teacher (which is hugely important: if you want to get into Brown, you can't have good recommendations -- you need to have great ones).
It's also fun, interesting, and memorable. I had fun writing it, and I think that shows.
For more advice about how to approach supplemental essays, I recommend reading How To Write Your Stanford Intellectual Vitality Essay, as the advice in this post is valuable no matter what schools you're applying to, and will help you organize and prioritize the traits, extracurriculars, and accomplishments you should highlight in your essays.
And if you want more help with your essays, check out my rates and services, then contact me.
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Eva Glasrud completed her B.A. and M.A. at Stanford. She is now a college counselor and life coach for gifted youth.