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A Visit to Brown University

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By Sue Luse


Founded in 1764 as an Ivy League institution, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States, with undergraduate and graduate programs, the Warren Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and School of Professional Studies. The Brown community – composed of approximately 6,200 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, and 500 medical students – shares vibrant College Hill in Providence with the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The campus is filled with notable buildings, gardens, and green spaces. When the weather is agreeable, Brown students gravitate outdoors – throwing Frisbees, walking tightropes (yes, this is the norm!), playing obscure musical instruments, and doing homework. Flyers about political activity and interesting lectures are scattered throughout the campus.



Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and the perfect college town located about 40 minutes from Boston. The streets of College Hill are lined with 18th- and 19th-century homes. Diverse and historic, bicycle-friendly, and easy to explore by foot, Providence is an active center of art, culture, education, and politics. Waterplace Park is the backdrop for the WaterFire art installation, which lights up the surrounding tidal basin most nights in the summer and for special events. The influence of the nearby Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts is evident, with Providence boasting numerous outstanding restaurants and the highest number of degreed chefs per capita than any other U.S. city. Providence is easy to navigate and full of friendly, helpful people.


Brown is known for outstanding, rigorous academics. With no core curriculum, students are free to imagine their own “concentrations” (instead of majors) by integrating specific areas of interest into a broad program of liberal learning. Within a network of teachers and advisors, students develop important skills of planning, communication, self-advocacy, and resilience.


Notable programs include the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), in which selected students proceed from successful completion of undergraduate studies to earn M.D. degrees at the Warren Alpert Medical School in eight years total. Another unique program, the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program, allows a student to obtain both a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in five years.

A Brown education is a catalyst for creativity and entrepreneurship. The institution funds hundreds of research opportunities and internships each year. The student body has an enviable record of securing competitive national and international fellowships.

Student Life

Frat house

Brown attracts independent, interesting students from around the world who are committed to active campus lives. The students range from prepster and jock to political activist and bohemian. School spirit is low-key, though the homecoming game, and lacrosse games, are popular venues. It’s easy to get involved, and the 300+ student organizations embody energy, focus, and innovation. The groups and clubs – formed and run by students – reflect the community’s varied interests. Brown’s culture supports club sports teams, a cappella groups, improv and sketch comedy, dance, student-produced plays and musicals, The Brown Band, the Swearer Center for Public Service, and The Brown Daily Herald.

Housing and Dining

Dining hall

Brown’s housing system services a diverse community. Giant swings and colorful chairs – a reflection of the typical Brown student – are standard outdoor additions to the dorms. First-year undergrads live with roommates in close-knit “units” of 50 to 60. Through an annual housing lottery, upperclass students pick their exact rooms, whether private singles or with friends in suites and apartments. There are many off-campus options in the surrounding College Hill neighborhood, as well. Brown is known for its exceptional dining options. The 2016 introduction of the Pop-Up Supper Club is a reflection of Brown’s dining innovation: students, a dietician, a chef, and special guests come together over family-style meals to engage in informative discussions about sourcing, ingredients, and line concepts.


Campus statue

Brown is highly-selective, seeking students who are not only top performers but who gravitate to eccentric hobbies and interests and exhibit high levels of self-sufficiency. Intellectual curiosity is a must, as is a challenging high school class schedule filled with available AP courses. For the Class of 2020, there were 32,390 applicants who applied either early decision or regular decision; almost one-half of the accepted applicants identified themselves as students of color. The overall, need-blind acceptance rate was nine percent, and qualified students received generous financial aid. For the Class of 2021 and beyond, Brown will require the new SAT Reasoning Test (without the optional writing component) and two SAT subject tests. ACT test-takers, however, are highly encouraged to submit the optional writing component. Once a student applies via the Common Application, an alumni interview can be scheduled.

Who Would Be Happy Here?

Students with independent streaks and a passion for learning are the ideal candidates. Brown students are unfazed by differing lifestyles and tend to appreciate the arts. The administration and faculty expect each student to be the architect of his or her own education. The Brown culture is a celebration of social justice, diversity, and liberal political leanings.

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