Brown University is known for being the most flexible and progressive of all the Ivies, with its signature open curriculum and embracement of intellectual “free-thinkers”. Students create their own path towards a concentration (Brown’s version of a major), but some concentrations require more structure than others (think engineering or computer science). Brown allows a two-week shopping period, giving intellectually curious students the opportunity to test out courses and professors before officially enrolling in classes. Students are further encouraged to explore subjects outside their concentration with the ability to take every fifth course pass/fail.
Brown students are more collaborative than competitive since they get to self-design their course plan and are not always taking the same courses, even compared to students in their same concentration. However, even with the course flexibility, academics are rigorous. My tour guide from a small, Appalachian town shared that she spent eight hours each day her freshman year studying to keep up with her studies and peers.
Out of Brown’s approximately 6,600 undergraduate population, 1,000 participate in research each year and 600-800 stay on campus to research each summer. Brown offers the only combined baccalaureate-MD program in the Ivy League, called the Liberal Medical Education (PLME), where 60 students each year are given the opportunity to combine their undergraduate education and professional studies in medicine into an eight-year program. For those not pursuing medical school, Brown offers multiple career and internship fairs and BrownConnect is a resource for students to connect with alumni across the globe for internship and research opportunities.
Brown University is located near downtown Providence, Rhode Island on top of College Hill, just above the renowned Rhode Island School of Design, where all Brown students have the option of taking studio art courses. Students may count up to four RISD art classes toward graduation requirements at Brown, and a very select few (15 per year) are admitted to both campuses for the uber-selective Brown-RISD dual degree.
Brown’s campus architecture is a blend of old red brick and stone buildings with plenty of grassy lawns. The charming historic neighborhood nearby offers a number of places to eat off campus, including ethnic options and American staples (Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s). Recent additions include the 80,000 square foot Engineering Research Center, offering state-of-the-art classroom, research, and laboratory space.
Computer Science is the most popular concentration at Brown, where students are thrilled to be taught an introductory CS course by Andries van Dam, the founder of Brown’s CS department and who was formative to the field of interactive computer graphics. In fact, the Toy Story character Andy was named for Andy van Dam, who taught many of the computer graphics people at Pixar. Regardless of their fame, students state that Brown professors want to get to know students and quickly know their students on a 1st-name basis.
During the Brown admission presentation, I heard about how Brown students are self-motivated, “do-ers”, and active participants in driving their own education. Brown University does not offer merit scholarships, but is “need-blind” for US and DACA students, and they meet 100% of financial need without packaged loans.
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