How to get into Brown University

How to get into Brown University

For Undergraduate (UG) and Masters (MS) degrees

Brown University, located in Providence in the US state of Rhode Island, is the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the US. This private Ivy League university was founded in 1764 as the “College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation.”

Brown was among the first institutions to grant doctorates, introducing master’s and doctoral studies in 1887. In 1969 Brown introduced the New Curriculum, or Brown Curriculum or Open Curriculum, giving students flexibility to choose courses without any mandatory distribution requirements, core curriculum, or courses for credits. As of November 2019, eight Nobel Prize winners have been affiliated with the university as faculty or alumni.

Undergraduate admissions

Brown tries to identify applicants who would best contribute to the academic, social, and extracurricular activities of the university. Applicants’ unique talent, achievements, enthusiasm, an aptitude to learn, worldview, and identity are taken into account.

Undergraduate admissions requirements are highly selective with an acceptance rate of 6.6 percent for the class of 2023. For the UG class of 2022 (enrolment in the fall of 2018), Brown received 35,438 applications, and 2,566 were admitted, for an acceptance rate of 7.2 percent.

The university considers international students’ financial needs when deciding to admit, waitlist, or deny applications. It packages financial need with scholarships that do not have to be repaid. In 2016-17, Brown granted need-based scholarships worth $120.5 million. The average need-based award for the class of 2020 was $47,940.

The total tuition and fees for the 2019-20 academic year, including room and board and personal expenses, was $77,490.


Applications are to be submitted through the Common Application, which guides applicants through the process of submitting documents as a first-year student. The Common Application contains information common to all schools, Brown University-specific questions, and school forms submitted by the applicant’s school counsellor and instructors.


First-year applicants are asked three 250-word essay questions: Tell us about your academic interest and how might you use the Open Curriculum to pursue it; How will you contribute to the Brown community? Tell us about a place/community you call home, and how it has shaped your perspective.

A Class of 2021 Brown student suggests that applicants communicate what specifically about Brown interests them, such as specific structures and programs, even if they are just copied from the Brown website. Brown looks for passion, dedication, and talent in in a field that interests the applicant. Applicants should try to mention these points in essays.

Recommendation letters

Within the Common Application, the applicant is given online or paper methods to invite school officials/teachers to provide recommendations. Brown advises applicants to send recommendations, transcripts, and test scores through the Common Application. The application fee is $75.

Testing requirements

Applicants can meet Brown’s testing requirements through SAT (the essay section is optional) or Act (the writing section is optional) by submitting two SAT Subject Tests of their choice. Although not mandatory, they strengthen the application.

Not only that, although there’s no declared SAT cut-off for applicants, the “hidden” requirement is that to be competitive, you need close to or above the SAT average of the school, which is 1488 on the 1600 SAT scale. This could mean, for example, 745 in Math, and 743 in Reading. The middle 50 percent of Brown SAT scores is 700-790 in Math, 705-780 in Reading, and 1405-1570 Composite.

According to a score choice policy of super-scoring, you can choose which SAT section scores you want to send to the university. The admission office will consider your highest section scores across all SAT dates. If your SAT composite score is near 1570, which is the 75th percentile, you become a highly competitive applicant.

Similarly, the ACT average for Brown is 32, which means there are several students who scored above 32 (middle 50 percent of Brown’s Act score is 33-35 in English, 30-35 in Math, and 31-35 Composite). Therefore, any score below 32 may be seen as weak.

Simply put, you need a SAT score of 1570 or an ACT score of 34 or higher to give yourself the best chance of getting into Brown.


Brown’s average GPA is 4.09, and this makes it obvious that only top applicants make it to the university. An applicant will require straight “A”s in all classes and should take hard classes (AP or IB courses) to show ability to do well in college academics.

But what do you do if you are already in high school and it’s too late to improve your GPA? You will then need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate and compete well with other applicants who have higher GPAs.

English proficiency

For international applicants, a TOEFL score of 100 or above in the Internet-based exam or 600 or above in the paper-based exam, or an IELTS score of 8.0 or above is expected.

Keeping track of application

Applicants receive access to the application portal in 48 hours after submitting their applications. The portal tells applications whether all documents and test scores have been received. Applicants can submit additional materials such as a writing sample, poetry, resume, or an abstract of scientific research if they wish to do so.


Because of the large number of applicants, Brown admission officers may not conduct individual interviews on the campus. Applicants can opt for an alumni interview, and then volunteer alumni can contact applicants and fix up a convenient date and time for an interview.

Alumni interview is only one aspect of the application and does not determine success or failure. Alumni write to the university mentioning the strengths of the interviewed applicant based on a brief meeting. Brown advises applicants to see it as an opportunity to learn more about the university and convey their best qualities as a student and as a person.

Graduate admissions

Brown offers 51 doctoral programs and 33 master’s programs, including those at the School of Engineering, the School of Public Health, and the School of Professional Studies. As many as 2,600 students are enrolled in these programs taught by 700 faculty members. The professors pursue their own research and scholarship while remaining committed to their vocation of teaching.

Brown students show academic excellence and self-direction, and adopt a collaborate approach to learning. After completing their graduate studies, Brown students follow distinguished careers in research, teaching, and private and public sector organizations.

Master’s degree fields of study at Brown include American Studies, Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, Data Science, Executive MBA, Literary Arts, Medical Sciences, Public Health, and Theatre Art and Performance Studies, to mention a few.


The minimum requirement for a master’s degree are admission to the program and completion of eight graduate-level courses. Other requirements may include proficiency in foreign languages, special examinations, and theses. Students interested in attending master’s programs need to contact the Director of Graduate Study. Keep in mind that graduate programs have varying deadlines.

Tuition fee

Brown’s graduate tuition rate for the 2019-20 academic year was $57,112-$68,734, depending on the program. Financial aid for master’s programs depends on the programs. Funding decisions are made at the program level and is based on the student’s academic progress.

Expenses for international students for the 2019-20 academic year varied from $84,346-$103,408, including tuition $57,112-$68,734. In addition, living expenses may be about $30,000 for 12 months.

Online application

The Brown Graduate School requires opening an online application by creating an account and applying online. The online application offers tools for collecting and submitting some of the documents and information required for admission. Individual departments may require additional information, which are listed on their websites. Material that are not submitted through the online process can be mailed to the Graduate School. The application fee is $75.

Personal statement

All applicants are required to submit a personal statement stating their areas of interest or intended areas of study. Some departments may ask applicants to address specific questions. Scanned images of transcripts can be submitted with the application, but the official transcript will be required of admitted applications.

Recommendation letters

Doctoral program applicants should submit three letters of recommendation from those qualified to speak about the applicant’s potential for graduate study. All of them need to comment on the applicant’s ability to take up research and complete coursework. Two of the letters should be from faculty in the institution of current study or most recently attended. Master’s program applicants may submit letters from academic or non-academic persons.


Applicants to doctoral programs or programs at the School of Public Health must have their GRE scores sent to the Graduate School. International applicants must also have their TOEFL or IELTS scores submitted to the school.

Admission criteria

Admission to the Graduate School is determined at the program level with supervision from the school. Each program sets its own criteria in consultation with the Dean of the Graduate School. Admission is based on a review of material in the application. Previous records, test scores, and recommendations are taken into account, as well as the potential of the candidate to take up advanced work of top quality.

Notification of results

Applicants can be expected to be notified of the success or failure of their applications within four to eight weeks after the deadlines. Offers are binding when made in writing by the Dean of the Graduate School. Admission may be deferred in some cases, but aid offers cannot be deferred.

Brown UG admission facts and statistics

  • Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
  • % of faculty teaching undergraduates: 100
  • % of classes with fewer than 20 students: 72
  • Admission rate to medical school from Brown: 92%
  • Admission rate to law school from Brown: 91%

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The dark side of attending Ivy League programs
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17