Brown Application Mistakes to Avoid

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Brown University's aerial view of its campus surroundings.

Brown Application Mistakes to Avoid

For students that are looking to apply to Brown University, there are a lot of very important factors to keep in mind. Of course, the path towards Brown starts many years before a student applies. Of course, students need to take the time and make the effort throughout their high school years to earn impressive grades, get involved in great extracurriculars, and accomplish many things to have a chance of getting into an Ivy League school like Brown.

However, the applications itself – and the way a student approaches their college applications does end up playing a strong role as well. So, what are the Brown application mistakes that every high school student interested in getting into and attending Brown need to know about?

You have come to the right place to find out!

Students walking and resting on the green lawn of Brown University.

At AdmissionSight, we make it our number one goal to help every high school student that we work with accomplish their admissions goals and get into the colleges and universities of their dreams. Whether they are interested in attending an Ivy League school, a top-10 school elsewhere in the United States, a prestigious state school or an impressive liberal arts college.

While back in the day the primary factors that played a role in whether or not a student got into a school was their grades and standardized test scores, the rules have shifted dramatically in recent years. Not only has the adoption of a holistic approach to college admissions changed the landscape, but so too has the adoption of standardized test optional policies at top schools like Brown.

Because so much about the college application journey feels subjective these days, it is crucially important that high school students know what they can do to improve their chances of getting into schools with incredibly low acceptance rates.

Which is why AdmissionSight has decided to break down the top application mistakes that every high school student should work to avoid, not just if they are looking to apply to Brown, but any school in the country!

But before we get into how to avoid making a mistake on Brown application, it is important to go over some of the most important admissions facts specifically related to Brown application mistakes.

Brown University admissions basics

When a high school student is preparing their list of schools that they plan to apply to, it is important that they do some basic research in terms of the typical students that are able to gain admissions to those schools.

While students do not necessarily have to be deterred if a school has a higher average GPA amongst successful applicants or higher average standardized test scores, these kinds of numbers are useful for interested students to know so that they can regulate their expectations and recognize what their face-value chances of getting in are.

When it comes to Brown, it should not come as much of a shock that it is one of the most selective schools in the country.

When it comes to the average grade point average that high school students earn who get into Brown, students need to know that this number is quite high.

Based on records that are available from the school, that average GPA sits at approximately 4.08. This is a weighted GPA, which means that students that get into Brown are not only earning A’s in almost all of their classes but are also taking a large number of advanced courses such as AP and IB courses.

As for the average standardized test scores at Brown, the average ACT sits between 33 and 35 out of the perfect score of 36. The average SAT score sits between 1440 and 1570 of the perfect 1600.

From these simple numbers alone, it becomes abundantly clear that Brown is really only looking to accept students that perform at the very top of their high school classes.

Though it is not unheard of for students to get in despite having below-average GPAs or standardized test scores, those circumstances are typically quite unique and quite rare. If your grades and test scores are well below the aforementioned averages, you should presume that getting into Brown is going to be a long shot!

If the average GPA and test scores did not convince you enough that Brown is truly one of the most competitive and selective schools in the United States, take a look at it’s acceptance rate from the most recent application cycle.

The overall Brown acceptance rate was a highly competitive 8.3 percent. The regular decision acceptance rate was even lower, at 6.9 percent.

Without a doubt, this acceptance rate puts Brown at the highest echelon of schools in the United States when it comes to selectiveness. However, it is considered to be one of the easier Ivy League schools to get into. That does not mean that Brown is easy to get into, however, not by a long shot. However, it does effectively paint a picture of just how difficult it really is to get into Brown.

If you want a clearer idea of how hard it is to get into schools like Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, and more, take a look at the breakdown of the acceptance rates across the Ivy League from the most recent application cycle.

So, while Brown’s acceptance rate does fall well below double digits, it is still quite a lot higher than the most difficult Ivy League schools to get into. That is something important to know if you are the kind of student that is heavily drawn to the prestige and allure of the Ivy League but does not yet have a dream school within the Ivy League that you desperately want to attend.

If your goal is simply to be part of the Ivy League community, it is certainly wise to consider applying to Brown.

Major Brown application mistakes to avoid

So, now that you know the basic admissions facts regarding Brown University, it is time to start going into the primary mistakes that any hopeful applicant needs to look to avoid in order to improve their chances of getting into the school. Remember, the application itself is as much a part of what actually ends up getting a student in or, sadly, leaving a student on the outside looking in.

Let’s get into it!

Not getting started on the application early enough

For some of the most accomplished and intelligent high school students, procrastination does not become a major hurdle that they have to overcome.

In fact, it is quite possible for students who are naturally gifted at test-taking and excelling in the classroom to procrastinate throughout their high school years and still earn grades that are good enough to earn them a spot at some of the top schools in the United States. However, that same spirit of procrastination will heavily work against you if you decide to apply it to the process of filling out your college applications.

A man staring at the laptop screen with his hands on his chin.

For most students, the time to begin filling out college applications is sometime during the summer vacation between your junior and senior years of high school.

Even if you have a very busy summer, filled with extracurricular activities, exciting summer programs, and even some fantastic vacations, you are going to want to make sure that you are not waiting until your senior year of high school begins to get started on your college applications.

First of all, trying to get a handle on everything that you need to fill out and all of the documents that you need to request from your school while you are getting reacquainted with your academic schedule will likely leave you overworked, overwhelmed, and unable to commit enough attention to either important task.

Secondly, if you do not give yourself the amount of time that you need to fill out your applications, you run the risk of sending in incomplete or imperfect applications that will absolutely reflect poorly upon you once your application is being reviewed at the Brown admissions office.

Not applying to Brown via Early Decision…as long as Brown is your top choice

Another major mistake That high schoolers often make when they are applying to schools is not pursuing early admissions options at the top schools in the country. Early admissions go by two common names, either known as Early Action or Early Decision. While many of the rules are the same for both Early Action and Early Decision, There are some really important differences that students must be aware of before they decide to apply in this manner.

A male college student standing while holding a tablet and carrying a bag.

For example, at Brown University, their Early Action admissions option is known as a binding agreement. What this means is that if a student applies to Brown via Early Action, they agree to commit to attending Brown in the event that they are accepted.

In other words, if you apply early to Brown and end up getting in, you will have to withdraw all of your other applications and enroll at Brown University. For that reason, binding early admissions is only recommended when a student knows that that school is their number one option.

Why this can be such a helpful tool is because the acceptance rates for students that apply via early admissions are typically quite a bit higher than the acceptance rates of regular admissions to top schools.

Don’t believe us? Take a look at the graph above that breaks down all of the acceptance rates of the eight schools in the Ivy League.

While Brown’s overall acceptance rate during the 2021 application cycle was just 8.3 percent, and the school’s regular admissions acceptance rate was an even lower 6.9 percent, it’s early admissions acceptance rate was 21.9 percent! As you can see, students that applied via early admissions options had a much better chance of getting into the school.

Not making clear what your passions are outside of the classroom

For years, the two most important factors that have decided whether or not a student gets into a school have been that student’s high school grade point average and their standardized test scores.

While those factors are still considered crucial in the eyes of admissions officers – even though many schools including Brown have adopted a standardized test-optional policy amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are also many other factors and considerations that admissions officers make when they’re deciding the fate of a high school applicant.

Remember, the admissions process at Brown is considered holistic, which means that the school is going to consider any and all proof that a student sends in that the student believes can help argue their case. One very important part of that equation is the way a given student spends his or her time outside of the classroom during high school. This typically refers to the extracurriculars that a student took part in.

The word extracurricular is something of a catchall term that refers to basically any activity, team, club, initiative, and more that a student took personal part in.

So, whether you are a passionate athlete who got involved in many team or individual sports, someone who sought competition in academic clubs like Science Olympiad or model UN, or someone who spent their summer months getting involved in summer programs at college campuses around the country, you are going to want to make sure that any admissions officer looking at your application knows exactly how you spend your time out of the classroom.

Admissions officers are not only looking to bring in great students to their school but are also committed to finding great young people who they believe will be productive members of the school’s community both during their undergraduate years and beyond.

If you can prove that you are an active and passionate member of your high school or home community during your high school years, admissions officers will have little doubt that you will continue that trend once you get to university.

Not giving it your all when you are writing your personal essays

One of the most important Brown application mistakes has to do specifically with the essay section of your application.

Especially with the new rules regarding standardized test optionality for high school applicants, arguably the second most important part of any student’s application to a college or university is their answers to the short essay questions that the school provides. Brown University has a number of school-specific questions that every high school applicant must answer as a part of their application.

A woman not feeling okay while staring at the papers in front of her.

While some students may feel as though these essays are little more than a formality to get through, they actually serve an incredibly important purpose. At AdmissionSight, some of our most important work that we do with the students that we work with every year has to do with crafting the perfect essays.

One of the most important rules that every high school student needs to remember is that when it comes to crafting the best essay possible, it is more often about how you say it rather than what you say. What we mean by that is that some students feel pressured to come up with topics and answers that they feel make them sound unique.

Whether it is a story about their upbringing, challenges they’ve had to overcome, our tragedies that they’ve confronted.

While these topics may work for some students, the simple fact is that most applicants do not have stories that truly fit those descriptions. So, instead of forcing your essays to go down that path, students would be much better off coming up with ways to truly express themselves and their unique point of view on the world through their essay answers.

If you are struggling to come up with strong essay topics, consider asking yourself these questions before you get started on answering them:

  • Have you managed to express your passions and love of learning within your essays?
  • Have you discussed your long-term goals relating to both school and beyond?
  • Have you explained what you plan to do upon graduating from your undergraduate program?
  • Have you made it clear how you take initiative and motivate yourself to reach your goals?
  • Have you discussed how involved you were in your extracurricular activities and what did you learn from them?
  • How have you made it clear that you sought to challenge yourself academically and otherwise throughout your high school years?
  • How have you explained that you were able to overcome personal obstacles and problems?
  • How have you made it clear what sets you apart from other applicants?

Get more Brown University advice

So there you have it! If you are looking to not make a single mistake on Brown’s application, these guidelines are a great place to start. If you are looking for more guidance and advice on how to impress the admissions officers at Brown University or any of the other fantastic schools across the United States, contact AdmissionSight today to set up a free consultation.


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