October 10, 2019

Brown University Essay 3

Brown University

Tell us about a place or community you call home. How has it shaped your perspective? (250 word limit)

Once again, this comes down to “did this kid write this expecting/hoping me to be impressed?” Or… did this kid actually just write an authentic, thoughtful answer to this question? That second one is GOLD. The first one, garbage. Out of 10 attempts at answering this question, how many do you think answer it “the garbage way”? Seriously, take a guess.

Answer: 9.7 (at least)

That’s right, it is the absolute EXCEPTIONAL APPLICANT who doesn’t write this FOR an admissions committee reader. Most do, and it’s always trash. Very, very, very few applicants have the courage to write truly authentically. Maybe that’s why admissions rates are so low (stands to reason).

Don’t try to sound poetic here, folks. Don’t try to be Johnny Deep. That isn’t to say “be straightforward.” That’s not what we’re saying at all… It’s possible to be earnest AND thoughtful. Let’s dig in a bit.

First things first. Let’s get our heads around that word “home.” What does that mean? It’s not purely a physical dwelling, cuz, enough people will have that same essential answer, which therefore tells us nothing about any single individual, right? And that’s not what Brown is going for here.

Each individual’s interpretation of the word “home” will vary (we hope it does!). For some it might mean “where do I feel safest.” For others it might mean “where I feel most myself.” For others it might be “where I feel most emotionally secure.” Could be “most relaxed.” Can be lots of things. While it would be inefficient to go through each possible interpretation, one thing we CAN do is talk about the TYPE of answers that are most effective here. Answer? The ones that are REVEALING…

One of our favorite “tips” at Admissionado is to find an answer here that might SURPRISE a reader who is very close to you. Who knows you the BEST? Mom? Best friend? Sibling? Imagine someone asked them this question on your behalf. In other words, someone asked them to guess what YOU would define as “home.” They take their best guess based on how ridiculously well they know you. If you were to show them your answer, here’s what SHOULD happen… they should finish reading and say “Holy crap, I thought I knew you!” That would be amazing. Not necessary, but that’s one way to test whether you’re on the right track.

Here’s another cool test. If you think you have a good answer for this question, but you worry that “someone else reading this might have a hard time understanding what you mean” … that’s a FANTASTIC sign. Those often make for the BEST essays. Don’t worry, you’ll make it understandable through the re-writing process, but as a “soul” of an essay, one that “someone else” will have trouble accessing immediately… is gold.

The flip side to all this is true also. If others reading this would correctly predict your topic, and others reading it would easily understand where you’re coming from, chances are… you haven’t dug deep enough. Or, you’ve dug plenty, and your response simply isn’t coooool enough (not your fault, but you may have to get creative here).

[It’s possible to have a lot of FUN with this one, too. Of all the prompts that are ripe for cheekiness, this one’s ripest of them all. At the core, however, there must be evidence of some serious, “intellectual” thought. It doesn’t matter how creative the style is—there has to substance too.]

Now, let’s just dig into organization briefly, because there are two pieces you need to hit (and not necessarily in this order):

  1. What “your” perspective is, such that it might have been shaped by something. We need to understand how your perspective differs from someone else’s. So imagine a thing that most people have a standard way of perceiving, or describing, or experiencing. And now imagine how YOUR version is somehow a little different. Our first challenge is to identify WHAT is different about, and be able to describe it.
  2. The second task is to figure out what the “winds” were that shaped that perspective quirk to begin with. Once you start to get a handle on this, it should give you clues about the overlap areas between the perspectives that define you AND the “place/community” you call home.

Keep in mind that not all things that shape you are welcome/pleasant. And some things that have shaped you may very well belong to a category you decidedly feel is the OPPOSITE of home. That’s useful to keep in mind as you wrap your mind around the stuff that shaped you AND is also is very much linked to the place/community you consider home.

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