Brown, originally the College of Rhode Island, was founded in 1764, making it the seventh college in the colonial United States. Brown was the first Ivy League school to accept students of all religious affiliations, and it is still known for being one of the most progressive schools in the nation.
Brown’s unique undergraduate curriculum was actually inspired by undergraduates themselves. As part of an independent group study project, students Ira Magaziner (‘69) and Elliot Maxwell (‘68) examined the education at Brown. Their report acted as a catalyst for change within the university and eventually led to the development of the Brown Curriculum, which was adopted in 1970. However, Magaziner and Maxwell can’t take all of the credit, as they were not the first Brown affiliates to have this idea. Over 100 years earlier, Brown’s fourth president, Francis Wayland, argued that a student should “study what he chose, all that he chose, and nothing but what he chose.” The Brown Curriculum allows students to do just that. Without a broad set of core requirements, students are given the freedom to design their own “core,” which allows them to take academic risks and follow their passions in the process. Rather than choosing a “major,” Brown students choose from 80 degree “concentrations,” ranging from applied mathematics to contemplative studies.
Brown fosters a close-knit community by requiring that students live on campus for the first six semesters. In their first year, students live with a roommate in a unit of 50 to 60 other freshmen. Moving into their second years, students can opt to choose a room via the “housing lottery” or sign up to live in one of the Program Houses, which bring together students with common interests. In communities like the French House and the Buxton International House, Program Housing gives students the opportunity to practice languages and become immersed in other cultures. Theme houses, like the Harambee House and the Social Action House, are formed around issues such as politics and social activism. There is even a Technology House for students interested in sharing and developing science and technology skills. Program Housing also encompasses the Greek system, which encourages fraternities and sororities to contribute to the community.
Whether it be the flexible curriculum, the program housing, or the picturesque campus, Brown has a reputation of being the most “laid back” Ivy League school. While Brown undeniably enrolls some of the most brilliant and ambitious students, the environment is not as competitive as it is at other top colleges, and its students are consistently ranked as some of the happiest in the US. One explanation for this trend could be that undergraduate students are allowed to take as many courses as they would like pass/fail, which takes the focus off of grades and rank and encourages experimentation and learning.
Brown is also home to the Ivy Film Festival, which is among the largest student run film festivals in the world. It began fifteen years ago, in 2001, and has since hosted guests such as Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and Jack Nicholson. There are four separate student competitions featured in the festival, including the domestic undergraduate film competition, the graduate film competition, the international film competition, and the screenplay competition. Students, filmmakers, and film enthusiasts flock from all over the world to attend and participate in this event, which usually takes place in the spring.
Located in Providence, Rhode Island, there is great deal of art, culture and history for students to take advantage of near campus. Brown has partnerships with both the Tony-Award winning Trinity Repertory Theater and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where any Brown student may take classes. Additionally, the RISD Art Museum is free for all students and students can ride the Rhode Island Public Transit for free, making it easy to explore the city.
Raj Patil, Admissionado Co-Founder
“Will life ever be as good as it was during my four years at Brown? When I ask my friends who also went to Brown that same question, the answer is always, “Hell no.” Those years were magic. But… why? What did Brown University have to do with it? Did Brown give us specific opportunities that contributed to it? Was there a common thread among Brown faculty members? Did the campus play a role? Was there some kind of binding ethos across all of these elements that was somehow specific to Brown? Sorry to disappoint, folks, but I’d have to say… no.
For me it was much simpler. It was the friends who became my family for those four years, and my peers in general, who had the most profound impact on me personally, and on my total experience. What was this group’s secret? What did we have in common? Is there truly a difference between “the kind of person” who ends up at UPenn versus Brown versus Yale versus Columbia? Some say yes… but I remain skeptical. We just shared similar ambitions, not just in life, but in our thirst for challenges, adventure, creative outlets, achieving, embracing things that were… awesome. Combine that with a sense of wonder (and unease) about what the future held, and you get the magical intersection of age + environment that cannot be replicated. Period.”