Many people consider interviews led by alumni of Brown Uni just a formality, or rather a form of a PR activity the University does, in order to strengthen their brand and to make something fancy with the applicants. It is typically a nice experience for both the alumni and the high school grad, but apparently it doesn’t play any significant role in the admission process.

I do not agree with that opinion. When we talk about universities with acceptance rate below 10% (Brown belongs to this elite group), every detail counts. Certainly, the interview alone cannot win you the place at the University. But maybe it can help to make that 5% difference between acceptance and rejection in your case.

Be it as it is–one thing is certain: The interview belongs to the admission process, and you cannot skip it. Hence it is better to prepare for the questions you may face. Let’s have a look at ten of them.


Why Brown University?

Try to be as specific as possible in your answer. Go through the curriculum of the undergrad program you chose, and find some courses that are particular to Brown only, or something that resonates with you.

You should also research about teachers, their academic publications or real life successes, and find something that corresponds with the direction you want to pursue in your research, or in your professional career. You can perhaps say that you’d love to have this or that professor as your mentor.

Another alternative is telling them a story. Perhaps you learned about Brown from one of their former students, from someone who made a breakthrough in their field. You were lucky enough to meet the person and marveled on their intelligence and expertise in the field. You immediately understood that they studied at an exceptional place.

When you found that it was Brown, you did your research, you got excited (about XYZ program) and decided to apply.

* May also interest you: Why did you choose this university?


Tell me the most interesting fact about you.

They look for people with experiences at Brown. If the most interesting fact about you is that you had the best GPA at high school, you would not make the cut. Because what they are looking for are real life experiences.

Did you have to overcome an extreme adversity to get to this point in your life? Have you participated in any international competition (related or not to education)? Or have you tried to build a startup while still studying at high school? Have you self-publish a book on Amazon? Were you one of the guys who bought bitcoin when it cost just $100 to get one, anticipating what would happen in the future of cryptocurrency?

Of course these are just some examples, and it’s never enough to just state them as a fact. You should always elaborate on your answer, explaining why you made this or that decision, why you succeeded or failed in your endeavors, etc.

And now I will give you a pro tip: you can risk to fake it (until you make it). The alumni interviewing you won’t verify the exactness of your claims. Perhaps you can add one or two colorful details to your story, just to make it more memorable.

You should never tell them an outright lie. But to spice things up a bit can be a good idea, especially if your life story is a bit ordinary for Brown…

What can you bring to the community of students and teachers at Brown?

Saying that you’d apply for a position of a resident assistant won’t do the trick here (though such an answer may work well in many college interviews). Just like with the first question, you should talk about something specific you want to give back to the college.

Of courser if you excel in athletics, the answer is obvious. You plan to represent the colors of their school, and you want them to help win this or that league, something that perhaps they have never succeeded to do before.

If you aren’t an athlete, however, you can talk about some events you’d like to organize for fellow students, or things you want to do for the community. Can be sport events, cultural events, can be just participating in some existing initiative they do at the campus (something you learned about while doing your research).

I’d love to say that your attitude is more important than the exact idea, but it’s not necessarily the truth at Brown. You compete with the best here, and most applicants will be intelligent, and at least half will be creative. That’s why saying that you simply want to do something, or will bring intelligence and creativity to the college, won’t do the trick. It is important to come up with a particular idea.


What’s the most innovative idea that you have implemented at school, or at work?

At Brown, they value students who can bring new ideas onboard, people who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo, suggesting new ways of handling old processes, or even entirely new processes, inviting and innovating things as they pass through the undergrad program.

Try to talk with enthusiasm about any innovation you implemented, and to not forget to specify the goal you followed with your idea, and whether the results met your expectations.

It’s not a problem if they didn’t, because not being afraid to fail while trying something new is also highly valued at Brown, and any other elite university for the matter.

And if you never had any job before (not even volunteering somewhere), you can talk about an innovative idea from school, or from your personal life. Let me give you one sample answer at this point, from my colleague Matthew:

I’ve opted for an unorthodox strategy with one advertising campaign which I led in my previous job. Instead of focusing on the traditional model of perfect family enjoying the product—what’s everyone else is doing in the automotive, trying to connect their product with an idea of a perfect life in the minds of the customers, I opted for outsiders as the heroes of our campaign.

Strange looking guy from the woods, an old lady speeding down the highway, and in one moment we even purposely pictured someone who looked like a refuge and homeless, someone who would never ever be able to afford such a car. In our online commercial, however, they were driving a $150,000 sports model.

It was something unheard of in the industry, and we gained a lot of publicity for the campaign. People shared it on social media, and the reach far exceeded our expectations—what was exactly my goal, because more than anything else we tried to strengthen our brand awareness with this campaign.

I enjoy trying new ideas, and I do not like to follow the crowds. I believe this campaign is a perfect illustration of my attitude.

Of course this is just an example, a demonstration of creative thinking and innovative approach. Think a bit about your own life, and try to find a similar situation which demonstrates that you aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.


Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

My advice at this point is clear: aim for something big, and innovative. You do not study at Brown to apply for an entry level job in some big corporation, and do the same boring tasks day after day, earning some measly 50-70 grand a year.

You study at Brown because you want to apply for creative jobs, leading roles in NGOs and innovative startups, or want to start your own business, or want to stay in the academic world working on a particular field of research.

Again, the key is to be specific. If you have a position, or organization, or research field on your mind, you should definitely explain your goals in the interviews. Needless to say, your goals should correspond with the undergrad program of your choice, and they should be BIG.

In some cases, it may work well if you say that you chose Brown exactly because of the variety of options you have with them, both in terms of enrolling to courses, and your future choice of occupation.

You aren’t sure yet about your personal mission in this world, but the creative and intelligent community of people at Brown is definitely a place where you’ll find your calling, and perhaps also people you will connect with, and pursue the dream together with them….


5 other questions you may face while interviewing with an alumni of Brown University


Conclusion, next steps

When you try to get to an Ivy League University, every detail is important. Do not underestimate your interview preparation just because people say that the interview with Brown alumni does not play a significant role in the admission process. Every detail counts, and if you flopped the interview, you would almost certainly not get in.

People at Brown value the following things: Creative mind, intelligence, spirit for innovation, healthy level of confidence and humility. Think about situations from your life which demonstrate any of these abilities. Referring to them in your interview answers, you should make the right impression on your interviewers.

We wish you good luck!

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