University News

Brown-RISD dual degree accepts just 3.5 percent

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 13, 2009

Brown may have set a record for admissions stinginess this year — just 10.8 percent of undergraduate applicants got in — but a spot in the College was not College Hill’s most difficult ticket to punch.

That distinction goes to the fledgling Brown-RISD Dual-Degree program, which invited just 19 of 550 applicants to join its second class ever — a miniscule 3.5 percent acceptance rate — according to Panetha Ott, Brown’s admissions liaison to the program.

“It’s tougher than anything else,” she said. “It’s an extremely competitive program.”

Dual-Degree students spend five years studying at both Brown and RISD, ultimately graduating with a degree from both schools. Students in the program live their first year at RISD and their second year at Brown, then have the option of living at either school or off-campus. The 13 members of the program’s first class arrived on College Hill in September.

This year’s goal is to have 13 or 14 students matriculate into the program, Ott said, and over the coming years officials hope that number will ultimately rise to their goal of 20, but no further.

“Right now, we want the first few classes to be slightly smaller, but eventually the program will grow,” she added. “It’s still in its early stages.”

Despite the difficulty of gaining acceptance to the program, rejection can come with a consolation prize — students are considered for admission to both Brown and RISD independently, meaning Dual-Degree rejectees may still gain admission to either school, or even both.

To be admitted to the program, students apply separately to each institution and complete an extra application essay explaining how the program will fit in with their future goals. Students who are accepted to both schools are evaluated by an advisory committee consisting of two faculty members from each school, Ott and RISD Director of Admissions Edward Newhall.

“Primarily Brown looks at academics and RISD will look at the art, but both will overlap,” Ott said. “It’s a wonderful process because you end up learning a lot about art and artistic talent by listening to one another and coming to a consensus to figure out who is the best.”

Though only in its second year, the program’s reputation has elicited a “relatively large” response from high school students both in the U.S. and internationally, Ott said. Six of the 19 admitted students were from countries abroad, she said.

Newhall said that for students applying to the dual-degree program, it is important to succeed both academically and artistically.

The program may admit “students whose experience in the visual realm is not as well-developed as others,” Newhall said, as long as “we can believe in their direction and interest — we can see their potential.”

But, he said, “We don’t take too many people where there is a question of academic performance. We can’t admit someone who is a fabulous artist, but who can’t handle the academics.”