Applicants to the class of 2018 will complete a significantly revised Brown supplement to the Common Application during the 2013-2014 admission cycle, submitting two fewer short answer responses and one fewer essay question.
One previous question giving applicants the option of writing one of three essays will be replaced with a new “Why Brown?” essay prompt. Also eliminated were a 25-word fill-in-the-blank question and a short response prompt.
The changes to Brown’s supplement come on the heels of a recent restructuring of the Common Application, which saw the removal of the “topic of your choice” essay option, The Herald previously reported. The Common Application also eliminated the short essay question about applicants’ activities.
A balanced supplement
This year’s changes to Brown’s supplement were made because last year’s “had grown a bit too long,” said Dean of Admission Jim Miller ’73.
“We wanted to make sure we were asking all the questions we wanted to and could eliminate some of the stuff that exists,” Miller said. “We didn’t want verbiage for the sake of verbiage.”
The Office of Admission creates a committee at the end of every cycle to evaluate Brown’s application materials, Miller said. He added that the committee examined the relevance and content of the questions from the last application cycle and was able to condense the supplement.
The length of a college’s supplement is determined by a number of factors, said Steven Goodman, an educational consultant and admission strategist at Top Colleges Advising. Schools often seek to strike a “balance” between encouraging serious applicants and ensuring a large number of students apply.
“If you wanted a lot more applicants, then you would have the simplest application possible or not have a supplement,” Goodman said. “From my perspective, what (shortening Brown’s supplement) means is they’re looking for more applicants.”
The number of applications to the University hit a record high in 2011, when 30,946 students applied to be members of the class of 2015, The Herald reported at the time. The two admission cycles from the classes of 2016 and 2017 fell short of that mark, with 28,743 and 28,919 applicants, respectively.
But Miller said he does not think shortening the supplement will have any effect on the volume of applicants, adding that it is not uncommon for universities to change their supplements year to year.
“It takes a while to apply to college,” Miller said. “We want to make sure we’re asking people to use their time wisely.”
A common problem
Though the admission office decided to decrease the length of its application supplement this year, many schools will likely increase theirs in future years, said Michele Hernandez, a college consultant and former assistant director of admissions at Dartmouth. Because of changes to the Common Application — namely a more rigid online format and the removal of the shorter essay question — students cannot “customize” their applications, she said.
“Now the Common App is just one essay, so I think colleges have to put supplements,” she said. “Or else kids will just be tossing their hats in the ring.”
Hernandez said many colleges will have “frustrating years” because of this change. “It’s ironic with the Common App because the point of it was you don’t need supplements,” Hernandez said. “But now we need more because the Common App is super limited.”
Miller said Brown’s supplement will be evaluated at the end of the current admission cycle for clarity and effectiveness and could be changed then, if needed.
Though Brown’s supplement is significantly shorter than it was in years past, many prospective students said they do not think the length is limiting.
Rosalynn Lozado, an early decision applicant to the class of 2018 from Mendota, Calif., said she feels that though there are fewer questions, their word lengths allow her to fully express herself. She also noted that the shorter supplement allows her more time to complete applications to other schools.
Nadya Kim ’17 said she would have appreciated a shorter supplement when she applied to the University, adding that Brown’s supplement is “notorious for being lengthy.”
But Marco Luy ’17 said he is disappointed by the cuts to the supplement, as he saw Brown’s as “the most fun” of any of the college applications he filled out. He added that his favorite question was the short response that asked applicants to elaborate on something they created and were especially proud of — a question removed this year.
“I wrote about how I was this skinny kid and then I got buff my junior year of high school,” Luy said. “My body was what I created.”
Brianna Ward, a regular decision applicant to the class of 2018 from New Tampa, Fla., said Brown’s supplement is “compared to other schools, middle-of-the-road in terms of how much they’re asking.” Though she said she thought more questions might have given her more chances to share who she is, she said she still thought she “could get across” what she needed to.