Brown University Essays That Worked For College

by Zoe Armstrong

Why Brown? (200 word limit)

I was eight years old when I described to my mom the kind of college I wanted to attend. She said I was describing Brown, and the school has been my first choice ever since. I have not upheld most of the ideas I had at that age, nor all of mother's advice, for that matter. However, my feeling that Brown is the right place for me has only grown stronger. I was excited to attend summer at Brown in 2013 and devour the works of Martin Seligman in my Positive Psychology class. During those four weeks on campus, I experienced a strong sense of belonging. I felt the Brown spirit when I joined a counter-protest against the Westboro Baptist Church. The hateful messages from the protesters were disturbing, but the passion of the students displaying their support for gay rights was overwhelming. My passions and interests range from music to biology to politics and, as I learned at Brown, psychology. So the open curriculum is perfect for me. I am eager to participate in campus traditions like Spring Weekend and the midnight organ recital on Halloween and expect endless opportunities to express my values on social issues at Brown.

Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated in our Member Section, earlier in this application? If you are "undecided" or not sure which Brown concentrations match your interests, consider describing more generally the academic topics or modes of thought that engage you currently. (150 word limit)

Office hours, please! If I became a Brunonian, I would devote much of my first week to finding the office hours of the professors at the Watson Institute for International Studies. With faculty from a range of disciplines, the center is quintessentially Brown and a ripe place for my interest in international relations. I am attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of the concentration and to the mix of professors from Glenn Loury to Nitsan Chorev. I hope to take a class or go to one of Brown Visiting Fellow Timothy Edgar's lectures. His research on cyber conflict fascinates me, particularly given ISIS's recruitment of teenagers through social media and China's use of iCloud to monitor civilian activity. Though I have visited more than 18 countries in my 17 years and have taken classes in four languages, I long to expand my understanding of the world through my experiences at Brown.

Tell us where you have lived - and for how long - since you were born; whether you've always lived in the same place, or perhaps in a variety of places. (100 word limit)

I spent the first 15 years of my life taking for granted New York City's looming skyscrapers and seemingly ceaseless excitement. Although I lived in the same apartment and attended the same school for most of my childhood, my days were far from banal. From that constantly changing environment I received an unusual combination of stability and unpredictability.
Then, in August of 2012, my parents and I moved to a small city in Switzerland. Basel is quiet and predictable and as different from New York as a city can be. But I adapted, and now consider both places home.

Zoe Armstrong, a 2015 graduate of the International School of Basel, will be a freshman at Brown University in the Fall.

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College Essay Example 9 from an accepted Brown University Student.

 “You must not smile,” was the humorless imperative given by the photographer the day I got my German passport photo taken. I struggled to comply. It wasn’t because of his cliché German accent, nor was it a consequence of my parents’ relentless efforts to make me to smile in every picture ever taken throughout my childhood. Rather, my grin grew from the satisfaction I felt after working for years to be repatriated as a German citizen.

In the winter of 2008, sitting weather bound in traffic on Madison Avenue, my dad flipped on NPR. The broadcast playing was an interview with someone who had been repatriated as a German citizen because he was a direct descendent of someone who had been stripped of citizenship by the Nazis during World War II. In 1939, my grandmother, who had a Jewish father, was also expelled from Germany by the Nazis and fled to the United States. I call her Omi. There, in the car, it hit me that as her direct descendant, I too qualified for German citizenship, and better yet, to live and work in the twenty-seven countries of the European Union.

My dad and I called the German consulate the following Monday, and they told us that we would need documented evidence of my Omi’s expatriation by the Nazi party. At first, we were able to find all the birth certificates we would need to prove our lineage, but after a few weeks of looking through as many family files as possible, we were unable to find anything about her citizenship being revoked. We were stuck at a dead end. To say I was upset would be an atrocious understatement.

Later that summer, my family drove up to my Omi’s house in Putney, Vermont. Upon our arrival, my dad and I began digging through drawers for anything that looked old, foreign, and official. After hours of digging, we came across an aged chestnut cabinet with four drawers. In the bottom left drawer was a clothbound, faded file folder. Its contents practically brought tears to my father’s eyes. On top were stories my Omi had written when she was in 8th grade about how she and her friends had helped clean up all the broken glass the morning after kristallnacht. There was even a letter her father had written in his broken English that began, “Dear President Roosevelt,” begging him for a place in the United States in which his family could reside. The most important thing we found, however, was a passport. It had belonged to my Omi when she was nine years old. Stamped cruelly across her cherubic, black and white portrait was an eagle with a swastika in its talons, and the word, “staatlos,” which is German for stateless. She was not smiling. We had the last piece of the puzzle.

After three years of waiting, and mountains of paper work, my dad, my brother, and I stood formally dressed in the top floor assembly room of the German consulate for our repatriation ceremony. The speaker went on about the wrongs of the Nazi regime, and how the ceremony served as a humble reconciliation. While he spoke, I stared out the window. I couldn’t take my eyes off the arc shaped row of flags outside the United Nations that mirrored the shape of my mouth. The smiling could begin.


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