Preparing for Brown
Frequently asked questions about preparing for Brown
While there are no specific course requirements for admission to Brown, most successful applicants demonstrate preparation for university-level studies through a curriculum that is rigorous across academic disciplines throughout secondary school.
Students at Brown tend to be exceptionally eager to learn and willing to accept academic challenges. The Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly across many departments in addition to delving deeply into their areas of focus over four years, and we hope applicants will pursue a similarly broad base of knowledge prior to their arrival on our campus.
The Board of Admission understands that individual academic opportunities may vary by school and by year, and that curricular expectations will also vary around the world. With that in mind, secondary school transcripts should show that students have taken advantage of the learning opportunities available to them. Brown expects that students will take a minimum of four academically rigorous courses, preferably five, across a range of core subject areas each year throughout secondary school. English language and literature, math, the sciences, history, and a second language are considered to be the academic subjects best suited to help students prepare for the intellectual opportunities and interdisciplinary learning environment at Brown. More specific course recommendations are provided below:
English - 4 years, particularly focused on literature and academic writing
Math - 4 years, continuing through calculus when possible, particularly for students interested in STEM
Science - 3-4 years, including 2 years of lab science and particularly biology, physics, and chemistry when possible
History and Social Studies - 3-4 years, including courses such as history, government, economics and politics
Foreign Language - 3-4 years, preferably continuing with the same language when possible
Brown also encourages the study of music, art, and other electives in addition to the coursework recommended above.
Your senior year is one quarter of your high school career and often includes some of the most substantial college preparatory coursework. Therefore, your senior year curriculum and performance are important indicators of your potential as a Brown student. Applicants who take a lighter course load or who show signs of underperforming academically are often passed over in favor of those who continue to excel during their senior year. We review all the grades for both Early Decision and Regular Decision admitted students to make sure they are continuing at the same level as their performance in previous years of high school.
We would always prefer to see that a student has opted for the more rigorous approach to their high school education. In many high schools this means pursuing the AP or IB version of a course rather than a potentially less rigorous Honors or College Prep option.
At Brown, a number of academic departments recognize Advanced Placement (AP) examinations either for placement into an advanced course, and/or satisfaction of a concentration requirement, and/or for credit toward advanced standing. The particular scores required are determined by individual academic departments. The College is a good source for additional information about Brown’s AP placement policies.
Any work you have done beyond your high school curriculum is valued as we consider your candidacy, but Brown does not grant course credit based on exam scores or college credits earned before enrolling as an undergraduate. However, strong AP exam results or advanced coursework may allow students to forego certain course prerequisites and progress more quickly to upper level Brown offerings. Courses counting towards a student's high school diploma will not also count towards their college degree.
We do not have a preference for one rigorous curricular model over another, and are content to see that our applicants have taken whatever challenging courses are available to them.
If your school requires you to sit for either AP or IB exams, we require matriculating students to share the results of those exams with the Office of College Admission. If taking these exams is not required by your school, it is ultimately your choice whether or not to take an AP or IB exam whether or not you reported this intention on the Common App. We do hope that regardless of your school policy, you will consider choosing to complete these exams as a way to illustrate your successful completion of the course and understanding of the material. We encourage you to consult with your school counselor or high school teacher to determine the best course of action.
If not taking the exam will impact your graduation outcomes, class standing or course schedule (ie. if your school will no longer designate the course as AP or IB) then you must reach out to the Office of College Admission prior to making any alterations to your exam plans. We also encourage you to review our course credit and placement policies to determine whether the choice to take an exam may help you to further your education at the college level. At Brown, international diploma or certificate exam scores may be used to place into higher level courses, to obtain course credit, or to qualify for advanced standing in order to graduate in fewer than eight semesters.
Students matriculating at Brown may have completed the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, A-level exams and many other international diploma or certificate programs. The College maintains Brown’s related placement and transfer credit policies and procedures and informs incoming students during the summer how they can request placement credits (which are not the same as course credits or concentration credits) to place into higher level courses. After initially receiving placement credit, if a student later needs actual course credit instead of placement credit in order to graduate, the student may consult with their academic dean for pre-Brown transfer credit.