Our summer series of “lite” information sessions for the admission office staff continued with a presentation on the new Center for Creative Arts which is nearing completion on Angell Street near the Brown Bookstore.  It is not (yet) on the campus tour, but if you visit Brown, take a few minutes to check it out.  Here are the highlights:

Professor of Visual Arts Richard Fishman visited us to talk about the new Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.  He gave a very creative presentation (naturally) including student produced video and animation.  The building is expected to be available for use in January 2011, and will be available for classes, studio work, exhibitions, performances and social events.  It is a very “Brown” project in that it is a collaboration of the departments within the Creative Arts Council: Literary Arts, Modern Culture and Media, Music, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, and Visual Arts, as well the Bell Gallery and the Rites and Reasons Theatre.  No department will be housed in the Center; rather, departments will retain their current spaces on campus but will each be able to use the building for courses (often interdisciplinary), performances, and social events.  Some courses planned for 2011 include Lighting Design for Theatre and Dance, Instrument Design, and Sonic Psychogeography (no, not a Professor Carberry class).  Professor Fishman expects the building to be in use about 18 hours a day.

The building itself is very cool.  Designed by the internationally renowned firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the Center is split down the middle by a glass wall with a staggered floor plan.  A staircase on the Thayer St. side of the building features gathering spaces on each landing which can fit up to twelve people.  Most of the interior spaces are designed for interchangeable studio/classroom use.  There is also a 250-person capacity recital hall with a 35 millimeter screening facility.  Another neat feature is a small amphitheater with a movie screen on the side of the building.  There are many sustainable components to the building, including a green roof, and Brown hopes to attain either silver or gold LEED certification for the project. The building should be completed in December 2010, and ready for use in January 2011.

For more information on the Center, as well as other building projects on campus, click here.  To see a student-generated animation of how the Center will look from the outside in, click here.

Dear Professor Carberry:

I heard that Brown is changing from a Division of Engineering to a School of Engineering. What does this mean for me as an applicant?

Eager Engineer

Dear Eager Engineer,

For those of you who haven’t heard, this May Brown’s Board of Trustees voted to transform our Division of Engineering into a School of Engineering. This transformation took effect on July 1st, 2010. This transition represents the university’s commitment to the growth of the study of engineering at Brown. By creating a School of Engineering the University will be in an even stronger position to recruit top faculty, students, and to receive more federal research funding.  While the division will undergo some administrative and structural changes, the day-to-day operations will remain the same.

In terms of applying to Brown as an undergraduate, the process will not change. Students interested in the physical sciences (Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Geology, and Physics) are required to answer a few supplemental questions about their area of interest, explaining how and why they became interested in that subject. These questions will still be a part of the Brown Supplement, but there will not be a separate application for the School of Engineering. This means that once you are admitted to Brown you are still free to change your concentration and move between departments fluidly.

The approach to engineering education at Brown is somewhat unique. In their first year, students take innovative courses that expose them to various engineering disciplines and research areas. There are many calculation-based design projects that take place in the first year, giving prospective engineers the feel for the discipline while providing them with the scientific fundamentals needed for future study. Within the first month of the first engineering course, students participate in meaningful design projects that are related to engineering problems they would encounter in the real world.

In the second year, students typically take courses in other areas of engineering, such as Materials Science, Thermodynamics, and Electricity & Magnetism. In addition to providing a solid understanding of these important engineering areas, these courses give students the opportunity to experience all types of engineering before choosing a concentration within the engineering program.

One of the many benefits of studying engineering at Brown is that its small size promises that students will receive significant personalized attention from the faculty. Even during a student’s freshmen year, he or she is given access to great research opportunities, and with the transition to the School of Engineering, research opportunities for undergraduates will only increase.

Some projects that students complete in the first year include designing a bottle and creating an exercise machine out of a limited supply of PVC pipes, weights, and pulleys. Other fun activities for engineering students include an edible car contest, a gingerbread house strength contest, and engineering band performances. Outside of class, engineering students participate in a variety of engineering-related extracurricular activities, such as the Formula SAE race car team and Engineers Without Borders, the latter of which does outreach in Providence. Through these group design projects and an emphasis on teamwork, engineering students form a close-knit and collaborative community.

Another option available to students studying engineering at Brown include the UTEP program, which provides training for students to be teachers in engineering after graduation. We also offer a five-year AB/ScB and ScB/ScM degree. Upon graduation, many engineering concentrators pursue engineering employment opportunities, as well other advanced degree options, such as an MD, MBA, or JD.

So for those of you engineering enthusiasts, we do hope that you will sincerely consider the Brown University School of Engineering among your many options and join the welcoming community of engineers that our students and faculty have created.

So, one thing we do during the summer is put on a series of “lite” sessions for the entire admission office staff (or at least everyone not on vacation or in a crucial meeting).  Lite sessions are a way for us to stay up-to-date with what is happening across the University.  For example, this summer we are learning about how our new Center for the Creative Arts building, opening spring 2011, will be used.  We’ll also hear about what the upcoming transition from a Division of Engineering to a School of Engineering will mean for students.

Our first lite session featured a field trip to the nearby Cogut Center for the Humanities, in Pembroke Hall.  Director Michael Steinberg spoke to us about the Center’s role as place for multi-disciplinary scholarly inquiry and exchange.  Each year, the Center hosts visiting professors, Brown faculty fellows, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate fellows in fields from Hispanic Studies to the History of Art and Architecture.

The Center is very “Brown” in its interdisciplinarity, as well as in its connection to undergraduate studies.  In fact, the Center has Brown Undergraduate Fellows who participate in weekly discussions with the professors, postdocs, and graduate students, which center around early versions of scholarly papers.  One of their undergrad fellows, Zohar Atkins ’10, was named a Rhodes Scholar in the fall of ’09.

Director Steinberg had the highest praise for Brown undergrads as very bright, intellectually curious, and able to draw connections between academic fields (key qualities we look for in applicants, so I guess we have been doing something right).  Advanced undergrads are able to take Humanities-designated courses along with grad students, where they can truly challenge their critical thinking skills.  Postdoc Fellows also teach courses open to undergraduates in other departments on campus, as well as a part of our unique Brown in Cuba program.

It was truly an illuminating first lite session.  I’ll keep you posted on what else we learn this summer.

Comment Roundup!

Happy Friday, readers!  Well, we have to say that we are thrilled with the positive responses we’ve received so far on the blog.  We love that you are commenting, and we really appreciate the feedback!  Every few weeks, we’ll do a “comment roundup” where we’ll address some of the issues we’re seeing in our Comments section.  We want you to be assured that your thoughts are being heard (er…read) over here at Prospects & Providence.

One thing we’ve noticed is that we’ve been getting a good deal of general questions in the Comments section.  We think it’s great that you are asking about what’s on your mind, but we’d like to direct these questions to our office email account, where a Real Live Admission Officer can respond more quickly.  You can email us at admission_undergraduate@brown.edu, and of course, if your curiosity is really nagging at you, please feel free to call our office.

That said, your questions in the Comments section do keep us keyed in to what is on our applicants’ minds.  If and when we see general trends creeping up, we will generalize the question and send it over to Professor Carberry, who will post about it (through his ghostwriter, of course.  He’s not, well,  real.  Shh!).  So Professor Carberry will answer wider questions that we think might plague our applicants, but he won’t be taking questions directly from the Comments.

In terms of some of the other themes creeping up, we’d like to assure you that you will definitely be hearing from our trusty Captain, the famed Dean James Miller himself.  He’ll be checking in soon to share his thoughts about what we look for in our applicants.

Also, you can definitely expect some posts soon about early vs. regular decision, as that is a timely topic and something we know is on the minds of rising seniors.  We’ll also tackle the beast that is the personal statement.  Because it’s a big topic, we’ll probably address it in a series that will include tips on how to crack that writer’s block, avoid common mistakes, and feel comfortable and confident with the tall order of expressing yourself in 500 words or less.

That’s all for this week!  Keep checking back for new posts, and keep the comments coming!

Wow…I mean, wow.  Thank you all so, so much.  It is really an honor to be up here, accepting this ranking for having the #1 Happiest School in the country.  We’ve been up here before to receive this honor, but that doesn’t change how special it is to be recognized year after year in this category.  As you might imagine, we have some people to thank.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

First, we’d like to thank the Princeton Review, whose new lists came out yesterday.

Most importantly, we have to thank our students, who generate the information for these surveys and who consistently praise their Brown experience as so rewarding and fulfilling.  We thank our students for demolishing the notion that learning is a chore or a heavy burden, and promoting the idea that education is enriching, exciting, and even (gasp!) enjoyable.

Sometimes people are curious about what we’re putting in the water up here on College Hill.  Why is everyone so happy all the time?  Well, we think it is the ultimate compliment to have students who are overjoyed to be where they are.  But it’s a complex science, you see.  Here’s how it works:

When students are trusted to make responsible choices about pursuing their passions, when they are encouraged to be inspired by all types of learning, and when they are able to craft their own set of intellectual values, well…you can imagine this makes for a pretty happy bunch.  And it’s cyclical, you see.  Happy students go out and do what they love, continue to inspire one another, act on their passion for ideas and experiences, and give that happiness right back to where they got it.

So it’s really not Brown as an institution that gets to claim this honor, it’s our remarkable student body.  They make us so proud.  And, as you might imagine, pretty darned happy.

Pulling the Plug

“I got a B in AP Physics!  Brown is going to take away my acceptance!”

“I never had straight A+’s before, but if I don’t get them my second semester of senior year, then Brown will shun me!”

“I got a 3 on my AP Calculus exam!  Brown is going to take away my acceptance and tell every other college in the country not to admit me!”

Seniors, do any of these gnawing thoughts—or their corollaries—keep you awake at night?  Juniors, have you heard horror stories about vengeful admission officers dashing students’ college hopes and dreams because a plus turned into a minus?  Has a history of remarkable achievement got you jittery about how to approach the second semester of your senior year?

Well, let’s all relax for a minute.

When we admit students to Brown, we do so not only because of their record of past achievement, but also because of their promise of future achievement.  We know that when our admitted students arrive at Brown, they bring with them a long history of working hard and doing well.  But far more important than the results of such hard work—at least when it comes to predicting future success at Brown and beyond—are the values that inspire students to work hard in the first place.  In the case of our students, we know that they work hard not only because they can and should, but because they genuinely love learning and do not see high school as a mere chore before the wonders of college.

Which is why we expect that our students will continue to maintain their excellent performance in high school right up until graduation.  We don’t believe senior year is a hoop to jump through until we offer acceptances, and we don’t want our admitted students to feel this way either.  The vast majority of them do not feel this way—they want to continue doing well in their coursework because they enjoy the material and the learning process.  Slacking off after April 1st does no one any favors, and our admitted students know this.

But this can cause some anxiety, because we do monitor grades from our admitted students and do except to see similar performance as when they applied.  Most of the time, we do.  Some of the time, we don’t.  And the times when we don’t, rarely is a student’s drop in performance any cause for concern.  We aren’t thrilled, but we are hardly vengeful.  We understand that you’ve put in a lot of work, made the most of your high school experience, and physics (or English, for that matter) can be tricky.  Slight changes in your performance are unfortunate but are not the end of the world for us.  They shouldn’t be for you, either.

What we don’t accept or tolerate is a serious drop in performance.  So if the exaggerated concerns listed at the beginning of this post have you thinking, “Wow, a B in AP Physics?  That’d be worlds better than what my report card is going to say!” then chances are, you are in a trickier position.  Our office has been known to contact students whose grades are significantly different from their pattern of performance to express concern that a student may not be ready to handle the demands of the Brown curriculum.  Most heed our warnings and adequately prove that they are ready for the rigorous expectations of Brown.  In rare cases where this doesn’t happen, we have occasionally rescinded an offer of admission.

Chances are that if you are an admitted student, you know how to continue to do your best in high school while still enjoying the perks of second semester senior year.  Don’t lose sleep, bite nails, toss, or turn.  We trust your achievement, and so should you.


We haven’t seen any comments on the blog yet, and we had been wondering why cyberspace was so quiet around here.  Thankfully, we have re-enabled the comments, so please feel free to contribute!  Sorry for the technical confusion.  Happy reading (and commenting)!

The mercury is hitting the 80s consistently now in Providence and summer is officially under way.  So, what is an admission officer to do?  No more applications to read, wait list business is done, high schools have shut down for the summer. Well, there’s still plenty of fun to be had!  We take turns “floating,” which is mainly presenting daily  information sessions for campus visitors.  Some AOs have to travel to far-flung locales to do Introduction to Brown events.   Some ongoing projects include transitioning to reading applications online this upcoming season (yes, we have read everything on paper up until now) and preparing our office for upcoming renovations.  My own project is to set up some informational sessions for our staff to get updated on various Brown topics, from financial aid to our new arts center.  We have already taken some exciting lab tours, visited the Cogut Center for the Humanities, and had a great chat with our Engineering professors and students about the new School of Engineering.  We will be posting updates about these sessions as they take place, because we know you’ll love to hear about them too!

It takes a little getting used to having time to do things other than read applications, but I think we’ll manage.

Applying to college can obviously be a stressful time for high school students. But what you may not realize is that this process can also be very nerve-wracking for your parents. This is, after all, the first step of your journey towards independence, which, while exciting for you, may be, well, terrifying to your parents. They are very invested in you and the choices you are making and thus it is important for them to be involved. But it is also important that everyone maintain their sanity throughout the application process – so there are some things you ought to think about before you get in over your head.

Parent-child entanglements in the college application process can be a bit of a slippery slope. It starts with something fairly innocuous, like a parent making the schedule of when to visit which college. Then, Mom starts researching the school. Next thing you know, you’re trailing 20 feet behind your parents on a college tour while they pepper the guide with questions.  By the time it’s December 31st at 11:45 pm and your Dad is sitting at your computer frantically re-writing your essay, things have gotten way out of hand. So let’s start with some basics that will help you ensure that your parents’ overwhelming love for you doesn’t drive you (too) crazy.

One simple warning sign that your parents are on their way to becoming too involved in your application process is the use of the dreaded “we” or “our.” Some examples include, “We submitted our application two weeks ago,” “We don’t know what to write our personal statement about,” or even, “When should we show up for our interview?” While your parents’ excitement is understandable, the use of first person plural pronouns is a signal that the process might be getting away from you.  Your parents’ opinions are valuable and necessary, but it is ultimately you who will be applying to and attending college.

Because attending college is the first step towards independence for many students, the application process can often be a crucial time for you to learn how to take charge and make responsible choices. In an information session, if you find yourself slouching in your chair flushed red with embarrassment, texting your friends due to boredom, or falling asleep (it has happened) while your parents ask questions about an engineering program in which you’re not even interested, it might be an important time to discuss boundaries with them.  While it might seem intimidating to have this discussion, it represents that you are taking a responsible and proactive approach to a process which is largely your own.  When planning for college visits or researching schools from home, communicate with your parents what you are interested in learning about a school, what your concerns are, and why you feel drawn to a particular campus environment.  By engaging your own needs and concerns about the application process through your college search, your parents will recognize your ability to take the lead.  If you need to be more explicit before getting out of the rental car when arriving on a campus, you might want to lay out a couple do’s and don’ts for your parents so you can enjoy a visit as a family.  And when getting back in the car at the end of a visit, it is only you who can truly understand the value of the “gut-feeling.”

Your parents might also have some concerns about your…general teenagerliness.  There are, after all, a lot of forms, deadlines, and dates to keep track of.  If you overhear your parents call the admission office and, in a high-pitched voice, attempt to impersonate you and demand to know where your Visual Arts Supplement is, it might be time for a chat.  Remind them that you’re on top of things, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for help.  By doing this, you’re in a better position for the next four years, when they won’t be around to check up on you all the time.

In order for you to be admitted to a school that is truly the right fit and match for you, your application needs to be an authentic representation of yourself. Maintain a balance—asking parents to edit or proofread your personal statement is great, but make sure they don’t become a ghostwriter.

Hopefully, if you make an appropriate and realistic list of colleges, you will have many exciting acceptances to which you can look forward. However, there might be some rejections and disappointments as well. Some disappointment is completely understandable and reasonable.  But such disappointment should not come at the expense of feeling positively about the college choices that you have.  Look to your parents to help you gain some perspective.  Perhaps they can remind you of all the wonderful things you loved about the schools from which you have to choose.  And they certainly can remind you how much you have to be proud of; they are, after all, your biggest fans.

Keep in mind, your parents have known you for longer than you’ve known your own name, so they have some important ideas and legitimate concerns about how—and where—you approach the next four years.  We don’t need to tell you that the reason your parents risk crossing a line in the college admission process is because they love you and want you to be happy.  Just make sure that your journey through the process is a happy one for all of you.

Dear Professor Carberry,

I don’t have much time during the school year to visit Brown, so I’d like to come in the summer.  But I also really want to talk with Brown students and I worry that it will be hard to get a good sense of the campus in the summer.  What is the best way for me to make good use of my visit?

-Very Interested, So I Tour


Visiting Brown, if you are able, is an excellent way to find out more about the University and whether it might be a good fit for you.  You are right to note that it is especially good to talk to students “in their element,” and during the school year is a wonderful time to see campus in action.  A school year visit allows you the chance to sit in on classes, whether it’s a large lecture in our biggest lecture hall, or my small Psychoceramics seminar.  Visiting classes does allow you a great chance to meet Brown faculty and students, experience how they interact, and appreciate our classroom environments.  Walking through campus during the school year definitely gives visitors a sense of the campus vibe.

But this is only one way to see and experience Brown!  If you’re coming in the summer, there are many ways you can still have an exciting and informative visit to Brown.  During the summer, as during the school year, we have a full schedule of campus tours, information sessions, and physical science tours.  Campus tours and science tours are led by current Brown students.  So while you won’t be able to flag down Brunonians walking to class as you might during the school year, you will still get to meet real, live Brown students who are eager to answer your questions about life on campus.  The campus tour is a general introduction to Brown’s history and daily environment, and covers a huge amount of information about student life.  The information sessions, led by an admission officer and student, focus primarily on undergraduate academics, the Open Curriculum, and admissions and financial aid.  Our physical science tours are a great way to learn more about our Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, Geological Sciences, and research programs at Brown, and include extensive tours of Brown’s state-of-the-art laboratory facilities.  Even if you aren’t interested in physical sciences, this tour is such a great way to see the exciting ways Brown students are engaging in cutting-edge research and learning!

Also, because our neighborhood is less crowded during the summer, it is a great time to explore the surrounding areas.  Walking through the College Hill neighborhood will give you a sense of how campus is integrated into the charming East side of Providence.  You can take time to tour our Rockefeller Library (don’t forget to sign in at the front desk!) and even our special collections in the John Hay Library.  You can visit the College Hill Bookstore and Café, where you might find some Brown students grabbing an iced coffee on their break from summer research or class.  You can visit Thayer Street, the main commercial street near Brown, where students often get dinner or catch an independent film.  If you’re really devoted, you can eat pizza at two dueling Thayer Street hangouts, Antonio’s and Nice Slice, and join in the debate that has raged among Brown students for years regarding who makes a better pie.

Because you’ll have a bit more time during the summer than you might on a visit during the school year, you can also explore Providence a bit more.  This will give you a sense of what would be available to you off-campus if you attend Brown.  A major civic event is Waterfire, which continues for several weeks into the fall and draws the entire Providence community together.  It’s just a short walk from campus, so students love to go when they return in the fall.  You can also explore historic Federal Hill, Providence’s own Little Italy, and sample restaurants that make Providence one of the best cities for dining in New England.

So don’t fret!  Visiting Brown in the summer gives you tremendous opportunities to experience our campus and its surroundings.  Not only will you have a chance to meet students and tour campus, you’ll have plenty of time to explore what makes Providence such a remarkable college town.  Enjoy your visit, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

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