Should I Go To Brown University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Jasmine is a Washington D.C. tutor specializing in Algebra tutoring, Biology tutoring, Literature tutoring, and much more. She graduated from Brown University in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology & Africana Studies. Check out her review of her alma mater:


VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Jasmine: Brown University has a very unique campus setting due to it literally being a college on a hill. Tucked away in Providence away from the downtown life, Brown sits up on a hill with a suburban feel to the campus. You will find no true separation between the campus and the residents of the town, which can sometimes lead to safety issues, but the Brown police are very vigilant and will provide rides to students concerned about walking around at night. Brown also offers a SafeWalk program and SafeRide, which provide assistance after dark until 2am. Public transportation provides a means for getting off the hill and traveling downtown, but this can also be achieved within a 15 minute walk. Having a car can sometimes be beneficial, but usually becomes more of a hassle and expense given the limited availability of parking spaces to upperclassmen and the high cost of renting a space in town.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants? 

Jasmine: The professors, advisers, and TA’s at Brown University are amazing. Many of the professors live on or near campus and thus are available more than professors who may commute at other colleges. Brown is very big on email correspondence and many professors will respond to an email within the hour, if not sooner. Advisers and teaching assistants follow the same communication pattern and go above and beyond to be helpful with classes. Having been a TA myself, I know that I maintained a very open policy with my students and would help them at any time of the day, no matter the subject.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students? 

Jasmine: My experience with Brown University dorm life was a somewhat positive one. I lived in the same dorm for the first three years of college and moved to a nicer dorm senior year. Typically, I think the dorms at Brown are pretty comparable to those of other private colleges. Freshmen are given dorms that can range from a double to a triple and in rare instances of overcrowding, a quad. Many of the dorms have some type of heating control, which can come in handy during those cold winter months. Dorms are situated all over campus, with the freshman dorms being spread out in three main places of campus. However, given that Brown tries to provide housing for all undergraduates, there are upperclassmen dispersed in all “freshman” dorms. There are two main dining halls, which are both pretty substantial in options and quality. The VDub and Ratty, as students call them, offer the typical cafeteria style eating, with the VDub being a bit more restaurant-style and serving less students. The VDub is closed during certain hours of the day, which can be a pain when you are on that side of campus and don’t want to walk to the Ratty, but once you get used to the hours, it becomes simple to navigate. Socializing at Brown is simple: just walk around. There are always people outside, even in the cold months, waiting to talk about any and everything. There are tons of clubs, teams, and events that provide means for meeting new students and getting out of your room.  

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study? 

Jasmine: Honestly, I think all of the programs of study are represented and supported well. Given that Brown doesn’t have majors and has an open curriculum, there is a lot of support put into all concentrations, even the few that historically have only a handful of students to graduate. I did a double concentration in Africana Studies and Human Biology. I knew going into college that I would be studying some type of biology, so human biology was just an extension of that plan, but what really surprised me as a freshman was my very first Africana Studies class. I was in love with the department from the very first day and could not imagine not taking as many classes as I could. I felt at home in my Africana Studies classes, so it just made sense that I would finish a concentration in both of my passions. At first, I met some resistance to completing a double concentration in two very different areas of study, but much like finding the right shoe, I had to find the right adviser who understood my passions and how they could intersect in an independent study completing both concentrations. 

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life? 

Jasmine: I am an introverted person, so I think given that simple fact, it would have been hard for me to meet people and make friends at any college. In addition to my introversion, I was also very homesick my first year at Brown, so I didn’t take advantage of all the opportunities to meet new people and make friends. However, I think my experience was not the norm. Many of the friends I have now made a lot of their friendships as a freshman and found it very simple to make new connections coming in. Greek life plays a role at Brown in limited quantities. There is a sorority/fraternity for everyone and not a lot of exclusionary practices.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Jasmine: I honestly never used the Career Center at Brown. I have friends who have used it and found it helpful when trying to fix their resumes and cover letters, but I cannot give an accurate description of something I have not used. As far as recruitment on campus, that is also something else that I am not sure of and would not want to speak on without a true experience. I can attest to the greatness of the Writing Center support service. The students who help out in the Writing Center are amazing and can help with any type of assignment, from science to literature, with great pointers and tips on becoming a better writer. 

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious? 

Jasmine: As I was leaving Brown, there were more and more study areas and lounges being built and renovated. One of the biggest renovations was done in Faunce Hall, which was remodeled and cleaned up to become an amazing student center and focal point of campus. Lounges are available in some dorms, but not all, and can range from being stuck as a multipurpose room to a nice room with couches and a TV. It all depends on where you are and if upperclassmen primarily live there. Given the sporadic nature of the students at Brown, many of the libraries, lounges, and study areas become crowded at random times of the day. Of course during finals, there isn’t much room anywhere for studying, but most of the time there is space available, even if only for one person.  

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Jasmine: As I described before, Brown is a college on the hill. The downtown of Providence is down the hill, literally, from campus and can sometimes seem like a world away if you get caught in the “Brown bubble” effect. The more adventurous you are, the easier it is to find Brown as a “somewhere in between” college in terms of fun level, but if you are a student coming from a big city, you will quickly realize that Providence is a town trying to be a city. Most people stay on campus most days and will go downtown to catch a movie or go to the mall. There are a couple of colleges within walking distance from Brown, RISD and JWU, which can provide for a change of scenery and new people if the mood strikes. 

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Jasmine: There are about 5,000 students in the undergraduate student body, with about 1,500 being freshmen. As Brown tries to admit more students, this number is obviously changing, but it generally provided small class sizes for upper-level courses and bigger class sizes for entry-level courses. This trend also depends on what area of study you are in and whether the class is offered only one semester per year and so on and so forth. The difference in area of study plays a huge role between the Humanities and Sciences. In my Africana courses, the biggest class was approximately 30 across all levels, whereas in my Science courses, the biggest class was approximately 300 in the entry-level courses. Given I went to a small private high school, I was not a fan of the bigger classes and did not like feeling like a number rather than a person, but in using TA’s and discussion groups, it is sometimes easier to feel connected.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Jasmine: This is a hard question for me because I tend to think of many memorable experiences in reflecting on my Brown life. However, I think an experience I regret the most is not taking my Medical Anthropology class more seriously. I tried to coast through the class on the bare minimum because I was more focused on other classes and extra-curricular activities, and let a negative impression of the professor in the first week shade my view overall. I stopped attending class and just read the books to be able to speak in discussion; looking back on that experience, I wish I had put in more effort. I wish I had given the professor a second chance and tried to maintain my vivaciousness for learning. 


Check out Jasmine’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.