Utra Brown Application Essay

This is a pretty standard “Why medicine?” prompt, which means that you should use many of the same tactics as you would for that type of essay (see our overview to 7-year med programs). To provide a brief rehash, in order to convey why a guaranteed-admissions program is a good “fit” for your goals, there are few different things you need to discuss.


First, you need to discuss why you are qualified for medicine; namely what sort of extracurricular activities did you do in high school that were related to medicine, whether tangentially or directly. More specifically, you want to convey your abilities in two key areas: the scientific side of medicine (i.e., the ability to understand and cure diseases), and the humanistic side of medicine (the ability to connect with patients and care for them).


To address both of these aspects, you will need to weave a narrative that connects your technical scientific training to your capacity for empathy and care. You might begin talking about your fascination with physiology, the thrill of cutting open a frog, seeing the obscure jumble of organs, and learning how to sort out the parts that the text book identifies with neat colored markers.


Maybe what interests you about the human body is how it often deviates from the norms that appear in textbooks. Transitioning from an interest in the technical aspects of physiology, you might switch to the more humanistic side of talking about how, as a medical practitioner, you look forward to working with patients who have limited mobility.


More than just a technical understanding of how one human physiognomy might differ from another, you might talk about how the time you have spent working in a restaurant where you were responsible for serving all kinds of different bodies, with all kinds of different mobility restrictions. What did you learn from having people in wheelchairs tell you what they needed in order to comfortably enjoy their meal? How did you open up the space in order to make them comfortable asking you for accommodations? Your patients, after all, are not just frogs on a dissecting table.


Patient care experience is a big plus for this part of the essay, and experiences such as volunteering at a nursing home or shadowing a physician are great enhancers. In the process of outlining your qualifications, be sure to discuss why you enjoy each of those two facets of medicine. But, as I’ve suggested above, especially when you are talking about the humanistic side of medicine, your experience doing any kind of caring or service work can offer a useful perspective.


After all, when you are treating patients, most of them don’t want to be treated like “people who are in a hospital” — they want to feel like they are in a place where they have some measure of agency, where they can ask questions and reflect on their experience.


One thing worth mentioning: There is a particular clichéd version of this essay that talks about how your grandmother suffered from some kind of disease and died. You felt awful about losing her and hope to become a medical professional because you want to cure that disease.


While it is true that a compelling essay about the death of one’s grandmother can be written, it is also the sad truth that everyone’s grandmother dies. If you tell a story like this, you will want to address not just your desire to provide healthcare, but the specific aspects of your training and experience that have prepared you to pursue a career in medicine.


Moreover, it is also worth thinking carefully about how you talk about what the practice of doing medicine entails. The desire to “heal” people and return them to a “normal” life is certainly admirable. But there are some kinds of necessary healthcare work that do not result in a healthy ending where the hidden ailment is eradicated; sometimes healthcare is the persistent and empathetic management of suffering.


The final thing you want to address is why specifically you want to join an accelerated program. Simply saying that you want to save time (the real reason for many applicants) can backfire. Instead, if you have an application with lots of medical and science extracurricular activities, you can speak about why those activities solidified your desire to do medicine.


Otherwise, if your resume is more balanced, you can resort to saying that you are committed to medicine because you already spent high school exploring other fields and have ruled out other possibilities. In the end, probably your most compelling argument for entering the accelerated program will be the level of maturity and thoughtfulness that you demonstrate in your essay as a whole.

How do I find a faculty sponsor?

Students with a specific research interest or set of questions may contact concentration advisors or faculty whose classes they have enjoyed, or they can browse Brown's Research Directory to find other faculty working in this area. Students who learn more about a faculty member's research, then meet with the professor during office hours or make an appointment usually fare better than those who send various faculty members generic emails.

Can I conduct an UTRA with a faculty member remotely? 

Faculty sponsors and students are expected to be on site together. Sponsors are asked to meet with student collaborators on a regular basis for most of the summer. The UTRA Committee expects that the student and faculty member will meet a minimum of once a week so that there are structured opportunities to discuss the ongoing work. Students working in the humanities and social sciences should contact Dean Adetunji if they have concerns.

How do I apply for a Team UTRA?

Each student on a team submits an individual application and does not need to indicate that he or she is working on a Team UTRA. Faculty applicants, on the other hand, must add each student to their application and must provide a compelling argument when requesting multiple student researchers. Faculty are asked to discuss each student team member's role and unique strengths. Please note that the Committee is under no obligation to award the UTRA to each student-applicant. In the case where a particular student's contribution to the team is not made evident - on either the student or the faculty member's application - that student may not be awarded an UTRA. Additional information is provided here.

What selection criteria does the UTRA committee use?

The quality of the collaboration is a key factor in the selection process. In making these awards, preference is given to students and faculty who have demonstrated a high level of motivation and interest in the field(s) represented in the project and who bring ideas and background that strengthen the probability of a collaborative partnership. Additional details are provided in the Applying for an UTRA page.

Am I eligible for a second UTRA?

The Dean of the College office wants every Brown undergraduate to have at least one undergraduate research experience. Application for a second summer UTRA will be reviewed with this goal in mind. Often, students with strong applications whose research interests have grown in new directions working with the same faculty or have developed new faculty collaboration since receiving a first UTRA will be wait-listed, and may be funded. Students who have had a semester UTRA are not disadvantaged when being considered for a summer UTRA. Students may only apply for one UTRA project at a given time.

Are UTRA recipients eligible for a Summer Earning Waiver (SEW) award?

Students on financial aids with a summer earnings expectation are eligible to receive a single SEW award during their time as an undergraduate at Brown.

What if I receive another summer fellowship?

Students who are awarded an UTRA and also receive another fellowship from the University (e.g., Royce or Mellon Mays) or from another source will be asked to choose one.

Is summer housing provided? 

On-campus housing is NOT provided to summer UTRA recipients. Students generally sublet apartments in the Providence area for the summer, or live in summer housing offered by Residential Life.

Can I take a summer class while conducting an UTRA? 

Summer UTRAs constitute a full-time job. Students are strongly discouraged from taking summer courses during the weeks they expect to be working on their research. Students should contact Dean Adetunji with questions or concerns.

How will my work be evaluated? 

Faculty generally require an end-of-summer report or paper for an UTRA. An online evaluation is also sent to UTRA awardees requesting feedback on the program and on the collaboration. Summer UTRA recipients may participate in the Summer Research Symposium, like all other students conducting research at Brown during summer.

Can I extend a summer UTRA into the fall? 

Students can “extend” a summer curriculum UTRA only if the faculty member's initial UTRA application includes an extension request. If students realize that they need more time to complete other kinds of summer research projects, they can apply for a spring semester UTRA, which has a November deadline.

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