What Is Brown University Known For?

What is Brown University known for? From spooky legends to outstanding academics to arctic research, find Brown's best to see if it's a fit for you.
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Brown University, located in Providence, Rhode Island, is an Ivy League research university known for its strong science programs, especially in medicine, math, and computer sciences.

Brown offers an open academic curriculum that pushes students to develop skills and become intellectual risk-takers, entrepreneurial problem-solvers, and creative thinkers.

Brown's reputation as a prestigious institution is long: It's the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. Its low student-to-faculty ratio of just 7-to-1 ensures students get personalized guidance. Below, you can learn about Brown's top program offerings, notable alums, and total costs to help you decide whether Brown is a good fit for you.

Cost and Financial Aid

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the cost of tuition at Brown University is $65,656, with another $2,574 in fees. Brown estimates that students will need $9,650 for housing and $6,948 for food annually, bringing the total direct charges to $84,828 annually.

The school estimates that living expenses for students living in on-campus housing or off campus will be comparable. In addition, students should set aside personal funds ranging from $2,820 to $10,000 or more for expenses like books, personal expenses, and travel. However, students who qualify for scholarships and other types of financial aid can reduce out-of-pocket costs.

Financial Aid Breakdown
Type of Financial Aid Students Receiving Aid Average Aid Awarded
Federal Grant Aid 13% $6,414
State Grant Aid N/A $2,286
Institution Grant Aid 44% $47,914
Pell Grant 13% $4,906

Top Programs at Brown University

Brown University offers almost 2,500 courses across over 80 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs. With 1,429 faculty members, students can gain ample personalized attention and insight in their classes. Brown is known for its academic value and world-class research.

Computer Science

Brown's computer science program is among its most popular. The curriculum covers topics like artificial intelligence, distributed systems, programming languages, scientific visualization, robotics, and security. Brown's CS department has received several recent awards. Leading faculty include Maurice Peter Herlihy and Thomas L. Dean.

Professor Herlihy is a computer scientist active in the field of multiprocessor synchronization whose work has received over 33,500 citations. Professor Dean works in the fields of computer science and cognitive and linguistic sciences, focusing on research topics like automated planning and control, computational biology, machine learning, neural modeling, and spatial and temporal reasoning.


Brown University's economics, econometrics, and quantitative economics degrees are some of its most popular. The curriculum covers financial institutions, economic policy, government expenditures, globalization, and health and welfare in relation to economics.

Coursework prepares students for employment in business, the nonprofit sphere, finance, or government. Some learners also prepare for graduate study in business and law.

Brown University boasts The Orlando Bravo Center for Economic Research, founded in 2019. This center supports innovative research, collaboration, and training for the next generation of economic scholars. It awards research grants and fellowships to faculty members and students.


Brown's Division of Biology and Medicine comprises The Warren Alpert Medical School and the biology program. The division also includes 14 clinical departments and is affiliated with eight teaching hospitals around Providence.

Brown's undergraduate biology curriculum includes coursework in organic chemistry, the foundation of living systems, biochemistry, genetics, and 21st-century applications in cell and molecular biology.

Students can also choose interdisciplinary concentrations in applied mathematics, computational biology, biochemistry, biophysics, and biomedical engineering. Brown plans to build a new integrated life sciences building and laboratory dedicated to cutting-edge research in Providence.

Featured Online Programs

Prominent Achievements and Research Initiatives

Brown University hosts a highly accomplished cohort of professors whose cutting-edge research has far-reaching influence — from art to chemistry. Recent highlights include the following.

Arctic Research

Recently, Brown-led research has provided an in-depth analysis of sea ice motion in the fastest-warming parts of the globe. This research shows how Arctic Ocean sea ice responds to different ocean currents, illuminating the seafloor's crucial role in global warming for the first time.

Reduced Space Debris

A satellite built by Brown students recently entered the atmosphere, offering a low-cost solution to reduce space junk that enters the atmosphere. The SBUDNIC satellite was built on a tiny budget using off-the-shelf supplies available at hardware stores, like AA batteries.

Brown alum Marco Cross and Brown faculty member Rick Fleeter led a diverse team of undergraduates on this project. The opportunity for students to participate in satellite development or space research makes Brown stand out.

Notable Alums

Brown University alums include JFK Jr., John D. Rockefeller Jr., and leaders across business, politics, and the arts. Notable alums include the following.

Horace Mann

One of Brown University's earliest graduates, Horace Mann graduated from Brown in 1819. He was an American educational reformer, slavery abolitionist, and Whig politician known for his commitment to public education. Mann was often called The Father of American Education.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson, Class of 2014, holds a bachelor's degree in English literature. Already an established British actress, she became a powerful activist during her time at Brown. As the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, Watson has been a leading advocate for gender equality through the U.N. Women's HeForShe campaign.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang double majored in economics and political science. He is a businessman, attorney, and former Democratic presidential candidate. Yang founded Venture for America in 2011 to train entrepreneurs in struggling cities. In 2020, he established the Humanity Forward Foundation, advocating for universal basic education and data privacy.

Meredith Whitney

Meredith Whitney graduated from Brown University in 1992 with a BA in history. Whitney is a businesswoman who was called the "Oracle of Wall Street" by Bloomberg for successfully predicting the 2008 financial crisis. Whitney started her own hedge fund in 2013.

Fun Facts about Brown University

What is Brown University known for? A storied history and many spooky traditions, including:

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    Brown University was renamed after Nicholas Brown, who donated $5,000 to the school in 1804.
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    The first chancellor of Brown, Stephen Hopkins, was one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence.
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    Brown was the first Ivy League school to accept students from all religious affiliations.
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    Brown University owns the world's largest Hutchings-Votey organ. Each year on Halloween, a large group of people from Brown and the surrounding community congregate to listen to the organ's eerie music.
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    With no windows, the Annmary Brown Library resembles a tomb — and it might actually be one! This library at Brown University is said to be the burial spot of Rush Hawkins and Annmary Brown Hawkins.
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    The Van Wickle gates at Brown only open twice a year for Convocation and Commencement. According to University legend, any student who enters the gates at another time will be cursed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Brown University

Is Brown University Ivy League?

Yes, Brown University is an Ivy League institution. Brown was founded in 1764 and is the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. It was originally called the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

The Ivy League was only officially formed with the formal founding of the athletic conference in 1954, but the term was used as early as 1933 to refer to Brown University, along with Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Where is Brown University located?

Brown University is located in Providence, Rhode Island, with its main campus in the College Hill neighborhood. The College Hill campus is 146 acres and encompasses 76 acres of athletic fields and campus turf, along with 6.5 acres of shrubs and beds, 13 acres of parking lots, 11 acres of sidewalks, and two green roofs.

Is Brown University an HBCU?

No, Brown University is not an HBCU. However, Brown was the first non-HBCU member institution invited to join the HBCU Library Alliance. The only HBCUs in the northeast are Lincoln University and Cheyney University in Pennsylvania.

Other HBCUs are scattered mainly across the southern states. Alabama takes the number one spot with 14 HBCUs. Other states with several HBCUs include North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.

What division is Brown University?

Brown University is an NCAA Division I school. Students at Brown University have the opportunity to participate in 34 varsity sports and 37 club sports teams. Brown's sports offerings include baseball, basketball, crew, cross country, equestrian, fencing, football, sailing, tennis, and water polo.

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