What is your sense of Duke as a university and a community, and why do you consider it a good match for you? If there’s something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well. (250 word limit) – Required
This question is essentially a version of the “Why This College?” question. You should focus your answer on a specific class, lab, resource, or program that is of particular interest to you at Duke. What about Duke makes it the best fit for you and offers you the chance to do something that you could not do at any other university? Don’t write about the academics as a whole; instead dive deeper and do your homework about what you plan to take advantage of once on campus. Lastly, don’t forget to make this entry fun to read. No matter what you are saying, there is always an engaging way to say it!
Playing soccer for over fifteen years, I am grateful for the countless friendships I have forged. Unfortunately, many inevitably hang up their cleats after high school and adapt to a more sedentary lifestyle, one often accompanied by mental health struggles.
While soccer initially ignited my passion, promoting health and well-being has become a stronger calling. Working with our school doctor, I conducted a survey to yield insights into the prevalence of mental health challenges and sedentary behavior among students. Results highlighted barriers to physical activity, like lack of social connections. These insights helped shape school-wide strategies for encouraging healthier student lives.
Eager to continue learning “the Duke way,” I seek to cultivate my passion for Psychology and Neuroscience at Trinity, where I’ll study the neural influences on motivation and decision-making in neuroscience courses, and improve my understanding of the benefits of physical activity through courses like Exercise and Mental Health.
I look forward to continuing my wellness research through Duke’s Bass Connections, working on a project like Creating a Contemplative Community: The Impact of Mindfulness on Student Well-Being.
Much like soccer’s camaraderie, Duke’s community wonderfully emulates the team environment inside and outside of the classroom. From engaging FOCUS group seminars and dinners to contributing to the Blue Devil Wellness Exchange, I know I’ll feel right at home on campus. Although as a cheering fan on the sidelines, there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll still feel very much a part of the Blue Devil family.
We want to emphasize that the following questions are optional. Feel free to answer them if you believe that doing so will add something meaningful that is not already shared elsewhere in your application. Five optional questions are available – a maximum of 2 can be selected. (250 max)
Though Duke notes that the questions are optional, you should never pass up an opportunity to fortify your application.
1. Perspective response
We believe a wide range of personal perspectives, beliefs, and lived experiences are essential to making Duke a vibrant and meaningful living and learning community. Feel free to share with us anything in this context that might help us better understand you and what you might bring to our community.
This supplement is asking all about your community. Which communities do you come from? What impact have they had on your views, beliefs, and experiences? Who and what has shaped you? This is a time to be transparent and honest—paint your readers an authentic, self-aware picture of yourself. We are all a product of our environments, so write about how some of the other key players have had an impact on your life. Remember, trying to impress admission officers will likely come off boastful, and groups like National Honors Society typically do not have a strong, meaningful community associated with them. Be honest, humble and tell readers something that they may not learn about you from the rest of your application. You may choose to define community traditionally—your sports team, classmates, religious youth group—or a bit more creatively—a fan group you are a part of, a geographic or linguistic community, an expatriate community—for example.
“Yoga is not about the shape of your body but the shape of your life.”
Every Sunday at 7 p.m., my yoga teacher welcomes our class to the mat with this quote.
Jenn, who is nearly seventy, leans into her down-dogs to my right and Nick, her nine-year old grandson, frequently lets out soft giggles as he cat-cows to my left. Just ten hours earlier, I leave soccer practice exhausted, ruminating on my coach’s instructions to set one physical goal for the coming week; shave our mile-time ten seconds, three long runs when last week he only imposed two… The list is always demanding, meant to push us to meet his exacting standards. There’s a method to his madness, and it has produced results for my team. We finished our last season as reigning state champions, bested only by Florida in the national finals last winter.
Yoga, on the other hand, has brought me the opposite gift: radical acceptance. You bring your present self to the mat day in and day out—linear progress is not the name of the game. Some days, Jenn slips into scorpion pose while Nick slips into a brief nap. Becoming a part-time yogi has taught me to meet my body, mind and my community where it is—a lesson that I will bring into this new chapter. As a member of the Duke community, I plan to be present, authentic, and teachable, knowing that accepting myself and others is the foundation for learning and growth.
2. Intellectual experience
Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating.
This does not necessarily have to be written about a standard class in school – any ‘learning experience’ will do, in fact the more unique your subject matter of choice is, the better! In answering the question, be sure to both describe the experience and clearly convey why this experience fascinated you. What specifically about it piqued your interest? You want to demonstrate your passion vividly, so write with detail! Discuss how this experience impacted you intellectually and personally. Did it change your perspective, inspire new interests, or reinforce existing passions? Reflect on the knowledge or skills you gained as you explored this interest and how they might influence your future endeavors. Finally, explain how this intellectual experience aligns with your aspirations and goals as a student at Duke. Discuss how Duke’s resources, programs, or community can help you further explore or expand upon this intellectual experience.
Upon waking, I immediately roll over and grab my pen and notepad from my nightstand and begin scribbling, my eyes barely open. Growing up, I was obsessed with decoding dreams and uncovering the message behind their vivid imagery. Learning about lucid dreaming and REM sleep fueled my curiosity about the mind. Stacks of “Dream Dictionaries” littered my nightstand.
An avid podcast listener, I chanced upon “The Huberman Lab,” hosted by Andrew Huberman, a neuroscience professor at Stanford University. His engaging discussions unraveled the complexities of neurobiology and psychology, weaving them into practical insights for everyday life. As I spent hours soaking in each episode that revealed the neuroscience behind a new phenomenon—from dreams and memories to growth mindset and goal-setting—I was not only fascinated by Huberman’s endless knowledge, but how he made it accessible to the public, enabling anyone to apply his teachings and improve their own lives.
Drawing from the podcast’s wisdom, I initiated “Thriving Tools,” an educational series within my high school’s Psyched Club. This endeavor aimed to empower fellow students with science-backed strategies for improving memory, motivation, and effective learning. Friends’ successes—better sleep, information retention, and increased classroom confidence—were the ultimate reward.
I hope to continue these efforts of translating scientific understanding into tangible improvements in well-being through efforts with Duke Synapse and Bass Connections’ Brain in Society projects. As I step into the next phase of my academic journey at Duke, my aspiration remains steadfast: to help others live a healthier, more empowering life.
3. Beliefs & values
We believe there is benefit in sharing and sometimes questioning our beliefs or values; who do you agree with on the big important things, or who do you have your most interesting disagreements with? What are you agreeing or disagreeing about?
You will need a strong personal anecdote to begin this essay, so take some time to reflect. Start by thinking about areas where you generally align with others. These could be political, ethical, or personal beliefs. Who are the people (your family, community, or public figure), with whom you find common ground? What specific issues or values do you share? Now explore instances where you hold differing views from those around you. Who are the individuals you have engaging debates or disagreements with? What topics or values are at the heart of these disagreements? Are they based on differing perspectives, experiences, or ideologies? Now reflect on how your beliefs and values have evolved over time. Have you changed your stance on certain issues? Have disagreements led to a deeper understanding or a willingness to consider different perspectives? The end goal when writing this supplement is to demonstrate growth and open-mindedness.
In our family of seven, my mother gave birth to five daughters, and the reaction is always the same: “Wow, your poor dad! 5 girls? He must have really wanted a son!” Initially, I responded with genuine curiosity, but as the refrain persisted, irritation set in.
“Why poor dad?” I questioned. Poor mom, I thought. The implication seemed to be that our father lacked a son for backyard catch. Yet, I challenged this notion.
Ironically, these same people assumed my name, “Jesse,” was short for “Jessica.” Swiftly, I corrected them: “No, it’s just Jesse.” Was the assumption due to my gender? I refused to be confined to the “Jessica” mold. I despised the color pink; capris, shorts, and sneakers were my preferred attire for impromptu soccer or volleyball during recess.
Growing up with four sisters, our household radiated empowerment, encouraging us to create, lead, play, and voice our opinions. It was within this supportive environment that I began to understand the misconceptions of society’s predetermined gender roles and constraints that women are placed within.
Simultaneously, I recognized my own inconsistency; my resistance to typical female roles clashed with my quick dismissal of “Jessica” and my pink projection of her, demonstrating my own predisposition for stereotyping.
As I continue my journey to dismantle these stereotypes, I strive to carry this empowerment forward. By fostering an environment that encourages everyone to defy rigid roles, acknowledge their own prejudices, and embrace their true selves, I hope to contribute to a more inclusive and diverse society.
4. Being different
We recognize that “fitting in” in all the contexts we live in can sometimes be difficult. Duke values all kinds of differences and believes they make our community better. Feel free to tell us any ways in which you’re different, and how that has affected you or what it means to you.
Begin by identifying the aspects of yourself that make you unique. These could be personal qualities, experiences, cultural background, or anything that sets you apart from others. Consider qualities and traits you have not already mentioned in other sections of your application or Duke essays. Consider how these unique aspects have influenced your values, beliefs, and outlook on life. Have they led to specific experiences or challenges that have shaped your character? Make sure to focus on one trait or characteristic only. Now use personal anecdotes to highlight your experiences in feeling ‘different’, and how they influenced you. Did you have a positive experience? What were your challenges? Did you build resiliency or empathy? Be sure to reflect on this learning experience and what embracing differences means to you. Finally, describe how your individuality can contribute to Duke’s community and enrich its culture.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Michaelson—I have an accommodation for extra time.”
I said the words as quietly as possible, looking around to ensure that none of my classmates were in earshot. For years, I felt ashamed of my dyslexia. My sisters are all neurotypical learners—they read voraciously and have always felt at home in the classroom. Their effortless understanding of new material often made me feel defective and unintelligent—I worried that the admission that I needed extra time or an audiobook option would make my peers think less of me.
However, that day in Mrs. Michaelson’s class during the first week of junior year, one lingering student heard my whispered acknowledgement. When I stepped into the hall, a bubbly classmate was waiting to greet me, letting me know that there was a group of students who had formed a community around their own neurodivergent learning styles and inviting me to join. Though I was hesitant at first, I eventually joined their lunch meeting and began participating in group chats and study sessions in which we would share resources and help each other grasp the material. Their zeal for learning and pride in their own unique ways of intaking information expelled the shame I had for my dyslexia. Now, I view my learning differences as an asset, a unique part of who I am, rather than an impairment.
5. Orientation, identity, expression
Duke’s commitment to inclusion and belonging includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Feel free to share with us more about how your identity in this context has meaning for you as an individual or as a member of a community.
Duke is very proud of its inclusive culture and they want students of all orientations to know they have a place on campus. If you feel as though there is a part of your story that you haven’t shared and would like to, here is your chance.
“We should only invite queer students to queer prom.”
The argument, lauded by many members of Gay Straight Alliance, diametrically opposed the reason I had proposed we host the event in the first place. Being a member of the queer community can easily be a siloed experience, and I wanted to invite allies to better understand the struggles that queer students face, while also sharing in the joy and diversity of what it means to be a queer student.
In the end, the event was a beautiful expression of solidarity from student allies as well as a fun event for all of the students who attended. Despite our initial disagreements, students who had intended to only allow queer students ended up seeing the value in coming together as a community. As a part of the event, we held a raffle to raise money for the Trevor Project, ultimately raising more than $5,000 for at-risk LGBTQ teens. By opening the event to everyone, we not only saw the positive impact of inclusivity on our own campus, but mobilized our community to help others in need.