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How to Write the Duke University Supplemental Essays

The following question is required for all 2022-23 applicants to Duke University:

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)*

This is a rather straightforward “Why Duke?” question, so don’t over complicate your answer. However, don’t mistake simple for vague—your answer should include details from your research about a specific program, lab, resource, or opportunity that you are especially interested in exploring while at Duke. Always keep in mind that you should elaborate on opportunities that are unique to Duke and aren’t offered at other universities. Instead of talking about the academics or environment as a whole, dive deeper and do your homework about what you plan to take advantage of once on campus. Lastly, don’t forget to make this essay fun to read. No matter what you are saying, there is always an engaging way to say it!

The following questions are optional for all 2022-23 applicants to Duke University. Four optional questions are available – a maximum of two can be selected. Please select 0 – 2 optional essay topics:

The following four prompts are optional, but we highly recommend writing a response to two of these options!

We seek a diverse student body that embodies the wide range of human experience. In that context, we are interested in what you’d like to share about your lived experiences and how they’ve influenced how you think of yourself.

There are a few different ways to approach this admittedly vague prompt. First, consider your own identity and the impact this identity has had on your views, beliefs, and experiences. Do you belong to a specific community or religion that has played a vital role in your views on service or the value of group support? Has something like your sexuality or a disability impacted the way you view and interact with the world around you?

If you do not feel strongly about the way your identity has shaped your experience, consider the values you hold and your worldview. Are there certain traits (loyalty, thoughtfulness, ingenuity, adaptability) that you value in yourself and others? Have there been any specific events or people in your life who have caused you to think this way? Consider the traits you find yourself specifically noticing in your everyday life!

Be sure to answer the part of the prompt that asks “how they’ve influenced how you think of yourself.” If you’re a part of a specific ethnic or religious group, does your inclusion in this group make you define yourself in relation to that group? If you’ve surrounded yourself with friends who are consistently positive even in the face of struggles, has this positivity spread to your own actions and thought processes?

You are encouraged to be transparent and honest, but this essay should not repeat the information you include in your personal statement. Use this as a chance to enhance your application and paint an authentic, self-aware picture of yourself. None of us are fully responsible for the things that happen in our lives, but we are responsible for how we respond to challenges and take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us. Remember that trying to impress admission officers is a quick way to sour their thoughts about your application, so avoid trying to shoehorn accomplishments or writing about groups like National Honor Society, which typically do not have a strong community or identity associated with them.

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?

Here, Duke admission officers are looking to learn how you handle disagreements, conflicts, debate, and internal questioning. Students who are open to new ideas and perspectives while still being able to consider and defend their beliefs are essential to a classroom environment, and those are exactly the kind of students Duke is looking for. Try to think of a specific example of a time when you had a disagreement over an idea that really mattered to you. Did you have a core worldview about racial, religious, or economic tensions recently questioned? Remember to clearly and fairly portray the other side’s argument, and include plenty of context about how this conversation occurred.

What has been your best academic experience in the last two years, and what made it so good?

Colleges want to admit students who are passionate about learning, and Duke is no exception. For this essay response, try to focus on a particular project, paper, or moment rather than an entire class as a whole. If the teacher’s style or passion made the experience enjoyable, take a second to analyze why that aspect resonated with you in particular. Additionally, make sure to include what you gained or learned from this experience, and don’t be afraid to tie in specific classes or resources at Duke that will allow you to continue having a similar experience. Finally, while an academic experience can be an internship or independent research, try to tie that example into a class you’ve taken to show your reader how the experience will translate into the college classroom.

Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you’d like to share with us more about your identity in this context, feel free to do so here.

Duke is working hard to create an inclusive culture on its campus and they are offering students of all orientations an opportunity to discuss an important aspect of their identity. This is truly an optional supplement, so do not feel inclined to respond if you feel this prompt doesn’t apply to you. However, if there is an important part of who you are that you have yet to discuss on your application, here is your chance to do so.