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Duke Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts and Advice

August 14, 2023

With a 5.9% acceptance rate, getting into Duke in 2023-24 is now as daunting a challenge as gaining acceptance into just about any Ivy League school. While Duke University may immediately conjure up images of the “Cameron Crazies” decked out in devil masks and blue face paint, make no mistake—those rowdy-looking students are really as studious as they come. In fact, just about every single one of the individuals you see in those stands on television scored a 1500+ on the SAT or a 35+ on the ACT and earned a parade of A’s throughout a high school schedule overflowing with AP/IB/dual enrollment courses. This brings us to the topic of this blog – how to write the Duke supplemental essays.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into Duke University? Visit our blog entitled:  How to Get Into Duke   for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

Given that almost 19 of every 20 applicants to Duke University are ultimately unsuccessful, you need to do everything you can to stand out amidst a sea of uber-qualified teens from around the globe. Through its one mandatory essay prompt and two optional offerings, the Duke University supplemental section still affords applicants an opportunity to highlight what makes them uniquely qualified for admission. Below are Duke’s supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with tips about how to address each one.

Required Duke Supplemental Essays – #1

1) 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 your quintessential “Why Us?” essay which comes with the typical pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. We don’t want to label these as “mistakes” (there is nothing inherently wrong with them). They just don’t add any needle-moving value, which is, of course, the only goal when you are applying to a school as selective as Duke.

Common components of a generic “Why Duke?” essay

  • Fawning over the beautiful campus (it is quite beautiful, but they already know that).
  • Duke’s rank, prestige, and reputation. Again, they know!
  • Too many generic expressions of feeling (e.g., Since I was five, I’ve dreamed of attending Duke… ).
  • Recycled statements from your other “Why Us?” essays that come across as stale, impersonal, or worst of all–irrelevant/inaccurate.
  • Talking about the Blue Devils basketball team.

How to write a winning “Why Duke?” essay

  • Make sure to address why Duke is the perfect fit for you  and  why you are the perfect fit for Duke. To do so, cite specific  academic programs , professors ,  research opportunities , experiential education programs ,  study abroad programs ,  student-run organizations , Duke’s mission , etc. Be sure to discuss how you plan to take advantage of your chosen resources.
  • Show evidence of how your past/current endeavors will carry over onto Duke’s campus.
  • Discuss any special talents and passions that you will bring to Duke.

Big-picture thoughts on the “Why Duke?” essay

In any “Why Us?” composition, you need to show that you’ve done your homework on a given school, but you don’t want it to read like a rote list of items that you Googled five minutes before writing the essay (even if the timing of the Google search is roughly accurate).

In addition to the pure research element, a lot of the time and skill required to create a stellar Duke essay will involve connecting your selected opportunities of to your distinct values, talents, aims, proficiencies, and future goals.

Optional Essays – Select 0-2 from the following list (250 word limit for each)

While these essays are technically “optional,” we advise every single applicant to Duke to opt in on at least one essay. (Note that Prompt #1 is often an ideal and natural choice). Remember, Duke is one of those rare schools that rejects students with near-perfect (or even perfect) academic credentials. It is essential that you showcase the characteristics and skills that make you one-of-a-kind.

1) 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.

Take note of the wide-open nature of this prompt. You are essentially invited to talk about any of the following topics:

  • A perspective you hold
  • An experience you had
  • A community you belong to
  • Your cultural background
  • Your family background

Although this prompt’s open floor plan may feel daunting, a good tactic is to first consider what has already been communicated within your Common App personal statement, activities list, and “Why Duke” essay. What important aspects of yourself have not been shared (or sufficiently discussed)? The admissions officer reading your essay is hoping to connect with you through your written words, so—within your essay’s reflection—be open, humble, thoughtful, inquisitive, emotionally honest, mature, and/or insightful about what you learned and how you grew. No matter what type of story you tell, the goal is to have the reader come away saying, “I can definitely see this applicant as a contributing member of our talented and engaged student community.”

Duke Supplemental Essays (Continued)

2) Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating .

Firstly, note that Duke provides a time range. Accordingly, you’ll need to choose an intellectual experience from either your sophomore or junior year (formal or informal). Whether it’s a general love for math/science or literature or your aerospace engineering internship or your discovery of 19th-century French novels, use this opportunity to dig into why your chosen experience resonates with, fascinates, and/or inspires you. Moreover, share the manner in which you pursued knowledge. Whether you fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole about the nature of time or consumed thousands of hours of podcasts on game theory, this is a chance to illustrate the ways in which you are an obsessive learner with a thirst for information. The admissions reader should emerge from reading this essay with the sense that you are a sincerely curious young person with a strong intellectual drive.

3) 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?

The U.S. presently finds itself in an extreme state of polarization. There seems to be little agreement even as to what constitutes “truth” or “facts” Within this divided world, it can be hard for individuals with competing viewpoints to engage in civil and productive dialogue. Here, Duke is giving you the chance to show that you are an open-minded, intellectually curious, truth-seeking young person. Illustrate how you are willing to engage in conversations/debates with people who hold opposing positions on topics of great importance to you. One key thing to remember when addressing this prompt is that you don’t have to be the hero of the anecdote. In fact, you may be one who learned to expand their thinking.

Of course, you are also invited to share about a person you agree with. However, without any friction, this may be the less interesting of the two choices.

4)  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.

Do you feel that your lived experience is different from others in your peer group, family, or community, perhaps in regard to relationships, household income level, mental or physical challenges, neurodiversity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or cultural background, to name a few? If so, answering this prompt could be a good option. While crafting your response, the important thing to keep in mind is that the difference/challenge itself is  less important  than what it reveals about your character and perspective. What steps have you taken to cope with your chosen difference? How has it positively impacted you? How has it influenced your perspective and the way you engage with the world? Is there anything about your difference that you feel especially appreciative of?  Make sure you share what you were feeling and experiencing; this piece should demonstrate openness and vulnerability.

5) 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.

If you feel that an element of your sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is an important component of who you are, this is an ideal place to discuss that part of yourself. Moreover, Duke’s instructions are broad, allowing to you discuss personal and/or social impact. No matter the direction you choose, be sure to fully address why this part of your identity holds such significant meaning for you.

How important are the Duke supplemental essays?

There are eight factors that Duke University considers “very important” in evaluating a candidate and the essays are among them. In addition to the essays, Duke gives the greatest consideration to the rigor of an applicant’s secondary school record, GPA, standardized test scores, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities.

Duke Supplemental Essays – Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

If you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your Duke supplemental essays, we encourage you to  get a quote  today.

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Duke University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

Early Decision: Nov 1

Regular Decision Deadline: Jan 2

You Have: 

Duke University 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: One required 250-word essay and two optional 250-word essays Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why , Communit y , Diversity

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)

Admissions is truly asking you to do your homework here. What do you make of Duke and why do you want to go there? This space is a wonderful opportunity for you to summarize the aspects of a Duke college experience that call to you and to address your personal connection to this elite school. Were you able to tour campus last year? What drew you in? What part of campus could you see yourself hanging out in? Where do you see yourself studying for exams? Admissions knows that Duke is a prestigious university, with impressive alumni to boot, so make sure to personalize your answer. Instead of showering Duke with compliments, focus on how Duke has attracted your interest and how you hope an education at Duke will prepare you to accomplish your goals—academic and otherwise.

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.  Four optional questions are available – a maximum of 2 can be selected.

Please select 0 – 2 optional essay topics. (respond in 250 words or fewer.), 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..

Admissions wants to know what you will contribute to the Duke community. What has shaped you as a person and how has that made your perspective unique? What lessons have you learned and applied? What can you share with others? Is there anything you can teach your classmates or peers about your hometown, culture, religion, identity, race, or ethnicity that they might not already know? Duke wants to know how your personal perspectives, beliefs, and/or lived experiences will affect the conversations you have and the ways in which you engage with the Blue Devil community, so tell them a story that helps them to imagine the kind of student you’ll be on campus next fall.

2) Intellectual experience

Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating..

It’s no surprise that Duke is hoping to invite students to campus who are excited about learning, so take this opportunity to geek out about an awesome learning experience you had recently. Maybe you were given permission to write your research paper on a historic event that has always amazed you and, through that project, you were able to deepen your understanding of the complex social hierarchies during the Qin dynasty. Perhaps you had the opportunity to take a class or seminar with a thought leader you really admire or you went on a reading retreat that expanded your horizons. Whatever it may be, this is the perfect place to show admissions your passion for intellectual endeavors.

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.

This prompt is an inquiry: how do you communicate with others about difficult topics and issues? Duke wants to foster the kind of learning environment that encourages respectful discussions about beliefs and values, so tell them about someone you speak with about issues you hold dear to your heart. Maybe it’s a mentor in your life, who you consult when you feel overwhelmed by current events. Do they provide reassurance that you’re on the right path? Perhaps it’s a family member who tends to disagree with your worldview and vision for a better future. How do you approach these complex conversations? Have you ever questioned what you believe in, or perhaps, discovered a new perspective you hadn’t considered before? How have you become a better listener or speaker because of these chats? Don’t forget to mention the topic or issue of importance here, so you can also give admissions insight into what you care about.

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..

We have all felt different from those around us at some point in our lives, and with this prompt, admissions is inviting you to talk about your lived experiences. Perhaps you are one of few South Asian students at your Midwestern high school, and that difference has led you to explore your heritage and connect with family members overseas to better understand what it means to be you. Maybe you have lived with a physical disability for as long as you can remember; how have the ways you move through the world and take up space impacted the way you interact with your surroundings and vice versa? Whatever has kept you from “fitting in,” admissions knows that difference makes communities stronger, so invite them to learn a little bit about what it’s like to be you and what the world looks like through your eyes.

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 was one of the first schools to embrace the subject of sexual orientation and gender identity in their essay questions, and this is yet another step in their overt attempt to recruit a truly diverse pool of applicants. They want you to know that they embrace all sexual orientations and gender expressions, so if you are open to discussing your identity, feel free to share your story. Note that this question will not be applicable to all students, so if you don’t have a relevant story to tell, we recommend responding to two of the other three prompts!

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Duke University is an Ivy League college in Durham, North Carolina, that consistently ranks in the top 10 national universities. It has an undergraduate population of 6,500 students, and in the 2020-2021 admissions, there was only a 5.8% acceptance rate. 

As a highly-selective university, Duke’s supplemental essays help personalize the admissions process, so that the admissions committee can admit a diverse incoming class. This is true of many institutions; look at Emory supplemental essays for further inspiration.

Duke supplemental essays for 2022-23: requirements and guidelines

duke essays 2023

College Essays: Supplemental Essays

Supplemental essays are an imperative part of the college application process. Click here to read more

Duke University essays are a crucial part of your college application. Use each Duke University application essay to show that you are invested in your education and are passionate about attending Duke. The admissions committee wants to admit a diverse, passionate group of students. 

Each Duke admissions essay gives you the chance to convey more about your personality, goals, and passions. Take advantage of each of these essay questions to personalize your college application and give yourself a competitive edge. 

Test scores and high school GPAs are important but supplemental essays are key in the Duke application process.

Why Duke essay: 5 tips that can help you earn admission to Duke University

As with many highly-selective institutions, Duke University requires at least one supplemental essay, often referred to as the “why Duke essay.” This essay prompt is as follows: Please share with us why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something in particular about Duke’s academic or other offerings that attract you? (200 words maximum)  

Admissions officers want to admit students who are passionate about attending Duke and plan to fully take advantage of its unique educational opportunities. Use this Duke writing supplement to show that you have researched Duke University thoroughly and are passionate about their unique opportunities, especially as they relate to your academic and professional goals. 

In this article, we will focus on tips and strategies for how to write Duke supplemental essays, as well as look at several accepted Duke essay examples. 

Use detailed language

The more specific you can be, the better! Reference specific courses, programs, and professors by name. Duke wants to admit Duke students who will take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. 

Naming specific aspects of Duke’s unique curriculum shows that you are passionate about the school and are able to take initiative. Mention any specific internships, majors, minors, certificates, classes, research opportunities, and clubs/sports teams that interest you.

State your goals clearly

Use this Duke supplement to state your personal, educational, and professional goals clearly. Of course, not all incoming freshmen will know what they want to study — and this is okay! — but do your best to write clearly and with intention. Write about your interests, passions, and ideas for the future.

Use the tone of your essay to reflect your personality

Duke writing supplements are meant to personalize the admissions process. Give the admissions committee a reason to choose you by showing them a bit more of your overall personality. 

Use words and phrases that reflect the way you speak, think or interact with the world. Be creative. Funny. Thoughtful. Use this personal statement to demonstrate who you are and what you’re passionate about. How can you contribute to the Duke community?

How can Duke help you reach your goals?

While it’s important to include lots of personal details about your goals and passions, it is just as important, if not even more important, to connect every personal detail back to Duke University. 

How can Duke University, specifically, help you reach your personal, educational, and professional goals? While preparing your response to this Duke essay prompt, read each of your sentences carefully and ask yourself if each and every detail can be connected back to Duke University.

duke essays 2023

Duke University supplemental essay prompts

In addition to the “why Duke essay” prompt, there are two Duke optional essays. Duke essay prompts are designed so that the admissions committee can gain a more holistic understanding of each applicant. 

Use your Duke supplement essays to show the true depth of your character, goals, and passions to strengthen your overall application and personalize the admissions process.

Prompt 1: perspective and experience

The first of the two optional essays focuses on your perspectives and experiences. The prompt is as follows:

Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had that would help us understand you better, perhaps a community you belong to or your family or cultural background, we encourage you to do so here. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 words maximum)

Strategies to consider for this prompt.

The most important thing to do for this 250-word essay is to be sincere. While some students may already have lots of interesting and inspiring life experiences, this is certainly not always the case. 

Do not exaggerate or make anything up in this essay! Be genuine and sincere. The Duke admissions committee wants to get to know you, so make sure you give them that chance.

duke essays 2023

Again, this is the most important strategy for addressing this Duke essay prompt. Be.     genuine and speak earnestly.

Write concisely

      To do this well, focus on including lots of detailed language. You only have 250         words to convey something deeply personal, so make each word, phrase, and            sentence count!

   A helpful strategy for writing succinctly and powerfully is to not worry about the       word limit initially. Free write. Get all your ideas on paper. Sometimes you need to start writing to gain momentum and realize your most important details.   

Think outside the box!

What is the most engaging way to tell your story? Even if you don’t have a particularly unique story, you can still be creative! Consider the overall structure of your essay thoroughly before you begin. 

If you are interested in theater, perhaps you could write your essay with stage directions. If you’re interested in science, perhaps you could structure your essay in the style of a lab report. The possibilities are endless!

Prompt 2: sexual orientation and gender identity

The second of the two Duke optional essays focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity. The essay prompt is as follows:

Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you would like to share with us more about your identity, you can do so here, or use any previous essay prompt you feel is appropriate. (250 words maximum)

Remember, this essay is optional. Only include this essay if your gender or sexual identity has played a significant role in your life experiences. Generally speaking, only include this essay if you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

As with the other Duke writing supplementals, use detailed language. Be specific and precise. Share lots of personal details. This does not mean you have to be overly personal and share experiences you would rather keep to yourself. Always respect your boundaries! Rather, focus on details that will contribute to the overall tone and imagery of your essay. Try to personalize your statement so that it is memorable.

It’s about your sexual identity — not about sex

Use discretion when writing about this prompt. Remember, you are writing about your identity, not about your sexual experiences.

duke essays 2023

Don’t worry about defining terms

Don’t feel pressured to use defining terms. It’s okay to not know how to label your experiences, just as it’s okay (and good!) to change your mind. Focus on writing honestly and authentically, without necessarily worrying about terms. 

The Duke essays that worked: winning Duke supplement essay examples

One of the best ways to prepare for your Duke application is to read several accepted Duke essays. There are lots of Duke supplement essay samples online for you to peruse. 

Gain insight into what the admissions committee is looking for by examining at least one Duke optional essay example before beginning your writing process.

Essay example #1

I love many things, but learning and sports top the list. the moment i stepped onto duke’s campus, i leaned over to my mother, gasping, and said, “whoa,” even before beginning my tour. i was stunned to immediately see signs of my loves everywhere. my dreams of tenting in k-ville for the annual duke-unc game almost made my mouth water. as for learning, the cross-disciplinary study options that duke offers ignite my passions. i have always loved business, and as i have aged, i discovered a deep interest in education. at duke, i saw the opportunity to combine these two interests in many ways. i would love to initiate lunches with professor elizabeth garcia, whose work focuses on educational motivation, and mark t. brown, director of the management communications center. exploring commonalities in business and educational spheres would be uplifting, and will engage all of my most profound interests., why did this essay work.

This essay is detailed, well-paced, and clearly shows the student’s personal and academic passions. The tone is upbeat and excitable. As a reader, you get a glimpse into who this student is as a person — what motivates them and brings them joy. 

The student clearly states why they are passionate about attending Duke, and the fact that they mention specific professors and programs by name shows that they can take initiative and are passionate about their course of study.

Essay example #2

I look around my room, dimly lit by an orange light. on my desk, a framed picture of an asian family beaming their smiles, buried among us history textbooks and the great gatsby. a korean ballad streams from two tiny computer speakers. pamphlets of american colleges scattered on the floor. a cold december wind wafts a strange infusion of ramen and leftover pizza. on the wall in the far back, a korean flag hangs beside a led zeppelin poster. , do i consider myself korean or american, a few years back, i would have replied: “neither.” the frustrating moments of miscommunication, the stifling homesickness, and the impossible dilemma of deciding between the korean or american table in the dining hall, all fueled my identity crisis., standing in the “foreign passports” section at jfk, i have always felt out of place. sure, i held a korean passport in my hands, and i loved kimchi and yuna kim and knew the korean anthem by heart. but i also loved macaroni and cheese and lebron. deep inside, i feared i’d be labeled by my airport customs category: a foreigner everywhere., this ambiguity, however, has granted me the opportunity to absorb the best of both worlds. look at my dorm room. this mélange of cultures in my east-meets-west room embodies the diversity that characterizes my international student life., i’ve learned to accept my “ambiguity” as “diversity,” as a third-culture student embracing both identities., now, i can proudly answer: “both.”.

The use of imagery in this essay is particularly impressive and effectively acts as an anchor and overall structure for the essay. By seeing the inside of this student’s dorm room you are able to gain insight into their inner world. You get a clear understanding of their likes, interests, and priorities. You are also privy to their inner trepidations, cultural insecurities, and personal growth. 

By including so many personal details and examples, the student can demonstrate what both their Korean and American cultural identities mean to them. This essay’s sincerity and candor are what help this student stand apart from other applicants.

Essay example #3

I belong to a community of storytellers. throughout my childhood, my mother and i spent countless hours immersed in the magical land of bedtime stories. we took daring adventures and explored faraway lands. imagination ran wild, characters came to life, and i became acquainted with heroes and lessons that continue to inspire me today. it was a ritual that i will never forget., in school, i met many other storytellers—teachers, coaches, and fellow students whose stories taught me valuable lessons and enabled me to share stories of my own. my stories took shape through my involvement with theatre. i have learned that telling stories can be just as powerful as hearing them. when i tell a story, i can shape the world i live in and share my deepest emotions with the audience. this is exactly why i love theatre so much. the audience can relate to the story in many of the same powerful ways that i do., i love to perform with my theatre class to entertain and educate young audiences throughout my community. to tell our stories, we travel to elementary and middle schools performing plays that help educate younger students of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and bullying. as storytellers, we aim to touch lives and better the world around us through our stories..

This essay is well organized and follows a clear narrative arc. The student uses this essay to display their strong storytelling skills and abilities. Not only does this essay demonstrate the student’s passion for theater and its communicative potential, but it also shows their level of engagement with their craft and community. 

This essay covers a lot of material in a small space. The student starts their essay with their childhood and their overall source of inspiration, addresses their background in theater thoroughly yet succinctly, and ends with their plans and excitement for the future.

Key takeaways on Duke University supplemental essays

For your Duke writing supplements, focus on writing detailed, concise statements. Make each word, phrase, and sentence count. Be sincere and authentic. For the Duke optional essays, ask yourself if responding to each of these prompts will enhance your overall application. Use your best judgment. 

Take time to honestly reflect on your answers and decide if each of these prompts will give your application a competitive edge. Sometimes less is more, so don’t feel pressured to respond to the optional prompts if they don’t resonate with you. 

FAQs related to Duke supplemental essays

Read on for some frequently asked questions and their answers as you organize yourself and prepare for college applications.

How many supplemental essays does Duke have?

Duke University has three supplemental essays. One of these supplemental essays is required; the two others are optional. The required Duke essay is often referred to as the “why Duke essay.” The two optional prompts differ year to year but generally focus on life experiences and cultural diversity.

Should I answer the Duke optional essays?

Use these essays to further personalize your application. Duke is highly-selective, so take advantage of every opportunity to make your application memorable. If you are struggling to come up with meaningful responses, however, the optional essays may not enhance your application. Always be genuine and sincere. Do not exaggerate personal details to seem like a more desirable applicant. 

When do the Duke supplemental essays come out?

Duke supplemental essay prompts are typically released by mid-August. Check their website to stay the most up-to-date. The prompts will be released by the time the common application is open. 

How do you stand out to Duke?

Use each Duke application essay to show off your passions and personality. Do your best to write creative, genuine, well-structured essays. To stand out, you need detailed, memorable essays. As you respond to each Duke essay prompt, ask yourself if your answers are interesting, engaging, unique, or creative in some way. Even if you don’t necessarily have a unique answer, you can find a unique way to share your experiences. Think outside the box!

  • August 9, 2022
  • 11th Grade , 12th Grade , College Admissions

How to write Duke supplemental essays (2022-23 essay prompts guide)

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Duke University Supplemental Essays 2022-2023

Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023.

Lauded for its academic excellence, Duke University is one of the most elite universities in the nation. If you want to stand out in the admissions process, the Duke supplemental essays are critical. But, before we dive into the Duke supplemental essay, let’s learn a little more about Duke University and its popularity. 

Ranking as #10 by U.S. News, national college rankings consistently affirm Duke’s prestige. Duke’s mission is to “provide a superior liberal education” to students who display “character, determination, and application.” This top university aims to not only educate its students, but also to instill ethical and moral integrity in order to create future leaders in various fields. 

If you’re set on attending Duke University , then first things first: let’s tackle writing each Duke essay. 

Duke Supplemental Essay: Quick Facts

  • Duke University acceptance rate: 6%— U.S. News ranks Duke as a most selective school.
  • 1 essay (250 words)
  • 2 optional essays (250 words)
  • Duke University application note: Students may apply to Duke via the Common Application , Coalition Application , or QuestBridge Application . Be sure that you have all of the Duke requirements completed by the deadline. You can check the status of your Duke application after submitting all materials via the Duke portal . 
  • Duke supplemental essays #1 tip: We recommend giving yourself plenty of time to answer each Duke essay thoughtfully and thoroughly to maximize your admissions odds.

How many essays are required for Duke?

There is only one school-specific Duke essay on the 2022-2023 Common App. Students can also choose two of four additional Duke University essay prompts to answer. However, these two additional Duke supplemental essays are optional. 

However, you should plan to complete the two “optional” essays. With the Duke acceptance rate so low, well written essays can help your Duke application stand out to admissions. 

Students applying to Duke must also answer one of the Common App essay prompts . 

The Common App personal essay and each Duke essay are vital parts of the Duke requirements. However, there is much more involved in a successful “how to get into Duke” plan than just well-written essays . Check out our guide in order to make your application stand out to Duke admissions. 

What are the Duke supplemental essay prompts?

In addition to the Common App personal essay , students have to respond to the Duke supplemental essays. There is only one required Duke essay. However, students should plan to answer the optional Duke supplemental essays as well in order to stand out.

So, then, what exactly are the Duke supplemental essays? The only required Duke essay is a why school essay. Here’s the why Duke essay question:  

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)

Before delving into just how to answer the why Duke essay, let’s look at the four other additional—and optional—Duke supplemental essays. Applicants can choose two of these prompts to answer. 

Similar to the required why Duke essay, each of these Duke supplemental essays has a 250 word limit. 

Optional Duke Supplemental Essay Prompts

1. 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.

2. 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?

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

4. 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.

You can find the Common App essay requirements for Duke here . Or, check out the different Duke supplemental essays listed directly on the Duke website . 

Should I answer the optional Duke essay prompt?

As you approach the Duke supplemental essays, you’ll notice that some are listed as optional. We encourage students to answer all of the Duke supplemental essays. However, choosing two that resonate with you to respond to, is extremely important as they can bolster your application narrative . 

In general, we recommend that all students respond to the first of the “optional” Duke supplemental essays, which asks about identity and background. The next two are also good options to respond to: how you deal with disagreements and your most meaningful academic experience. The final Duke essay, however, is a bit more complicated, as it relates directly to gender identity and sexual orientation .

Focus on the essays that interest you

Now, if your gender and sexuality are important to your identity, you can discuss them in this Duke essay. Also, you can use the last of the Duke supplemental essays to discuss allyship and community care in relation to marginalized genders. However, whatever you discuss, speak from your personal experience. And, of course, you should avoid any prejudice or bigotry. We’ll detail these nuances more later in this guide.

Overall, every part of your college applications matter. The Duke supplemental essays are no exception. You should use every space Duke gives you to tell the admissions committee who you are—but only if it’s appropriate to your identity and experiences. That’s why choosing the correct two Duke supplemental essays to complete is extremely important.

Aim for two additional essays

You should plan to write two additional, while technically optional, Duke supplemental essays. Be sure to choose the prompts that you can answer authentically, passionately, and comprehensively. Be as honest and thoughtful as you can when writing your Duke supplemental essays. 

If you need some inspiration on how to write a college essay, check out some college essays that worked to see what universities’ admissions committees like to see. 

Why Duke Essay

If you’ve written any other university application essays, then you’re probably familiar with the why school essay. Duke’s only required supplemental essay is a why Duke essay. Basically, you need to show admissions not only what unique features draw you to Duke, but also why you’re suited to be a part of the Duke community. 

“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)”

Unlike the other Duke supplemental essays, the why Duke essay is required for all students. This Duke essay is the classic “Why School” prompt, and you should take it seriously if you hope to gain admission.

Accepted Duke essays will show the admissions team why you belong at Duke. They should also show that you’ve done your research and that, if admitted, you would be excited to attend Duke.

This why Duke essay also gives you the chance to show off your research skills. Go to Duke’s website and look around for interesting extracurriculars, exciting classes, or engaging professors. If you’ve already visited the campus, now is the time to think about highlights—conversations that you’ve had, places that you saw that made a positive impression. Think about what truly interests you about Duke, and find one to three specific things to discuss that align with your candidate profile.

Be specific!

Additionally, don’t be afraid to mix specific details with broader statements about Duke’s offerings and campus culture in this why Duke essay. However, if you go this route, be careful not to over-generalize. 

For example, successful Duke essay examples might discuss how Duke is one of the foremost research institutions in the nation. However, you should also be clear about why you would like to attend Duke over a similarly prestigious school. After all, your readers don’t want to hear that you’re applying primarily due to prestige.

Make sure your why Duke essay remains true to you. For instance, don’t make up a desire to write for The Chronicle if you have no interest in journalism. Instead, discuss specific classes, clubs, and cultures that make Duke right for you based on your passions and aspirations. 

For example, you could specifically speak about how the liberal arts education at Duke appeals to you by mentioning study options only found at Trinity College at Duke. Or, get even more specific if you know your intended major. For example, if you know you want to pursue engineering, then mention offerings only found at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke. 

Duke Supplemental Essays Reflection Questions:

  • Do I know why I’m interested in Duke specifically?
  • Does my essay honestly and earnestly express that interest?
  • Where possible, have I talked about concrete and specific offerings Duke provides that I’m interested in?
  • Have I described how I hope to connect to Duke’s community?

How do you write a Duke essay?

Writing successful Duke supplemental essays will take time and planning. Accepted Duke essays will not only meet the requirements but will also show your passion for Duke. When answering the why Duke essay, make sure that you are specific about what draws you to Duke in particular. This isn’t the time to be vague and generic. Instead, you’ll need to mention Duke-specific programs. However, don’t forget to show why you’re a perfect fit for Duke, too!

The most important part of responding to the optional Duke supplemental essays is choosing topics that you can write about eloquently yet passionately. You’ll want to think of these two optional Duke supplemental essays as required. 

This year’s prompts give applicants a perfect opportunity to enhance their application narrative with two additional and meaningful Duke supplemental essays. Just make sure to choose the prompts that resonate most with you.

There are many resources available to help with college essay writing. While it’s great to read successful essays , keep in mind that there is no cookie cutter perfect essay. They all vary greatly. Just remember to be yourself and stick to the requirements. 

Duke Supplemental Essays- Optional Essays

Responding to the Duke supplemental essays doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task. In fact, the earlier you start planning, the easier it will be to write your Duke essays. As you research colleges and write other essays, keep the Duke essay prompts at the back of your mind. 

The Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023 are on the Common App site . You can also visit the main Duke site for a full list of application requirements.

Begin by outlining each Duke essay prompt. First, take a look at the word counts for the Duke supplemental essays. Use them to dictate the structure of your response. You’ll want to answer the prompt in the first sentence and then expand. For the longer, Common App or Coalition App essay, you can open with a related anecdote and add more description.

Remember your word counts

Since all of the Duke supplemental essays have a 250 word limit, you’ll want to make your responses as concise as possible. However, this doesn’t mean you need to limit yourself as you brainstorm and draft. 

Try this exercise: for each prompt, start a timer and free-write for ten minutes, paying no attention to the word count. Though you may not use all (or any!) of the content you generate, these free-writes can help you find engaging topics for your final Duke supplemental essays.

To read more on reflection exercises and choosing a great essay topic, check out our blog article .

Once you have drafts of your Duke supplemental essays, it’s time to revise. Remember, given the short word counts on each of the Duke supplemental essays, every word matters. 

Eliminate any filler text—every word should help admissions officers understand new details about who you are and why you should attend Duke. You might also ask trusted counselors, family members, or teachers to take a look at your Duke supplemental essays to see how they read to an outsider. This will help you write the strongest essays possible.

Keep reading for a full breakdown of the optional Duke supplemental essays.

Duke essay- “Diversity” essay

Another favorite type of essay when it comes to college essays, the “diversity essay” makes an appearance on Duke’s optional supplemental essay prompts list. 

“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.”

Every student has a story. In this optional prompt, the admissions team wants to learn yours.

This essay gives you the chance to talk about your identity and culture, whatever that might mean to you. Maybe you’re a first-generation college student whose family background strongly influenced your desire to apply to college. Or, maybe you’re an international student from Russia interested in expanding your understanding of the world by attending Duke. Whoever you are, this Duke essay is your chance to express your full self to your readers—in 250 words or less, at least.

To begin this Duke essay, consider the key parts of your identity and heritage. This can manifest in your culture, values, or experiences. This prompt asks you to discuss a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had; essentially, your readers want to know what makes you you . Moreover, they also want to see how your identity will help shape the community at Duke. Successful Duke essay examples will fulfill both of these requirements.

Begin brainstorming for your Duke essay by writing down 3-5 characteristics or experiences that shape you as a person. Set a timer and write for ten minutes about each of them. Which one feels most natural to write about? That’s your essay.

With only 250 words on each of the optional Duke supplemental essays, you don’t have much space. Stick to one primary characteristic, experience, or value. Then, use it to discuss how you relate to the world around you. Be as concrete as possible, referencing specific ways in which your identity will influence your interactions with the Duke community.

Reflection Questions for your Duke Supplemental Essays:

  • Do I communicate clearly what’s most important to me about my identity?
  • Do I tell my story authentically?
  • Have I shown how I use my unique experiences, beliefs, and backgrounds to engage with those around me?
  • Do I reference specific ways in which my identity or experience will influence my contributions to the Duke community?

Duke essay- Difficult conversations

This next optional essay prompt focuses on how you deal with differing opinions and tricky conversations. Alternatively, you may also choose to highlight someone you agree with on big topics.

“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?”

Duke University promotes a respectful learning environment of people from different backgrounds. They understand that it’s not only important to connect to people who you see eye-to-eye with, but to those with different perspectives and opinions than your own. 

If you respond to this prompt, be specific about the person and the topic that you choose to highlight. Whether you choose to focus on an agreement or disagreement, this essay should show how you shine as an empathetic listener and/or speaker. After all, change usually comes from hard conversations. So, feel free to emphasize a moment where you shifted your perspective or the person who you were speaking with did. If you choose a moment of agreement, make sure that your beliefs and values on big topics come through. 

Duke Supplemental Essays Reflection Questions: 

  • Did I focus on a meaningful agreement or disagreement?
  • Were my beliefs and values clearly displayed?
  • Did I show growth or understanding from the agreement or disagreement that I focused on?
  • Does my essay highlight my personal approach to hard conversations clearly?

Duke essay – Best academic experience

Duke admissions looks for students who excel academically. With such a low acceptance rate, the admissions team only selects the most academically motivated and intellectually curious applicants. So, it makes sense that one optional Duke essay prompt focuses on a meaningful academic experience. 

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

The key to successfully responding to this optional essay prompt is showing academic passion. Avoid the urge to simply highlight academic excellence; you’ll need to do more than just mention a paper that you got an A+ on. 

For example, did you discover your passion for buying locally while writing a paper on mass manufacturing? Did it lead you to more research and a shift in lifestyle? Or, maybe you study Italian and went on a trip to Italy, where you could practice the language while discovering the culture. Show how the experience sparked your interest in linguistics or European studies. 

Basically, it’s not the academic moment you mention that particularly matters—it’s the impact that it’s had on you. You’ll need to show how the experience impacted or expanded your academic world. 

Reflection Questions for your Duke Essay:

  • Did I highlight a recent academic experience (within the last two years)?
  • Do I show how it fed or ignited an intellectual curiosity?
  • Am I specific when explaining the experience?
  • Is my passion for learning evident? 

Duke essay – Gender & sexuality

The final of the optional Duke supplemental essays asks you to discuss sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression insofar as it relates to your background and identity. For trans, nonbinary, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQ+ students, this Duke essay can offer a chance to share an important part of yourself with your application readers.

“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.”

If you are not comfortable discussing this element of your identity with the admissions committee, you do not need to complete this Duke essay. You also do not need to disclose your gender or sexuality to Duke admissions, whether you’re proudly out as trans or if you’re only starting to question your identity. However, if your sexual orientation or gender identity forms an important part of the story you want to tell, this Duke essay may be for you.

Defining “allyship”

Additionally, if you’re not LGBTQ+ but have personal experience related to allyship, you might use this opportunity to discuss how LGBTQ+ issues inform your own self-perception. This can be particularly useful if you’re the child of a same-sex couple or have family or close friends who have faced marginalization due to who they are or who they love. 

However, you should only speak from your own experience. Do not co-opt the stories of others, and don’t feel obligated to submit a half-baked response to this Duke essay just to affirm your ally status. If your response to this Duke University essay does not ultimately relate to your own background and identity, it may be best to exclude it. Just because you care about the issues in and around the LGBTQ+ community does not mean that you need to write about them in your Duke supplemental essays.

If you choose to complete this essay, start by thinking about exactly how you want to present your identity. What language and labels do you want to use? What method of expressing yourself feels most comfortable and appropriate?

How to structure your response

With only 250 words, the Duke supplemental essays offer you little space to expand on the nuances of your identity. Accordingly, don’t feel pressured to make this Duke essay fit a narrative structure. State who you are, why it matters, and how your set of identities influence your daily life. You should also use this Duke essay to discuss how your identity will inform who you are on Duke’s campus.

Finally, it’s not always easy to talk about these parts of your identity! As you complete this Duke University essay, don’t feel pressured to dig into parts of your life that are traumatic or overly personal. Present who you are proudly and on your own terms. Preserving your boundaries as you answer the Duke essay prompts will ease your stress as well as that of the admissions team. 

  • Does my essay communicate my identity clearly?
  • Do I describe how my identity affects my life in concrete terms?
  • Am I comfortable with the level of openness and vulnerability that I’ve expressed?
  • Do I tell my own story?
  • Have I expressed myself on my own terms?

How do I answer a Duke essay?

Above all else, your Duke essays should be honest. The Duke supplemental essays are designed to help admissions officers learn who you are as a person beyond your grades and test scores. Your essays, therefore, should reveal what makes you unique.

Many of the Duke supplemental essays focus on your identity. Your Duke supplemental essays should reflect the reality of this identity in all of its complexities. Be authentic, be yourself, and use your Duke essays to explain who you are as a person rather than just as a student.

What does Duke look for in essays?

Above all, your Duke essays should make admissions officers say, “I want to meet this student.” They should be authentic to your identity and experiences, and they should convey how valuable you will be as a member of the Duke community. Successful Duke supplemental essays should reveal what makes you unique.

On a pragmatic level, your Duke essays should show your writing and communication skills. The best Duke essays will use powerful language, tone, and diction to tell a story that only you can tell. In your Duke supplemental essays, try to use your writing chops to accurately and engagingly represent your identity. And of course, your Duke essays should be free from any spelling or grammatical errors.

Use this guide

We have provided the prompts for the Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023 in this guide. Use our breakdown of how to approach each of the Duke supplemental essays in order to craft your best essays and, subsequently, add meaning to your application narrative.

Keep in mind that while it’s vital to impress admissions, college fit needs to work both ways. So, before obsessing about getting into Duke, make sure you do your research on things like tuition costs , campus life, financial aid, and academic offerings. 

You can also check out this webinar to learn more about all things Duke related from admissions experts, Duke alumni, and current Duke students. 

Five Tips for Writing your Duke Supplemental Essays

Writing your Duke supplemental essays doesn’t need to be an overwhelming experience. Check out these final tips as you approach the Duke essay prompts:

Tips for Duke Supplemental Essays

#1- start early.

Duke has a few admissions options . Your application may be due in November or January. Begin gathering your application materials early—at least 5 or 6 months in advance. You should write your first Duke essay drafts the summer before you apply. You can also add to your application with college application letters . So, give yourself plenty of time to create the most competitive application and essays possible. 

#2- Stay organized

Writing the best essays and crafting an application narrative that beats the low Duke acceptance rate will require planning and organization. Create an essay checklist for each prompt. Review your initial draft against the checklist: do you answer every part of the prompt? Are your answers authentic to who you are? Do your Duke essays tell a story?

#3- Find an extra pair of eyes

It’s always good to have a second (and sometimes third) set of eyes reading your Duke supplemental essays for grammatical errors, as well as clarity and tone. However, when applying any feedback, keep in mind your personal writing style. The Duke supplemental essays should be an extension of you—not anyone else. 

#4- Write passionately

Be sure to not only meet all of the Duke requirements for the Duke supplemental essays, such as fully answering the prompt within the 250 word limit, but to also do it with passion. That means being authentic and showing your true self. Get excited about the opportunity to study at this elite university—and channel it into some stellar writing. 

#5- Be specific

You want to be specific in the way you answer each of the Duke supplemental essays. However, be especially sure that when taking on the required why Duke essay, you do your research and reference specific programs, faculty, or opportunities only found at Duke. 

Need a little more inspiration for your Duke supplemental essays? Check out this video from a few years ago, when a Duke student asked her fellow sophomores, “Why Duke?” The answers may surprise you, and/or help you think about how to approach the why Duke essay beyond the obvious answers.

Duke Supplemental Essays: Final Thoughts

Completing the Duke supplemental essays can seem daunting. But, keep in mind that there are many resources to guide you in how to write a college essay . So, rather than getting overwhelmed, think about the Duke essays as an opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions team. A well-written set of Duke supplemental essays can work in your favor.

So if you’re dreaming about an acceptance letter from Duke so that you can focus on college enrollment and how to pay for Duke , use this guide to help you approach each Duke application essay with a solid strategy. Then, build a timeline that gives you a few months to draft and revise each of your answers. 

If you’re still at a loss for where to get started, check out some more examples of college essays to see what works. But, remember that successful Duke supplemental essays will vary greatly from student to student. So, your Duke supplemental essays need to represent you. Refer to this guide or get help from one of our expert advisors along the way in order to write your best Duke supplemental essays. Good luck!

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College Essays

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Do you want to be a Blue Devil? If so, you'll need to submit strong Duke essays as part of your application.

Duke requires its applicants to answer two essays, one as part of the Common or Coalition app, and one "Why Duke" essay. Students will also have the option to answer up to two more personal essay prompts, but they aren't required.

We're going to break down all the prompts for you and walk you though how to write amazing Duke supplement essays. So let's get started!

What Is the Duke Supplement Essay?

Duke requires that you submit two to four essays as part of your application. You're required to answer one "Why Duke?" essay prompt, as well as a Common Application essay or a Coalition Application essay (depending on which one you use to apply). Additionally, you have the option of answering up to two more essay questions.

Duke requires the Duke supplement as part of its application process for a couple of reasons. First of all, written essays are a great way to assess your preparedness for college. Duke wants to see that you can write clearly and concisely and can follow all of the necessary grammar conventions.

Duke also wants to get to know you more as a student and possible member of its campus. Essays are a great way to learn more about who you really are beyond your test scores and other credentials.

Finally, your Duke essays are where you can demonstrate your affinity for Duke itself. Why do you want to go there? Your essays can highlight your passion for the university.

It's extremely important to put time and effort into each one of the Duke supplement essay prompts so that you're able to meet all of these needs.

Duke Supplement Essay Prompts

You'll have to answer at least two and as many as four Duke supplement essay prompts for your Duke application. All students are required to write one longer essay. The essay you write will be determined by whether you're submitting the Common Application or the Coalition Application (Duke accepts both).

You're also required to answer the "Why Duke" essay prompt. There are four more personal essay questions that are optional for all applicants. You can answer up to two of them.

2022-2023 Duke Long Essay

The long essay prompt is actually the essay you'll write as part of your Common App or Coalition App. There's not a separate "long essay" prompt for Duke, so don't worry when you don't see the prompt pop up when you click over to the writing supplement tab.

On the other hand, that means that the long essay prompt you submit will depend on whether you're using the Common App, QuestBridge App, or Coalition App. These apps have slightly different essay prompts associated with them!

If you apply to Duke via the Coalition Application, you'll select one essay prompt to answer. For more information on how to ace your Coalition Application essay and an analysis of each prompt, check out our in-depth guide .

If you apply to Duke via the Common Application, you'll also need to select an essay prompt to answer. For more information on how to craft an amazing Common Application essay and in-depth look at each prompt, check out our blog post dedicated to that very topic .

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2022-2023 "Why Duke?" Essay

All Duke students are required to answer the "Why Duke?" essay . Here's the essay prompt for 2022-2023:

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)

For more information about how to answer this question, you can check out our in-depth post to the "Why Duke?" app. 

2022-2023 Optional Duke Essays

You also have the option of responding to optional Duke essays. There are four prompts, and you can answer up to two of them. However, you don't need to answer any if you don't feel the need to. Duke makes it clear that these Duke admissions essay prompts are completely optional. Their exact phrasing is, " Feel free to answer them if you believe that doing so will add something meaningful that is not already shared elsewhere in your application." For each prompt you choose to answer, you can write up to 250 words.

Here are the four prompts:

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. 

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?

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

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.

Required Duke Essay, Analyzed

Guess what: 250 words isn't a lot of words to describe your love for Duke! You'll need to be clear, succinct, and honest in order for your Duke admissions essay to stand out.

Because the word limit is so constrained, it's better to focus on one or two specific ideas, rather than trying to cram as many thoughts as possible into your short essay. For instance, while you may be enamored of Duke's entire faculty, choose one specific professor whose work you admire and expand on that. Any depth you can achieve in this small space will go a long way.

The key here is to be specific about why Duke is the best school for you. We just mentioned discussing faculty, but you can also talk about specific classes you want to take, academic organizations you want to be involved in, or even research opportunities you want to pursue. That means you'll need to do your research, but trust us: it will make a huge difference.

If you're still confused about this prompt and want a little extra help, don't miss our entire article about how to write an amazing "Why Duke" essay!

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Optional Duke Admission Essay Prompts, Analyzed

Treat this question as an opportunity to share more about yourself. If you have something real and important to write about, do so. But don't try to invent an experience that doesn't actually belong to you—it'll come across as fake and insincere. Unless you really have nothing to say, I'd suggest including something.

If you choose to answer this question, lean into authenticity. Don't be scared to be vulnerable or honest. While the question talks about Duke's commitment to diversity, don't feel like you have to invent diverse experiences just to fit in.

Share about your unique perspective. Be sure to indicate why this point-of-view belongs to you, and you alone. Your perspective is made up by your experiences and interactions, so you can highlight how these have affected you.

For this prompt, Duke is giving you the chance to share your values and how you communicate and respond to opinions different than your own. College is a place where you'll encounter people with many different beliefs, and Duke wants to make sure its students are able to respectfully talk about big topics, even if the people you're speaking with don't have the same beliefs or values as you do.

If you decide to respond to this prompt, think about a person or people you particularly love debating or having discussions with. Be sure to explain who you agree/disagree with, what topics you discuss, if you generally agree or disagree, and specifically how you make sure the conversation is respectful and thoughtful. 

Show Duke that you're able to contribute positively to any discussion, even if you disagree with what's being said .

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

Here Duke wants to know what motivates and excites you academically. Did you love partaking in a class debate? Maybe your best experience was bonding with a study group and helping each other learn the course material, or maybe it was doing a deep research dive to become an expert on a particular topic.

The specific experience you choose matters much less than your explanation of why it was so positive. Be sure to discuss exactly what you found about the experience you found enjoyable and  what you took away from it. If you can, try to tie it in to how you'll be a strong student at Duke and continue to find positive academic experiences.

Duke's commitment to diversity and inclusion includes gender identity and sexual orientation. If you would like to share with us more about either, and have not done so elsewhere in the application, we invite you to do so here.

Don't answer this optional essay unless you have something real to say. Don't feel intimidated or scared that ignoring this question will reflect badly on you. It won't. You should really only address this prompt if you're a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

What will reflect badly on you is making something up that comes across as insincere, or worse, ignorant. Speak truthfully and from the heart.

Similarly, if you do have reflections on gender identity and sexual orientation, don't feel like you have to share them. Remember, this essay is optional. It's completely fine if you're not quite comfortable enough or ready to talk publicly about these topics.

If you choose to answer this question, only speak about real experiences that happened to you. It's better to keep them personal. This essay isn't the place to reflect on the overall political climate surrounding LGBTQ+ rights, especially if those issues don't relate to you. It is, however, the space to talk about your specific identity and journey.

How to Write Great Duke Essays

If you want your Duke essays to stand out and help you get admitted, follow these tips!

#1: Use Your Own Voice

The point of a college essay is for the admissions committee to have the chance to get to know you beyond your test scores, grades, and honors. Your admissions essays are your opportunity to make yourself come alive for the essay readers and to present yourself as a fully fleshed out person.

You should, then, make sure that the person you're presenting in your college essays is yourself. Don't try to emulate what you think the committee wants to hear or try to act like someone you're not.

If you lie or exaggerate, your essay will come across as insincere, which will diminish its effectiveness. Stick to telling real stories about the person you really are, not who you think Duke wants you to be.

#2: Avoid Cliched or Overused Phrases

When writing your Duke essays, try to avoid using clichés or overused quotes or phrases. These include quotations that have been quoted to death and phrases or idioms that are overused in daily life. The college admissions committee has probably seen numerous essays that state, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Strive for originality.

Similarly, avoid using clichés, which take away from the strength and sincerity of your work. Don't speak in platitudes about how the struggle for gay and lesbian rights has affected you… unless it actually has!

#3: Check Your Work

It should almost go without saying, but you want to make sure your Duke essays are the strongest example of your work possible. Before you turn in your Duke application, make sure to edit and proofread your essays.

Your work should be free of spelling and grammar errors. Make sure to run your essays through a spelling and grammar check before you submit.

It's a good idea to have someone else read your Duke essays, too. You can seek a second opinion on your work from a parent, teacher, or friend. Ask them whether your work represents you as a student and person. Have them check and make sure you haven't missed any small writing errors. Having a second opinion will help your work be the best it possibly can be.

That being said, make sure you don't rely on them for ideas or rewrites. Your essays need to be your work.

#4: Only Answer What You're Comfortable With

Remember, Duke's optional essays are just that—optional. It can be tempting to respond to everything on the application and if you have an important story to tell, you definitely should.

However, if you have nothing to say, don't feel like you need to make something up. You're better off answering less, honestly, then you are answering more, dishonestly.

What's Next?

Have you taken the ACT or SAT yet? Not sure which one you'll do best on? Read our guide to choose the test that's right for you .

If you've taken the SAT and want to improve your score, check out our guides to improving your Reading , Writing , and Math scores.

Not sure what you want to major in? Don't worry! With our advice, you'll figure out what you should study as an undergrad.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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How To Write The Duke Supplemental Essays

student writing duke university supplemental essays

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/16/23

Follow along to learn everything you need about the Duke University essays, including prompts, tips, and examples. 

If you are on this page, you are probably doing some college research and may have Duke University on your list. With an acceptance rate of 5.1%, Duke University is one of the most competitive schools in the U.S.

Writing compelling essays is one of the most crucial parts of your Duke application. You may feel pressured to be as perfect as possible, but the good news is we’re here to help. If you’re struggling with your Duke application, look at our definitive guide on how to get into Duke and read on for info on the all-important secondary essays.

Here, we break down each supplemental essay question, give you tips on how to write them, and share examples of excellent essays. By the end of this article, you'll know how to write the Duke supplemental essays.

Let's get started!

Duke University Supplemental Essay Prompts 2023-2024

In addition to the long personal essay on the Common Application or the Coalition Application, Duke has six supplemental essay prompts, and five are optional questions in which a maximum of two can be selected. The following prompts can be found on the Duke admissions page .

“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.” 
“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. (Optional)”
“Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating. (Optional)”
“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? (Optional)”
“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. (Optional)”
“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. (Optional)”

All of these supplemental essay prompts have a 250-word limit. Make sure you choose the essay prompts you know you can answer well! 

How to Write Each Essay Prompt For Duke University

Here, we’ll cover how to write each essay prompt for Duke University. 

How to Write Duke University Supplemental Essay #1 + Analysis and Tips

Duke University prompt #1 :

“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.)” 

Analysis of prompt #1 : This essay prompt is your classic “Why do you want to go here?” question. Admissions want to see if you’re truly interested in what Duke offers. This includes specific programs, research opportunities, or extracurriculars. 

Duke is a very popular university with thousands of applicants each year. What can this school offer you, and how can it help you reach your goals? 

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Tip #1: Make it Personal :  You should make your essay as personal as possible. Share your interests and academic and career goals. Make sure to tie those into Duke’s mission and how you’d be a great addition to the school’s community. Be sure to add anecdotes as well. 
  • Tip #2: Avoid Mentioning Elements Beyond the School's Control : such as the school's location, climate, or city. This information does not provide specific insights into what makes Duke unique. Remember, the prompt asks you about Duke specifically and why you’d like to attend the school. 
  • Tip #3: Be Specific : Mention some specific things that Duke offers, such as a particular program or research opportunity. It’s always best to focus on a couple of things the school offers rather than adding a long list. 

How to Write Duke University Supplemental Essay #2 + Analysis and Tips

Analysis of prompts #2, 5, and 6 : Essay prompts two, five, and six are all considered diversity essays and are open-ended questions. These essay prompts help Duke learn more about you and your lived experiences. Duke University values diversity and believes it makes its community better. 

These prompts are an opportunity to share anything that makes you different, such as:

  • Socioeconomic class
  • Disabilities
  • Gender Identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Interests/hobbies
  • And anything else that makes you different!

Share what being a part of these communities means to you, how it has affected you, or what it can bring to the Duke University community. 

Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Tip #1: Reflect on Your Background : Discuss aspects of your background, such as cultural heritage, family dynamics, or personal challenges, that have shaped your identity. Don’t list a bunch of things that make you different. Stick to one and focus on it. 
  • Tip #2: Share Personal Stories : Provide specific examples or anecdotes illustrating your differences. Personal stories can make your response more engaging and help the admissions committee understand your experiences more deeply.
  • Tip #3: Show Resilience : If you've faced challenges related to your unique life experiences, discuss how you've navigated them with resilience. This could include overcoming adversity, advocating for change, or finding support networks.

How to Write Duke University Supplemental Essay #3 + Analysis and Tips

Duke University prompt #3 : ‍

“Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating. (250 word limit.)” 

Analysis of prompt #3 : Duke is interested in learning about your intellectual pursuits and your approach to the learning process. You have the flexibility to explore various aspects, such as a specific class that ignited your curiosity, an independent research project you started, or an experiment you conducted in a science course, among other possibilities.

  • Tip #1: Choose One Genuine Experience : Select an intellectual experience that fascinates you. This could be an academic project, a research opportunity, a challenging course, or any other intellectual endeavor that left a lasting impression. 
  • Tip #2: Express Your Passion : Convey your passion for the subject matter. Describe why this particular experience captured your interest and why it was so compelling. Use descriptive language to express the depth of your fascination.
  • Tip #3: Share Any Challenges and Growth : Share any challenges or obstacles you may have faced during this intellectual journey. Emphasize how you overcame difficulties and highlight the personal and intellectual growth that resulted from the experience.

How to Write Duke University Supplemental Essay #4 + Analysis and Tips

Duke University prompt #4 :

“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? (250 word limit.)” 

Analysis of prompt #4 : This prompt focuses on your internal beliefs and values. The core of your essay should involve revealing one of your significant values to the admissions committee. Be careful not to get too political. Instead, talk about a role model or someone who inspires you and why.

  • Tip #1: Choose a Role Model :  Choose a role model or someone who inspires you. You can talk about a time your role model let you down, or you had a differing opinion, but be sure to focus on what you learned from that experience.
  • Tip #2: Pick Thoughtful Examples : Choose examples that reflect substantial beliefs or values in your life. These could be related to ethics, morality, societal issues, or personal principles. Select instances that are meaningful and can provide insight into your character.
  • Tip #3: Highlight Learning Moments : Emphasize what you have learned from agreements and disagreements. Discuss how they have contributed to your personal growth, expanded your understanding, or solidified your convictions.

Examples of Duke University Supplemental Essays That Worked

Below, you’ll find some Duke University supplemental essays written by successful applicants who were admitted to the school! Let’s look at each one and discuss what worked about it.

Sample Essay #1

Prompt : “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.” 

“At Duke I was equally entranced by the articulate movements of 3D printers in the Co-Lab and the stunning Gothic architecture. Instead of forming a dichotomy, these aspects of Duke blended to symbolize its emphasis on interdisciplinary education, which will offer me a nuanced perspective of the world integral to becoming a leader in engineering…”

Why Essay #1 Worked

In this excerpt from a “why Duke” essay example, the student answers the prompt with specific aspects of Duke University. They relate the Co-Lab and Duke’s Gothic architecture with their interests in engineering, and they explain why these things are a good match for them. 

Sample Essay #2

Prompt : “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.”

“The pitter patter of droplets, the sweet smell that permeates throughout the air, the dark gray clouds that fill the sky, shielding me from the otherwise intense gaze of the sun, create a landscape unparalleled by any natural beauty. I have gazed upon the towering cliffs of Yosemite, stood next to Niagara falls as the water roars, succumbing to the power of gravity, and seen the beaches of Mexico basked in moonlight, yet none of these wonders compares to the simple beauty of an Arizona rainstorm. To me, our rain represents more than humidity and darkness; its rarity gives it beauty. The uncertainty of when the next day of rain will come compels me to slow down, and enjoy the moment.
Out of the three realms of time; past, present, and future, the present is the only one we can experience, and I take advantage of every moment I have. When I pause my running to enjoy a sunset that dazzles the sky with brilliant colors of purple and orange, when I touch my brush to a canvas and focus on my movements in the present, when I drive home after a long day of improving our robot, and decide to drive around my neighborhood to finish “Garota de Ipanema”, which just popped up from my playlist of 700 songs, I am taking advantage of the moment.
So next time it rains, step outside. Close your eyes. Hear the symphony of millions of water droplets. And enjoy the moment.”

Why Essay #2 Worked

This essay tells a great story about the student’s unique perspective observing a seemingly mundane event in their community. They use specific and compelling language to capture the reader’s attention. They show us a few of their interests rather than simply telling us they like to paint, build robots, and listen to music. 

Sample Essay #3

Prompt : “Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating.”

“Embarrassment’s red glow covering my face matched the red ink circling the “44” grade atop my AP Biology exam on Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration. I was devastated that day in Room 46.
Until then, Room 46 had been my magic school bus where we spent our time wandering wide-eyed through the world of science: dissecting pigs, testing our own DNA for the Alu insertion, and sharing community-creating laughs along the way. But receiving that “44” jarred me into feeling I didn’t belong there anymore. 
However, after meeting with my guidance counselor, contemplating dropping the class, and countless extra help sessions with my biology teacher, I realized my magic school bus journey wasn’t over yet, as I gradually concluded that my commitment to Room 46 was stronger than one bad test grade, that I was stronger than one bad test grade.
The journey was tricky and undoubtedly riddled with discouraging moments, but by applying myself and being resourceful, I made my “44” an isolated outlier before it was dropped from the gradebook entirely by semester’s end as my lowest grade. While my success can be quantified, it’s nonetheless my memory of Room 46 that’s continuously inspired me to transcend my limits and take on challenges even in areas of weakness (i.e. AP Bio). I consider this my best academic experience because it showed me what happens when you push past failure - success! - as I ended up getting an A in the class and a 5 on the AP test!”

Why Essay #3 Worked

This essay perfectly illustrates an intellectual journey the applicant had gone through that they persevered through. Initially, the applicant felt discouraged by their academic performance; however, they overcame it and learned through the experience and improved their grade tremendously. 

Get More Sample Essays Here!

Looking at examples of successful supplemental essays is a great way to discover strategies that work well. Use our extensive college essay database below to find many more samples!

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions concerning Duke essays.

1. How to Write Duke Supplemental Essays?

When writing the Duke secondaries, choose prompts that lend themselves to your story as an applicant. Your chosen prompts should allow you to talk about important lessons you’ve learned and how you’ve grown. 

The only required essay is the “why Duke” essay, which you should do plenty of research for before you start writing. Understanding and conveying why Duke would be an excellent fit for you is crucial based on your unique interests, passions, and values. 

2. What Makes a Good “Why Duke” Essay?

The trick to writing an excellent “why Duke” essay is doing plenty of research. You should learn everything the school offers, including clubs, programs, extracurriculars, awards, and history. Your essay should demonstrate how Duke is a uniquely perfect school for you and highlight what parts of Duke excite you. 

3. How Should I Start Writing My Supplemental Essays?

One of the best ways to start writing is to brainstorm and reflect. Have all your ideas written down on a page so you can pick the ones you think are the best. Do your research on Duke. By the time you start drafting, you should know what direction you want to take your essay and how to end it .

4. What If I Cannot Think of Anything to Write About In My Essays?

If you cannot think of anything to write about in an optional essay, it might be a good sign that you should leave it blank. If you have ideas but are stuck, try taking a break from brainstorming. 

Ask thoughtful questions and answer truthfully to get inspired. Try not to worry too much. Writing a 250-word essay is probably not the most challenging task you have ever done. 

5. How Long Is the Why Duke Essay?

Duke University’s supplemental essays are 250 words or less long, including the “why Duke” essay. 

6. Are Duke Optional Essays Optional?

Yes, the Duke optional essays are optional. Duke University has one required essay prompt that asks you to explain why you want to attend Duke. The other five essays are all optional. You can write a maximum of two essays in response to two or none of the four prompts. 

Final Thoughts

The Duke essays ask you to hone in on your academic interests, tell a story about your diverse experiences, and reflect on your sexual and gender identities. You should start researching and planning your essay as soon as possible, giving yourself enough time to develop your ideas. 

Use your authentic voice when you write these essays. The admissions committee has read enough about what other people have to say about you, and they want to know the person behind the printed name, transcripts, and score reports. 

Do not be afraid to be vulnerable in your essays. Be mindful of your spelling and grammar, and write about things that are important to you. Make your passion clear to your readers, and you will leave a lasting impression on them. 

Access 190+ sample college essays here

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Analyzing the Duke Supplemental Essays 2022-2023

Padya Paramita

October 4, 2022

duke essays 2023

Duke continues to rock the admissions world with its continually declining acceptance rate. Its current admit rate of 6% makes it one of the most competitive schools in the country. And the admissions selection process is only getting tougher in Durham, North Carolina. If you’re planning to apply to this top ten university, stellar grades and test scores won’t be enough. You will need to convince admissions officers that you’ve done your research and know without a doubt that you’re a good fit. It’s time to put your all into the Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023 to show why you’re worth admitting over the competition. 

Upon reading your essays, admissions officers want to learn more about your intellectual pursuits and the communities that matter to you. Duke proudly boasts a diverse campus and looks for students who will take advantage of the school’s resources “intelligently, creatively, and enthusiastically.” Your essays must reflect how you plan to do so. To guide you through the Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023 , I’ve outlined the prompts, the do’s and don’ts of answering them, and tips to help you stand out in the tough application pool.

Required Questions

Please share with us why you consider Duke a good match for you.  Is there something in particular about Duke’s academic or other offerings that attract you?  (200 words maximum)

Since Duke has become one of the most selective schools with increasing momentum, it’s going to take a lot more than saying you like all of its features, or that you really want to attend one of the North Carolina Research Triangle schools in order to impress the admissions officers. Since you don’t have a lot of available words, you have to be as specific as possible when writing the Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023 . 

It would be wise to keep the focus on your prospective major and talk about how and why you’re a good fit for the program. Do the necessary research to learn about specific courses within the major that align with your unique goals, talk about Duke facilities that can help you reach them, and find ways to connect your passion for your subject with Duke’s expertise in the field. The limit of 200 words might just allow enough space to discuss an extracurricular interest alongside your academic goals, so mention a student organization relevant to the theme of your application. This helps you touch upon the “other offerings that attract you” aspect of the question.

Because this is really a “Why Duke” question, while you can briefly refer to activities you’ve done in high school, you should keep your main focus on all the things you love about Duke and pack in as many details as you can within your concise essay. 

Optional Questions

Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had that would help us understand you better, perhaps a community you belong to or your family or cultural background, we encourage you to do so here. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 words maximum)

This question among the Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023 wants to gauge how you would add to the diversity of Duke’s campus. Remember, the word “diversity” doesn’t only include factors that are out of your control such as race or ethnicity. If you want to talk about your cultural or religious community—since your familial background is one of the topics that Duke has primarily encouraged—that’s great! But if you believe it wouldn’t make you stand out, think about a community that you’ve found thanks to an extracurricular activity or work experience. No matter what community you choose, you shouldn’t dedicate all of your words to your explanation of the premise. This essay should be about you —think about how your perspective has been shaped by the community and vice versa. How would you be different had this community not existed? 

Make sure you haven’t elaborated on this part of your profile elsewhere in your application. This essay is a great way of providing more context on something meaningful that admissions officers wouldn’t easily be able to guess. Even though this is optional, the vast majority of applicants will answer this prompt because it’s flexible, and you should too.

Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you would like to share with us more about your identity, you can do so here, or use any previous essay prompt you feel is appropriate. (250 words maximum)

Duke wants to make sure they’re admitting students who bring a variety of perspectives and part of that is ensuring that they provide a chance for LGBTQIA+ students to share their experiences. If you feel comfortable talking about your journey—do so. You could write a powerful essay highlighting how your sexuality or gender identity plays a role in your interests and goals or who you are as a member of your community 

Instead of general statements about identity, provide anecdotes on the ways it has changed your perspective and impact on others. How has your outlook changed since you realized you’re not straight or cisgender? Has it affected your extracurricular choices or career aspirations? Have you found community through this identity? Remember that this essay is optional, so if you’re uncomfortable talking about your identity, you don’t have to write this essay. And if you’re not LGBTQIA+, you absolutely should NOT write this essay.

Additional Tips for the Duke Supplemental Essays 2022-2023

  • Emphasize What You Can Bring to the Duke Community - Since Duke admissions officers already know what makes the school great, the supplemental prompts are geared to understand how you would uniquely contribute to the Duke community. When you sit down to brainstorm your Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023 , make sure you think about how you can add to the multicultural flair that Duke prides itself on.
  • Include Duke Specifics - It can be very easy to get carried away when talking about yourself. Yes, it’s your supplemental essays, but you don’t want to write a response that could be used for any school. So it’s important that you keep in mind the research you’ve done on Duke. Try to talk about how you and your perspective would thrive at Duke’s welcoming campus? If there is a pre-existing student organization at Duke that includes people with similar backgrounds—or you would like to start one—include that in your essay as well.
  • Use the Word Limit Wisely - While 200-250 isn’t the most restrictive word limit range in the world, it’s not extremely generous either. When writing your Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023, prioritize the content necessary to get your narrative across, and cut any unnecessary statements. Each sentence should provide new information that makes you memorable in the reader’s mind. If you go over the limit—or start repeating your personal statement —it’s time to make cuts and keep what’s new and relevant.

While Duke University is by no means easy to get into, the Duke supplemental essays 2022-2023 provide a great chance to convince admissions officers that you’ve done your research and are a perfect fit. So take advantage of this opportunity and brainstorm essays that not only highlight your experiences but also convey your commitment to Duke’s academic programs and passionate community. You’ve got this!

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6 Duke Supplemental Essays That Worked for 2023

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Getting into Duke University is difficult in 2023. But you make sure you have your best chances by writing great supplemental essays.

In this article, I've gathered 6 essays from admitted Duke students so you can get inspired.

What is Duke University's Acceptance Rate?

Duke University has highly competitive admissions, and this past year over 45,000 students applied to Duke. Duke had an overall acceptance rate of 4.8%.

Duke University Acceptance Scattergram

If Duke is your top choice school, then consider applying Early Decision. For the Class of 2026, the acceptance rate for ED admissions was 21.3%!

Regardless of if you apply regular or early, admissions to Duke is competitive. But that only means writing stellar essays matters even more.

What are the Duke University Supplemental Prompts for 2022-23?

This year Duke asks applicants to write one required essay of 200 words and two optional essays of 250 words each.

Here are the 2022-23 Duke writing supplement prompts:

  • Please share with us why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something in particular about Duke’s academic or other offerings that attracts you? (200 word limit)

We want to emphasize that the following questions are optional. Feel free to answer them if you feel that doing so will add something meaningful that is not already expressed elsewhere in your application. If you have already addressed either or both of these questions in your application, please don’t worry about leaving them blank. We appreciate how much time it takes to fill out this and your other college applications.

  • Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you'd like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you've had that would help us understand you better, perhaps a community you belong to or your family or cultural background, we encourage you to do so here. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 word limit)

Duke University Nondiscrimination Statement

  • Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you would like to share with us more about your identity in these areas, you can do so here or, if you feel you have adequately represented your gender and sexual orientation in other parts of your application, feel free to not respond to this prompt. (250 words maximum)

If you're serious about getting into Duke, you should definitely answer the second optional prompt.

Because everybody has a unique background, and this prompt is another opportunity to show admissions officers why you deserve admission.

6 Duke University EssaysThatWorked

Here are 6 of the best Duke essays that worked that respond to the writing supplement.

I've also included an example of a Common App personal statement essay from an admitted Duke student.

Let's get started and inspired writing great admissions essays like these.

  • Duke University Essay Example #1
  • Duke University Essay Example #2
  • Duke University Essay Example #3
  • Duke University Essay Example #4
  • Duke University Essay Example #5
  • Duke University Essay Example #6

#1. Duke "Diversity" Essay Example

Prompt: Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you'd like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you've had that would help us understand you better, perhaps a community you belong to or your family or cultural background, we encourage you to do so here. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 words max)

The pitter patter of droplets, the sweet smell that permeates throughout the air, the dark grey clouds that fill the sky, shielding me from the otherwise intense gaze of the sun, create a landscape unparalleled by any natural beauty. I have gazed upon the towering cliffs of Yosemite, stood next to Niagara falls as the water roars, succumbing to the power of gravity, and seen the beaches of Mexico basked in moonlight, yet none of these wonders compares to the simple beauty of an Arizona rainstorm. To me, our rain represents more than humidity and darkness; its rarity gives it beauty. The uncertainty of when the next day of rain will come compels me to slow down, and enjoy the moment.

Out of the three realms of time; past, present, and future, the present is the only one we can experience, and I take advantage of every moment I have. When I pause my running to enjoy a sunset that dazzles the sky with brilliant colors of purple and orange, when I touch my brush to a canvas and focus on my movements in the present, when I drive home after a long day of improving our robot, and decide to drive around my neighborhood to finish “Garota de Ipanema”, which just popped up from my playlist of 700 songs, I am taking advantage of the moment.

So next time it rains, step outside. Close your eyes. Hear the symphony of millions of water droplets. And enjoy the moment.

#2. Duke "Diversity" Essay Example

Prompt: 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. (250 words max)

Ever since I can remember, the comforting lullabies my mother sang to me planted a deep seed in my mind. In my dreams, I began a journey for my identity to discover the hidden stories within those songs. Perhaps that's what led me to explore Hindustani music. "Sa-re-ga" encodes my ancestors' songs just like "do-re-mi." With this solfege, I began exploring a vocal part of my culture, collecting the keys to my identity.

Each song I learned further educated me about myths and legends that helped form who I am today.

When I face adversity in male-dominated activities, I remember Sita, who fought heroically in revolutionary conflicts hundreds of years ago. This has empowered me to believe in my talents and goals, whether I am doing research or organizing a STEM fair in my community. The character Arjuna, who became one of the best archers, taught me perseverance and a desire to learn from others. When chosen to fly to Denmark to play badminton with local clubs, I embraced this experience to play among outstanding competitors and to enhance my competitive abilities. As an Asian American, I am reminded by the Indian National Anthem that I am an American and an Indian.

I plan to bring my music and stories with me to college. The keyboard in my Duke dorm will ring with strong Hindustani notes. I hope to share with my dorm mates and friends the history of those heroes and the strength I gleam from them every day.

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#3. Duke "Why Engineering" Essay Example

Prompt: If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as a first-year applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke. (150 words max)

At Duke I was equally entranced by the articulate movements of 3D printers in the Co-Lab and the stunning Gothic architecture. Instead of forming a dichotomy, these aspects of Duke blended to symbolize its emphasis on interdisciplinary education, which will offer me a nuanced perspective of the world integral to becoming a leader in engineering.

I will join the Academy for Model Aeronautics and share my passion for designing drones, while taking fascinating courses such as “Taboo Markets” and “Banality of Evil”, while simultaneously working on an engineering project that improves real people’s lives in “Engineering Design”. By joining the Duke Robotics Club, I can expand upon my love for robotics, and I hope to write for the Duke Engineering magazine, as well as join the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. By drawing from this diverse range of educational experiences, I can become a leader in creating a better future.

#4. Duke Personal Statement Example: "Forest of Lights"

Common App Prompt #7: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. (250-650 words)

The diamond leaves of gnarled oak trees throw spectrums of color onto mounds of frosty snow that gleam melancholily under the moonlight. The leaves chime as wind violently rustles them in a haunting melody. I splinter a leaf off its branch and inspect the shard of my illusion, eyes dancing with amusement.

As I dwell in my worries, a cold hand reaches from behind me and taps my shoulder.

I jerk away, fear bubbling in my amygdala as I look into the nonexistent eyes of my intruding visitor.

The moon illuminates a blob of pink squish as it draws back slowly, points its spindly hands towards my drink and asks: “Could I have some of that?”

The blob wipes its invisible mouth with its nonexistent sleeve. I ask: “What are you?”

The blob tells me to stop looking at it so suspiciously. “I can prove it,” It says. I tell it, please, go ahead.

Suddenly we are back in the glowing forest. “Diamonds? Pah!” The blob dismisses them. Instantly, the leaves turn solid gold, the snow melts, and the wintry world is thrown into a blistering summer.

The blob laughs heartlessly. “Your cortex is under my control,” it says smugly.

“I heard you had a question for me?” It taps its invisible ears knowingly.

The blob wriggles its invisible brows as it waits.

It smiles that wicked smile. It laughs that sinful laugh. Then that insufferable blob wakes me up.

As I sit up in the dark and rub my bleary eyes, I am vaguely aware of the deep­set unfulfillment settling itself inside me. I yawn and plop back into bed, the soft red glow of my alarm clock indicating that it is still before midnight.

Why This Essay Works:

One thing is for sure about this essay: it has a unique idea that has surely not been written before. Regardless of your topic, you want your essay to be unique in some way, even if it isn't as fantastical as this essay. You can use a unique structure, such as having central symbolism, metaphor, or being structured as a recipe, for example. But this can easily become "gimmicky" if it doesn't have a clear purpose. In general, the most effective way to have a unique essay is to focus on having deep and unique ideas and reflections. By focusing on interesting takeaways and connections that are ultra-specific to you and your experiences, your essay will standout regardless of the structure.

What They Might Improve:

This essay uses a lot of fiction-like writing that is fantastical and "flowery." Although moments of this kind of writing can make your essay more vivid, it is quite easy to end up with dense storytelling and descriptions that ultimately don't share anything interesting about you. The purpose of your essay is ultimately to learn about you: your values, your ideas, your identity, etc. By using dense story-like writing, it can be easy to lose focus of what admissions officers are looking for. In general, avoid writing "fancy" stories like this essay, unless you have a clear and distinct purpose for doing so. Everything in your essay should have a purpose in "going somewhere" (i.e. reaching interesting ideas and takeaways).

This essay is definitely creative, but lacks meaningful takeaways and ideas. By the end of the essay, we don't know much about the author besides the fact that they have an affinity for creative writing and are "on a search." Although the content is unique, the end result comes off as quite generic and surface-level because no interesting thoughts are explored deeply. The most interesting part of this essay is "I open my mouth and ask it my most crucial question," but this is super unsatisfying because the question is never divulged. Instead, the reader is teased by this fantasy story and the essay goes nowhere meaningful, which comes off as gimmicky and "creative for creative's sake," rather than deeply personal and interesting.

This essay ends on the idea of "continuing my search," but for what exactly? It is never explained, elaborated, or even implied (besides one reference to painting earlier). That makes this conclusion comes off as somewhat surface-level and uninteresting. Admissions officers won't care about "your search" unless they have a reason to care. That is, unless it tells something specific about you. On it's own, this idea of "exploring" and "searching" is meaningless because it is too broad and unelaborated.

#5. Duke Personal Statement Example: "Shadow-Box Stick Art"

Common App Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. (250-650 words)

This essay shows a strong thinking ability because the author shows how they view the world differently than others. Specifically, the author is able to see something as mundane as fallen branches as an opportunity to create artwork. Showing how you view things differently is a great way to demonstrate your unique perspective. Another strategy is to think deeply about things that are often easily overlooked or things that are mundane on the surface. Everything can be reflected upon deeply, and doing so shows a strong thinking ability and level of thoughtfulness. Ask yourself: what do you see differently than others around you? What do you find fun that others find "hard"? What do you find fascinating that others find "boring"? What is something mundane in your life that you do, and what's the greater meaning behind it?

This essay uses a lot of narrative writing—that is, recounting of a specific story and moment. While most essays use storytelling, what most applicants get wrong is they describe unimportant details to the story. Don't write like a fiction book and describe everything in the scene, like what others were wearing, what people looked like, what the environment was, each small action that took place. This is a common mistake that students make in trying to write compelling stories, but it ends up with a lot of unnecessary details. This author shows how a story can still take up a lot of the essay, while also including interesting reflections throughout the story and making it purposeful by only including details that move the story forward.

This essay has a somewhat unexpected conclusion where the author connects to their significant accomplishment of starting and running a charity. Even though this is such a large and meaningful activity, the author chose to only write about it when it came in naturally and not make it the whole focus of the essay. Counterintuitively, by de-emphasizing your biggest accomplishments, they will seem more impactful and you will seem more ambitious. This is because students often try to showcase their achievements and make them the focal point, but instead if you have the attitude of, "Yeah, this is what I did, but really it is nothing in comparison to what I'm going to do" it makes your accomplishments even more impactful. You don't want to be nonchalant, but you do want to make your accomplishments small in comparison to your future goals and achievements, which will show both humility and ambition.

This essay is almost 100 words less than what is given. In general, you should try and make your essays as close to the word limit as possible. Why? Because you should have a lot to say and it should be a challenge to fit it all into your essay, not the other way around. Especially for personal statement essays, its almost always better to use most of the words. Being within 10-20 words of the limit is usually the target. In this essay, they could include further meaningful details that make their essay more vivid. They could describe what their "stick art" actually looks like, because it is hard for the reader to imagine since it is an obscure type of artwork. They could reflect on the impact of their charity: how many people did it help so far? What are their goals for the future of it? What have been challenges with it? Don't add words just to add words, however. As with everything, each sentence should be meaningful and have a clear purpose, but this essay could definitely use more words.

#6. Duke Personal Statement Example: "Kiki's Delivery Service"

Common App Prompt #6: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? (250-650 words)

I spent much of my childhood watching movies. I became absolutely engrossed in many different films, TV shows, and animations. From the movie theatres to the TV, I spent my hours enjoying the beauty of visual media. One place that was special to me was the car. My parents purchased a special screen that could be mounted on the back of the headrest, so that I could watch movies on trips. This benefited both parties, as I was occupied, and they had peace. Looking back, I realize this screen played a crucial role in my childhood. It was an integral part of many journeys. I remember taking a drive to Washington D.C, with my visiting relatives from Poland, and spending my time with my eyes on the screen. I remember packing up my possessions and moving to my current home from Queens, watching my cartoons the whole time. I can comfortably say that watching movies in the car has been an familiar anchor during times of change in my life.

I used to watch many different cartoons, nature documentaries, and other products in the car, yet there has been one movie that I have rewatched constantly. It is called “Kiki’s Delivery Service” by Hayao Miyazaki. My parents picked it up at a garage sale one day, and I fell in love. The style of the animations were beautiful, and the captivating story of a thirteen year old witch leaving home really appealed to me. To be honest, the initial times I watched it, I didn’t fully understand the story but the magic and beauty just made me happy. Then, the more I watched it, I began to see that it was more about independence, including the need to get away from home and establish yourself as your own person. This mirrors how I felt during that period of my life,with mehaving a little rebellious streak; I didn’t agree with my parents on certain topics. That is not the end of the story though. As the years passed, and I watched it a couple more times, although with less frequency than before, my view of this movie evolved yet again.

Instead of solely thinking about the need for independence, I began to think the movie was more about the balance of independence and reliance. In the movie, the girl finds herself struggling until she begins to accept help from others. Looking back, this also follows my own philosophy during this time. As I began to mature, I began to realize the value of family, and accept all the help I can get from them. I appreciate all the hard work they had done for me, and I recognize their experience in life and take advantage of it. I passed through my rebellious phase, and this reflected in my analysis of the movie. I believe that this is common, and if I look through the rest of my life I am sure I would find other similar examples of my thoughts evolving based on the stage in my life. This movie is one of the most important to me throughout my life.

What Can You Learn From These Duke Essays?

If you're trying to get into Duke, writing great essays is one of your best ways at standing out. These 6 Duke essays that worked are successful examples of essays admitted into Duke so that you can get inspired and improve your own essays.

What did you think of these Duke essays?

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Princeton Admitted Essay

People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is... uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable...

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Her baking is not confined to an amalgamation of sugar, butter, and flour. It's an outstretched hand, an open invitation, a makeshift bridge thrown across the divides of age and culture. Thanks to Buni, the reason I bake has evolved. What started as stress relief is now a lifeline to my heritage, a language that allows me to communicate with my family in ways my tongue cannot. By rolling dough for saratele and crushing walnuts for cornulete, my baking speaks more fluently to my Romanian heritage than my broken Romanian ever could....

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A cow gave birth and I watched. Staring from the window of our stopped car, I experienced two beginnings that day: the small bovine life and my future. Both emerged when I was only 10 years old and cruising along the twisting roads of rural Maryland...

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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Duke Supplemental Essay Prompts

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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 Duke Supplemental Essay Prompts

When applying to a school as selective as Duke University with a 6% acceptance rate, the supplemental essay portion is key to making your mark. There is sure to be a sea of stellar applicants with impressive transcripts and extensive extracurricular involvement. Standing out on the Duke supplemental essays relies on telling your story in a compelling way. 

It is helpful to break each prompt into pieces and identify the points you hope to address. Proper planning helps keep your responses clear, concise, and example-driven. Below, we give you more tips on how to tackle each prompt. We also provide thought starters for incorporating anecdotes from your own experiences.  

Also see: How to choose a college

Required Essay

“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)”.

For this essay, it will be important for you to do a little bit of research about Duke as a school and a community, and to make a list of the things that you like the most. Then, make a list of the things that you are looking for in a school unrelated to Duke. Look at both lists together, and make the connection between the two. 

A 250 word limit is the perfect number of words for this type of question. This would be a good question to dive into specific things that draw you into Duke University– mentioning things that you are looking for in a school that maybe only Duke has.  

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Questions to consider: 

  • What professors are you looking forward to working with?
  • What research opportunities does Duke offer that you are interested in?
  • What draws you in about the community at Duke?

Optional Essays

Although these essays are optional, we always encourage students to write them anyway so that the university is able to see who you are at a deeper level. If you have the same academic statistics as another student and the admissions professionals are trying to decide between the two of you, it could come down to the essays and which student they know more about. Help them get to know you better!

Each of these essays should be a maximum of 250 words, and there is no minimum. However, it would be a good idea to write at least 150 words so that the admissions committee has enough writing to get to know you. You may choose to write a maximum of two prompts to write essays for.

“ 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 is a question that you may be asked quite a bit on college supplemental essay prompts, just worded in different ways. Think about an experience that you did not write about on your application that makes you unique compared to other applicants. They are looking for something personal, honest, and open, so take a deep look into your life to see if there is anything that you feel comfortable sharing with them. 

Once you have figured out what experience you want to share, it may help to free write in a stream-of-consciousness type of way to help you get your thoughts flowing. After that, you can always go back and edit for length and clarity. If you don’t feel comfortable writing about a personal experience, that is okay! That is one of the reasons why this prompt is optional. 

Questions to consider:

  • What type of person do you consider yourself to be?
  • What experiences have shaped you?
  • How have you been influenced by the experiences in your life?

Also see: How to respond to the Common App essay prompts

“Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating.”

This is another one of those questions where you want to look deeper than the surface. It is important to not just re-word what you already wrote on your application or what your transcript already revealed. It also may be helpful to think about something more than just the classes that you took. Did you go on a field trip that made you passionate about what you wanted to study after high school? Maybe you had a career fair at school that shifted your mind academically. These are all great things to think about before you start writing this essay.

This type of essay tells the admissions professionals a great deal about who you are as a student, so this would be an important essay to write if you had to pick one of the optional ones. 

  • What was your favorite class in high school?
  • What about that class made it special?
  • Did you have a specific teacher that made you decide what major you wanted to go into?

“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?”

In college, often the beliefs that you held as a child or in high school tend to develop or change completely. They are asking you this to get a feel for what kind of person you are, and more specifically, what kind of student or team-player you are. Generally, colleges and universities want to find students who are willing to test the beliefs of themselves and others so that they can see more than just one side of a situation, whether that be academically, socially, or personally. 

This is a difficult question to answer because it is sometimes hard to admit that our beliefs are sometimes wrong, or to admit that we disagree with people often. This is an important question because they want to see your response to the challenge.  

  • What is something that you and your friends often debate about?
  • Is there a topic that comes up at the dinner table a great deal that you end up having banter over?
  • What are you passionate about?

“ 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. ”

This prompt is great because it is generally something a regular college application cannot answer. This is the place where you can talk more about who you are as a person, what your personal identity is, and why that makes you you if you choose to do so. You can write as little as you’d like or go right up to the 250 word maximum– whatever makes you most comfortable.

  • What type of person do you identify as?
  • How has your culture shaped who you are?
  • How will you use who you are to shape your college experience?

“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.”

This is another great opportunity to talk about things that you wouldn’t otherwise get to talk about. Take some time to think about any aspects of your life that you may have ever felt “different” in. Remember too that “different” does not mean bad. What are some ways that you have felt your differences have been to your advantage? 

Related: How to write a 500 word essay

Key Takeaways

  • “Show don’t tell” as much as you can through short story examples 
  • Do not shy away from injecting your personality and voice into your responses
  • Think of what makes you truly distinctive and has formed the person you are today for prompt #1
  • Take some time to read through the optional essay prompts and try to respond to at least one
  • Remember, the more you can share about yourself, the more you can set yourself apart as an applicant

Additional supplemental essay guides

  • Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC)
  • Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

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Checklist and Deadlines

Application checklist and deadlines.

When evaluating applications to Duke, the admissions committee reviews several documents that make up each file. As a part of our holistic approach, we consider both your academic and personal interests, what you’ve accomplished, and your unique experiences, perspectives, and background.

Before you begin to prepare your application, review our application requirements .

The dates below represent the 2023-2024 admission cycle deadlines.

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Application Requirements

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What We Look For

Resources + Tools

Early Decision - November 1

  • Common Application  or Coalition Application made available
  • Application for Early Decision
  • Early Decision Agreement
  • High School Transcript
  • First Quarter Grades (submit via Optional Report; will accept through November 20 or when your first term ends)
  • Secondary School Report with Counselor Recommendation
  • Two Teacher Recommendations
  • SAT and/or ACT Scores (optional, last day to take standardized tests is November 6)
  • Arts Supplement (optional)
  • CSS Profile

November 15

  • Additional Financial Aid Documents (like your taxes)

Mid-December

  • Decisions released
  • Financial Aid: FAFSA due

Regular Decision - January 2

  • Common Application  or  Coalition Application made available
  • Application for Regular Decision
  • SAT and/or ACT Scores (optional, standardized tests must be taken by January 31)

February 15

  • Midyear Grade Report (or as soon as first marking period grades are available)

Late March/Early April

Transfer Students - March 15

  • Common Application  or  Coalition Application made available.
  • Application for transfer admission
  • College Transcript
  • School Report
  • Two Teacher Recommendations (At least one recommendation must be from a college instructor.)
  • SAT and/or ACT Scores (Optional, the latest date for the SAT Reasoning Test is December 2. Transfer applicants are not required to submit SAT Subject Tests.)
  • Decisions Released
  • Final College Transcript (upon completion of final college term)
  • Student Reply Date

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duke essays 2023

2 Strong Duke Essay Examples

With a very low acceptance rate, Duke is one of the most competitive U.S. colleges to get into. Alongside killer stats, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation, admissions officers are looking for engaging, concise, and thorough essays to put you over the top.

In this post, we’ll share a Duke essay written by a real student and analyze what it did well and where it could be improved. Hopefully, you can take away some insight that will help you write your Duke essays.

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Read our Duke essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts. 

Duke Pratt School of Engineering Essay Example – Why Engineering?

Prompt:   If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as a first year applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke (250 words).

One Christmas morning, when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set from my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science, I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering. Later, in a high school biology class, I learned that engineering didn’t only apply to circuits, but also to medical devices that could improve people’s quality of life. Biomedical engineering allows me to pursue my academic passions and help people at the same time.

Just as biology and engineering interact in biomedical engineering, I am fascinated by interdisciplinary research in my chosen career path. Duke offers unmatched resources, such as DUhatch and The Foundry, that will enrich my engineering education and help me practice creative problem-solving skills. The emphasis on entrepreneurship within these resources will also help me to make a helpful product. Duke’s Bass Connections program also interests me; I firmly believe that the most creative and necessary problem-solving comes by bringing people together from different backgrounds. Through this program, I can use my engineering education to solve complicated societal problems such as creating sustainable surgical tools for low-income countries. Along the way, I can learn alongside experts in the field. Duke’s openness and collaborative culture span across its academic disciplines, making Duke the best place for me to grow both as an engineer and as a social advocate.

What the Essay Did Well

A strength of this essay is how it grows in specificity as it progresses, and in college-essay-writing, specificity is key. In the first paragraph, there’s a smooth yet concise transition from a general childhood fascination with engineering to a more mature and specialized field of interest. We learn more and more about this student, almost in layers; first we learn they loved math and science, then engineering, and then biomedical engineering. In every sentence, each of this student’s personal qualities and traits builds off of the one before it, adding more dimension and nuance to their character.

In shifting from her past experiences to Duke’s academic offerings, this student uses their similarly interdisciplinary natures to connect the two. This penchant for smooth, concise transitions is an especially important asset when working with a sub-300 word limit. This applicant chose Duke-specific opportunities to discuss, giving no generic desires for “great professors,” a “top” program, or empty appeals to emotion (“The campus just felt like home!”)

The final sentence serves to nicely tie the essay up, re-affirming the student’s personal qualities and how they suit the student for Duke, personally and academically.

What Could Be Improved

This essay could be made stronger with some improvements to the second paragraph. When including Duke opportunities they want to take part in, this student tells us “ I am fascinated by ,” and it “ interests me ,” but this is fairly basic writing. The reader shouldn’t have to be told about your interest and excitement over something; it should jump off the page.

Rather than telling us they are fascinated by interdisciplinary research, they could write something like this: “ I’d take the thrill of finding connections between two seemingly unrelated topics, knee-deep in library archives, over the drop on the Kingda Ka rollercoaster.”  Notice how this sentence doesn’t explicitly say anything about how they find research fascinating, but by describing it as a more thrilling experience than a rollercoaster, the reader gets a strong visual of the student’s passion.

Another thing missing from this essay is the  why behind this student’s interest in helping others. They clearly flush out their motivation for pursuing engineering, but they never explain what draws them into being a social advocate. Throwing in how they want to “ improve people’s quality of life “, “ create sustainable  surgical tools for low-income countries “, and be a “ social advocate ” has little impact if we don’t understand the importance. A sentence or two that provides background on this student’s compassionate side and where it originated from or what it looks like in action would help bring more weight to their claims of becoming a social advocate.

Duke Essay Example – Why Duke?

In the last six years, my community has been disconnected from the national grid. The result? I watched my mother spend so much money on fuel and patronizing nearly every generator technician in town so we could access electricity. I developed the habit of going to my tutorial centers with my phone charger, hoping that by some streak of luck, the generator would be on. However, with Duke’s minor in Energy Engineering, all these could become things of the past. I especially look forward to courses like ENERGYER 310: INTRODUCTION TO ENERGY GENERATION and ENERGYER 490:RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES, which will equip me with the knowledge I need to design cheap and environmentally friendly energy systems.

Outside the classroom, I hope to contribute to Duke’s mission of supporting positive change worldwide by participating in some of Duke’s signature programs, especially the Duke engage gateway program. I am a big fan of math competitions and math in general. As a result, I worked with some of my friends in 2019 to set up a math enrichment organization for high schoolers. I plan to someday have the Duke engage program work with our organization to help provide STEM classes and encourage hand on design projects among Nigerian high school students. I look forward to the academically challenging classes, interactions with strangers, and all the other things that come with being a blue devil.

This essay, which is responding to a textbook example of the “Why This College?” prompt, does a nice job of clearly explaining this student’s motivation for pursuing the specific opportunities at Duke they mention. Because of the story at the beginning about what this student and their mother went through to access energy, the reader understands the personal connection this student has to energy engineering. That personal connection, coupled with the fact the student names specific energy engineering classes at Duke, proves that their interest in the subject is genuine.

The student’s discussion of the Duke engage program is also backed with a personal story that deepens the connection between their past experiences and the things they hope to accomplish at Duke. Rather than just saying they want to join the engage program because they like creating positive change, their description of creating a “math enrichment organization” in high school shows Duke admissions officers that they have already embodied that value of making the world a better place.

One way this essay could be improved would be to more empathetically drive home the theme of making the world a better place. Between this student’s passion for bringing energy solutions to their community and helping Nigerian students access STEM resources, they clearly have a genuine desire to be a force for positive change. Right now, however, the essay feels somewhat like two distinct anecdotes stuck together, rather than a cohesive story focusing on this aspect of their personality, with Duke-specific opportunities woven into that story.

Centering the essay on this quality would shift the focus from the programs at Duke, and how the student fits into them, to the student’s personality, and how Duke aligns with it. It might seem like a subtle difference, but the result would be an essay that both flows naturally and highlights the student’s admirable character.

How would the student go about making this change? The essay could start with a sentence that shows us their passion for helping others in general, rather than in the context of their local power grid of the math organization they cofounded. This line could be quite simple, for example: “ ‘To help others!’ That’s how I answered my mom every year when she asked what I wanted for my birthday. ” 

Then, the student could move into talking about the helplessness they felt not being able to fix the power grid, and how that feeling motivated them to pursue energy engineering. Their story would continue by transitioning into a discussion of how they hope to help people in a variety of ways, not just by improving their access to electricity. They could cite their math organization as an example of another way they’ve worked to make people’s lives better, and demonstrate their commitment to that organization by describing how they hope to grow it with the skills they learn from the Duke engage program.

This version of the essay, by centering on their personality from start to finish, would feel more cohesive, while still incorporating why the student wants to attend Duke specifically.

Where to Get Your Duke  Essays Edited

Do you want feedback on your Duke essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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Racial rage, racial guilt: the uses of anger in asian america, june 5, 2024.

Hien Ngo, AADS Student Worker

David Eng speaking to group of students and guests at AADS event

On April 11th, 2024, David Eng presented a talk titled “Racial Rage, Racial Guilt: The Uses of Anger in Asian America” at Duke University. David Eng is the Richard L. Fisher Professor of English and the Faculty Director of the Program in Asian American Studies at University of Pennsylvania. By examining the Netflix-series Beef , Eng boldly asked the audience to consider emotions (anger, ego, resentment, etc) as part of an Asian American structural position and itself as the energy necessary for social change. 

Beef follows the working class Korean-American handyman David and an affluent Chinese-American entrepreneur, Amy, as they embark on what Eng called, “a single-minded quest on who might wreak more havoc on the other.” 

Drawing on his interpretation of Beef and his experience working with Asian American patients in mental health facilities, Eng asked, “How can we trace the anger that results from such racialization as 1) part of the socialization/structural positions of Asian Americans and 2) as being informed by the “middle man” like position Chinese coolie laborers occupied in the Americas at the end of the institution of slavery.” 

“We all express rage, but [have] few outlets and few processes,” Eng stated at his talk. To illuminate the racialization in this rage, Eng put into conversation Steven Yeun’s New York Times Interview with Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism. ” 

In the interview, Yeun ponders about the Asian American experience that underscores Beef : “ It’s like when you’re thinking about everyone else, but nobody else is thinking about you,” Yeun says. In her essay, Lorde discusses how anger in response to racism figured in her life, “I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life. Once I did it in silence, afraid of the weight. My fear of anger taught me nothing.” 

Eng used Yeun’s quote to interrogate the supposed inscrutability of the Asian American figure, obscured by the dominant black/white paradigm of race. This stereotype of inscrutability produces non-cathartic expressions that lead to cognitive dissonance and psychic dissolution, as seen in Beef which ends in tragedy for both characters.  

With this invitation, Eng hoped “to chart new grounds about how rage can be transformed into a collective anger, not ignoring it or feeling upon it, but using it like Lorde.” 

Drawing upon his experience as a therapist for Asian American patients, Eng suggested how a collective healing process could begin. Therapists can get “beside” their patients, establishing a horizontal relationship built on trust, mutual care, and vulnerability. This new orientation can allow for the anger, the rage, the sadness, the despair to not only be felt but also shared collectively by the community. 

Just like the two characters in Beef overcome their own personal and interpersonal conflict through this trust – what Eng calls mind-melding and becoming each other – Asian Americans can heal together as a community by empathizing with each other. 

This collective care can help Asian Americans acknowledge, articulate, and get “beside” the racialized trauma they feel particularly as Asian Americans and in turn, transform the anger and the erotic into sources of power necessary for social change. 

“In so doing, [they] transmute self-destruction, converting it into an external will for social change,” Eng says, just like how Lorde concluded her iconic article “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism.” 

After the talk, attendees asked about Eng’s theoretical framework and how it can be applied to second-generation Asian Americans. Others asked how the real-life examples from Asian American mental health settings can translate to spaces in which Asian/Americans are intentionally centered, like student groups.  

Overall, the event was exciting, engaging, and interactive. Eng had professors act out Beef scenes, hilariously transforming the typically dry academic setting of the event to an informal, lively and communal discussion. “You all should stick to your day jobs,” Eng jabbed as professors/actors began/concluded their acting debut. 

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PREPARING FOR THE NEXT PANDEMIC

My aim in this essay is to argue for a better moral-conceptual framework and for institutional innovation in preparation for the next pandemic. My main conclusions are as follows. (1) The primary moral principle that should guide responses to the next pandemic is the duty to prevent and mitigate serious harms. (2) A proper understanding of the moral foundations and scope of the duty to prevent and mitigate serious harms requires rejecting both Extreme Nationalism and Extreme Cosmopolitanism. (3) A better response to the next pandemic requires transforming the moral landscape through institutional innovation by developing an international institution that can perfect indeterminate duties (i) by identifying duty-bearers, (ii) by specifying their duties to provide medical resources and other forms of aid, (iii) by allocating the specified duties to various public and private entities in such a way as to ensure effective coordination and that the costs of providing aid are fairly distributed, and (iv) by providing effective mechanisms for compliance with the specified duties. (4) Institutional innovation is morally required, regardless of whether the harm prevention and mitigation duties of the better-off are duties of justice or of beneficence, because without institutionalization, some duties of justice, including those requiring the prevention and mitigation of serious harms, suffer some of the same indeterminacies that are present in duties of beneficence.

Duke Scholars

Allen Edward Buchanan

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UW Acceptance Rate for the Class of 2028

UW Acceptance Rate for the Class of 2028

Class of 2028

Regular Decision

Get Accepted

The University of Washington (UW) has had another record-breaking year in terms of applicants, with about 69,080 applicants to the Class of 2028. UW’s acceptance rate for the Class of 2028 has not been released yet. The university is expected to extend admission offers to 7,000 students — 66% of whom are in-state residents.

UW Class of 2028 Acceptance Rate: Another Competitive Year

UW has not yet published the final admission results for Class of 2028, but they have reported that they’ve had another record-breaking year in terms of applicants.

During the 2023-2024 admissions cycle, UW received 69,080 applications — up from last year’s 67,483 applications. 

Since 2020, the number of first-year applications to UW has increased by 25,000 students or 57%. This consistent rise in application numbers is attributed to UW’s adoption of the one-step Common App  in 2023 and its removal of standardized test requirements in the application process. After joining the Common App system in 2023, UW saw a 20% increase in applications from the year before.

Out of the 69,080 applications it received this year, UW is expected to make offers to about 30,000 students, yielding an overall acceptance rate of about 43%. Of the students who are accepted, about 7,000 are expected to attend.

UW does not participate in early decision or early action. All admissions decisions were made during the “regular round.” Offers were made to students between March 1 and March 15, 2024.

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In-State vs. Out-of-State Acceptance Rate at UW

Given that UW is one of the most popular public universities in the country, it receives a sizeable amount of out-of-state applications. In general, out-of-state applicants tend to face stiffer competition than in-state applicants. UW’s out-of-state acceptance rate (46%) remains significantly lower than its in-state acceptance rate (54%) . In-state applicants are prioritized and read twice by two different staff members.

With that said, the out-of-state acceptance rate slightly increased from last year’s 12.1%, while the in-state acceptance rate decreased to 25.5%.

How Crimson Can Help You Stand Out

UW’s low acceptance rates and the broader trends in elite admissions highlight how challenging it has become to gain entry into top universities. In this highly competitive landscape, seeking guidance from experienced college admissions advisors can be a significant advantage.

Advisors offer personalized support throughout the complex application process, helping you:

  • Craft a Compelling Narrative : They work with you to identify your unique strengths, passions, and experiences. This helps shape a cohesive application that showcases your potential to contribute to the UW community.
  • Navigate Strategic Choices : Advisors can provide insights on application timing (early vs. regular), test score submission, and highlight areas where you can further boost your profile.
  • Excel in Every Aspect : From essay coaching to interview preparation, advisors ensure each application component is polished and demonstrates your preparedness for UW’s rigorous academic environment.

Proven Success in a Competitive Landscape

Crimson Education has a track record of helping students achieve their admissions goals. Our personalized approach and expertise in selective admissions have led to impressive results. This year alone, over 200 Crimson students were accepted to top US universities in the early round. Here's a breakdown of our  early-round  numbers:

  • 87 offers to the Ivy League.
  • 163 offers to the US Top 20 , including offers to Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Rice, Vanderbilt, and University of Notre Dame.
  • 15% of Ivy League and 27% of top 20 early round applicants received offers to their dream schools.
  • 670+ offers to the US Top 50 , including offers to NYU, University of Michigan, Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, University of Virginia, and Washington University in St. Louis.
  • 1000+ offers to each student’s first choice school.

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Washington Post C.E.O. Promised Interview for Ignoring Scandal, NPR Reporter Says

David Folkenflik of NPR wrote that the offer, in exchange for agreeing to stop his coverage of a phone hacking scandal, was made “repeatedly — and heatedly.”

duke essays 2023

By Katie Robertson and Benjamin Mullin

Will Lewis, the chief executive of The Washington Post, repeatedly offered an exclusive interview to an NPR reporter if the reporter agreed not to write about allegations against Mr. Lewis in a phone-hacking scandal in Britain, according to an account by that reporter published on Thursday.

David Folkenflik, a veteran media reporter for NPR, wrote that a spokesperson for Mr. Lewis confirmed the offer in December. That spokesperson declined to comment when approached again Thursday, according to NPR.

“In several conversations, Lewis repeatedly — and heatedly — offered to give me an exclusive interview about the Post’s future, as long as I dropped the story about the allegations,” Mr. Folkenflik wrote.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Lewis said that “when he was a private citizen ahead of joining The Washington Post, he had off the record conversations with an employee of NPR about a story the employee then published.” The spokeswoman said any interview requests with Mr. Lewis after he joined The Post were “processed through the normal corporate communication channels.”

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Folkenflik said he did not violate an off-the-record agreement with Mr. Lewis to report Thursday’s article. He also said that he decided to disclose the conversation with Mr. Lewis and his spokesperson now in light of recent turmoil at The Washington Post, including the abrupt resignation of its executive editor on Sunday.

“I thought the audacity of the offer was notable,” Mr. Folkenflik said. “And given what’s playing out right now at The Post, I thought it was worth noting in public.”

On Sunday, Mr. Lewis announced that Sally Buzbee had resigned as executive editor and that Matt Murray, a former top editor at The Wall Street Journal, would be her temporary replacement. After the presidential election, Robert Winnett , a British editor, will oversee the core news operation and Mr. Murray will manage a new division focused on social media and service journalism.

Mr. Lewis, who was named chief executive of The Post late last year, is accused in court filings of helping to cover up illegal phone hacking at British publications owned by Rupert Murdoch more than a decade ago. In May, in a case brought by Prince Harry and others, a judge ruled that the plaintiffs could add Mr. Lewis’s name to a list of executives they argued were involved in a plan to conceal evidence of hacking at the newspapers.

Mr. Lewis has strongly denied any wrongdoing in that case. Though he is named in the lawsuit, he is not a defendant.

Mr. Folkenflik, who has long chronicled the Murdoch media empire, first reported on the accusations against Mr. Lewis in December 2023, after Mr. Lewis had been named as the next chief executive of The Post, and since then has covered developments in the court case.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Mr. Lewis clashed with Ms. Buzbee over the newspaper’s coverage of the phone-hacking scandal in the weeks leading up to her departure.

Ms. Buzbee informed Mr. Lewis in mid-May that the newsroom planned to cover the coming ruling from the judge. Mr. Lewis told Ms. Buzbee the case involving him did not merit coverage, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.

When Ms. Buzbee said The Post would publish an article anyway, he said her decision represented a lapse in judgment. The interaction rattled Ms. Buzbee, but the article was published and Mr. Lewis did not interfere with its publication.

A spokeswoman for The Post declined to comment on The Times article published on Wednesday. On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lewis said The Times’s “account of a meeting he had with the then-executive editor is inaccurate.”

Ms. Buzbee resigned on Sunday. The interaction over the court ruling was not the primary reason for her resignation. Ms. Buzbee, who was the first female executive editor at The Post and led the newsroom to six Pulitzers during her three-year tenure, had already been mulling her future because of a plan by Mr. Lewis to reorganize the newsroom that would have reduced her role.

Katie Robertson covers the media industry for The Times. Email:  [email protected]   More about Katie Robertson

Benjamin Mullin reports on the major companies behind news and entertainment. Contact Ben securely on Signal at +1 530-961-3223 or email at [email protected] . More about Benjamin Mullin

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Safe Injection Sites: A Step Forward

By Kate Drab

Published: June 06, 2024

Two hands, one holding the other are foregrounded with bodies in blurred in the background

From recent lawsuit settlements to rising overdose rates, the opioid epidemic is as pressing an issue as ever. The United States’ opioid epidemic currently has a higher body count than the Vietnam War, claiming 106,000 lives in 2021 alone (“Drug Death Overdose Rates”). A public health crisis only exacerbated by the recent pandemic, drug addiction is a problem America has tried to solve since she started her War on Drugs in 1971. A strategy that started with mass incarceration is shifting its focus to other methods. Of the various tools that could be used to address the epidemic, few are more hotly debated or controversial than safe injection sites (SISs). SISs are facilities where drug users can inject their own drugs in a safe, sterile environment under the supervision of trained staff positioned to intervene in the case of an overdose. It must be noted that these sites do not actually provide drugs nor do their employees actively inject drugs into the site’s users although SISs do typically provide access to medical treatment, social workers, counselors, and addiction treatment (Interlandi). Opponents claim that these sites are, at best, a poor substitute for other means of addiction treatment and overdose death mitigation and, at worse, a way to glorify or even encourage drug use (Rosen). However, as these opponents point to other alternatives for overdose mitigation and addiction treatment, they often fail to address the barriers that accompany such alternatives, barriers that SISs might actually help substance abusers overcome. While SISs are not a panacea, they are a valuable tool for responding to the opioid epidemic as they patch the cracks left by other treatment options, connecting drug users to treatment options and enabling them to stay alive long enough to use them.

SISs are not anything new. From Vancouver to France and Spain, SISs have been around since 1989 and exist in more than 60 cities (Kreit 415). Insite, Canada’s most well-known SIS, for example, was established in Vancouver in 2003. It was such a success that the Supreme Court of Canada explicitly recognized the benefits of SISs by ruling that the federal Minister of Health had to continue exempting InSite from criminal drug laws because closing Insite would undermine the people’s health and safety (Gordon). The justices are not alone in their appreciation for SISs. Business leaders in downtown Vancouver also acknowledged the value of Insite by actually requesting the implementation of another SIS near their businesses to decrease drug users from overdosing in their bathrooms and alleyways (Gordon). The New South Wales Health Department in Sydney, Australia also reported benefitting from SISs, as their analysis of opioid-overdose ambulance calls from 36 months before the opening of an SIS to 60 months after revealed a reduction in the number of opioid-related overdose events near the SIS (Ambrecht, et al.). The time and resources opioid-related calls typically required could be diverted to other people in need, while drug users benefitted by having fewer medical emergencies, displaying the positive impact SISs can have. Australia is not alone in experiencing such benefits as, throughout other countries, SISs are associated with decreased hospital utilization, decreased mortality and infectious disease rates, and increased access to treatment (Gray). By reducing infection transmissions, preventing overdoses, and increasing public safety, SISs benefit all members of a community from small business owners to the drug users themselves.

Unlike other countries, the United States has been resistant to opening SISs. When it comes to addiction in the United States, most Americans probably think of the ‘War on Drugs.’ The United States’ initial response to drug possession and addiction resulted in one-fifth of all incarcerated people in the United States being put behind bars because of a drug-crime (Ptucha). This response, however, has not worked as both drug-related crimes and overdose fatalities have continued to rise, increasing still in 2020 (Ptucha). While government officials are shifting their response to rehabilitation over incarceration, many remain hesitant to support SISs, preferring medication-assisted treatment (MAT) instead (Rosen). MAT, however, is not a perfect solution. Due to federal restrictions on methadone and buprenorphine, the most popular of the three FDA-approved medications used in MAT, people in treatment must travel to their doctor’s office daily to get the necessary injections, a drain on time and resources that not everyone can afford (Mancher and Leshner). Inflexible working hours or lack of transportation can prevent MAT from being a viable option. Before drug users seeking treatment need to worry about keeping daily appointments, they have to find a doctor, which can be a difficult task due to the necessary qualifications doctors must have to administer the medication. Estimates suggest that, even if all the doctors with the necessary qualifications were prescribing and administering the MAT at full capacity, they would barely be able to serve half the current drug-using population (Mancher and Leshner). Not to mention, not all forms of insurance cover MAT, forcing many seeking treatment to pay out of pocket, which few can afford (Mancher and Leshner). That is not to say that MAT is not a valuable form of addiction treatment. It is. It simply has some barriers to access. SISs are not a replacement for MAT; rather, they are a much needed gateway to it, helping users find the doctors and funds they need to access the treatment.

These issues do not only affect MAT. Ms. Corso, a counselor at OnPoint, the first SIS in New York City, notes that “‘It can be a full-time job getting just one person placed [in an addiction treatment program or rehabilitation center], and we are never dealing with just one person” (Interlandi). If Ms. Corso, a professionally trained counselor familiar with the system and with access to a plethora of resources, struggles to find treatment for drug users, then it is not hard to imagine how challenging it must be for a recovering addict, especially one who might be living on the streets or without easy access to various information gathering technologies like a computer, to find the treatment he or she needs. One of Ms. Corso’s preferred rehabilitation centers for her patients has only 16 beds (Interlandi), highlighting the scarcity. Barriers including accessibility, availability, and cost impede access to various forms of addiction. Therein lies the value of SISs, which offer users some safety and stability as they work to overcome barriers to treatment.

By providing support throughout a drug user's struggle with addiction, SISs serve as a valuable tool for decreasing overdoses and increasing access to addiction treatment. SISs assist those seeking treatment in the often time-intensive and confusing process of finding low-cost treatment (Interlandi). Ms. Corso started working at OnPoint after years of working for abstinence-based recovery programs, which often expelled people when they relapsed (Interlandi). She made the switch because she felt that abstinence-based programs missed “a lot of people” (Interlandi). SISs are able to meet drug users where they are and provide them with a way to get to somewhere better. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “research shows that new users of SSPs [syringe service programs] are five times more likely to enter drug treatment and about three times more likely to stop using drugs than those who don’t use the programs” (“Summary of Information”). Although SISs differ from SSPs, most SISs include some kind of SSP, making it more than likely that that users of SISs will have a similar if not better chance of entering treatment, since sources agree that SISs typically amplify the benefits of SSPs (Gray). While a drug user is waiting to get into a treatment program, SISs provide them with a safe, sterile place to inject where they are surrounded by a support network of peers, counselors and social workers. Having a safe, sterile place to inject matters because, at the end of the day, in order to get treatment, a drug user must be alive. In the less than one year since OnPoint, the first official SIS in the United States, opened, it prevented almost 700 overdoses (Interlandi). Thanks to OnPoint, 700 mothers, brothers, friends, and loved ones are still alive. Looking only at the number of deaths prevented, SISs have a clear benefit. Insite, Canada’s foremost SIS, has prevented over 2,151 deaths and has never had a fatality within its facilities (Walks 176). A more general study shows that SISs prevent 88 fatal overdoses for every 100,000 person-years (Ng). Opposing SISs is like telling the people whose overdoses they have prevented that saving their lives was a mistake not worth continuing. By preventing overdoses, SISs offer a second chance at life along with the addiction treatment resources a drug user needs to take full advantage of it.

In addition to helping drug users navigate the addiction treatment process, SISs address an overarching issue with MAT and other forms of addiction treatment that people often overlook: a lack of trust. As Mr. Jones, one of OnPoint’s employees and a recovered addict himself, reflects, “Almost all the people he and his colleagues encountered were, at one point or another, treated terribly by the very institutions charged with helping them” (Interlandi).That should not be surprising considering that “stigmatizing attitudes among health professionals have been shown to be widespread, which has detrimental consequences for connecting persons with OUD to treatment” (Mancher and Leshner). After all, asking for help can be hard for anyone, but asking for help from someone who judges you for needing it is even harder. One study analyzed functional magnetic resonance imaging and ultimately revealed that, when thinking about drug addicts, participants’ cerebral activity revealed that the participants perceived them to be “‘less than human’” (Des Jarlais et al.). It makes sense that a drug addict might be wary of asking people who might view them as “less than human” for help. Dr. Emily Kauffman, a physician at The Ohio State University, identifies the crux of the issue perfectly. In the United States, she remarks that addiction “‘is seen as a disease of ‘choice’” when, in reality, it is a “complex and chronic brain condition that completely hijacks reward pathways’ (Gray). A glaring example of this view and the issues it brings occurs in a journal article where two doctors lament the “evil” of SISs, instead, supporting and expanding “places where they [drug addicts] are welcome but their addiction is not.” (Bozza and Berger 86). They hold up the Salvation Army’s rehabilitation program, which requires clean drug and breathalyzer tests to participate in as the paradigm of addiction treatment option (88). While the Salvation Army’s rehabilitation program certainly has its place as a treatment option, it is concerning that these doctors somehow expect someone in the throes of addiction–a disease they admit biologically alters neurological pathways and can eclipse a person’s drive to eat or sleep (87)—to pass the drug and breathalyzer tests necessary to enter into that program. To paraphrase Ms. Corso’s struggle with abstinence-based programs, it seems paradoxical to expect drug users to be sober to get help, when they need help to get sober (Interlandi). Others object to SISs on the grounds that they prevent drug users from reaching the “rock-bottom” circumstances necessary to seek treatment (Lofaro and Miller 48), displaying a distinct lack of sympathy for those suffering from addiction. In the face of such negative attitudes towards addiction, it is easy to see why a drug user might be hesitant to seek treatment, making more judgment-free zones like SISs a valuable access point and trust a valuable resource. The understanding that the peers–current and former drug users–SISs typically employ is a more valuable commodity than many realize.

When it comes to SISs, there are actually a lot of things people do not realize or simply misunderstand, contributing to much of the contention around them. A common misconception is that SISs will increase crime or drug use rates in the surrounding community (Gordon). Analyses of Insite show that that is not the case. Neither drug-related arrests nor drug injection rates increased following the SIS’s opening (Ng; Ptucha), proving these fears to be unfounded. Although it is too soon to know for sure, it seems likely that OnPoint is not causing a spike in drug-related crime either as even the long-time director of the preschool near OnPoint admits that “a lot of the problems that get laid at their [OnPoint’s] feet are things we’ve been dealing with since long before they even existed’” (Interlandi). In other words, the drug-related crimes occurring around SISs are not caused by the SISs as much as they are a symptom of the problems SISs seek to address. The SISs are not the root of the problem, but they could be a solution.

Another common misconception is that there is little research that supports SISs’ efficacy. Critics often try to discredit the success of these sites using a 2018 RAND Corporation study that warns that “there is uncertainty about the size of the overall effect” of SISs (Kreit 423). However, they often leave out the caveat that even the 2018 RAND study admits that “there is evidence that supervised drug consumption ‘reduces the risk of disease transmission and other harms associated with unhygienic drug use practices’” (423), so even the RAND corporation acknowledges that SISs do have value. In reality, the difficulty with quantifying the overall effect of SISs is not a reflection on SIS efficacy as much as it is a sign of the limitations on researchers. As reviews of SIS research attest, modeling things like HIV transmission rates or wound infection rates is inherently difficult as it often relies on self-reporting, and the real-world environment can make it hard to account for all possible outside influences (Des Jarlais, et al.; Valencia, et al.). At the end of the day, studies do show that SISs leave a net-positive impact on their communities, and, just as there is a possibility that the effect could be smaller than expected, there is also the possibility that the effect could be greater than anticipated.

Finally, at the root of many people’s issues with SISs lies a fundamental misunderstanding of their purpose. SISs are not a “form of surrender” as some like to suggest (Kreit 416). Instead they are simply a new approach to an issue that San Francisco Mayor London Breed agrees is “too big” to “rule out any possible solutions” (Kreit 424-425). In an Op-Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer , Former Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen contested SISs on the grounds that “enabling those suffering from addiction to go to the brink of death is a dubious treatment” (Rosen). SISs, however, do not provide those suffering from addiction with drugs. SIS employees do not administer injections. They simply provide drug users with a safe, sterile place to inject. It is highly likely that those suffering from substance abuse will be injecting regardless of the availability of SISs, since addiction is a disease that disrupts basic brain functioning to the point that the drive to inject becomes as primal as the drive to eat (Bozza and Berger 87). Its 40-60% relapse rate speaks to how hard it is to abstain ( National Institute on Drug Abuse ). Opioid addiction is called opioid addiction for a reason. Recovery does not occur overnight, nor is it a linear process ( “ Drug Overdose Rates” ), which makes the supportive atmosphere of an SIS so valuable. The existence of SISs determines whether a drug user is injecting alone or in a safe, sterile environment surrounded by people willing to help them seek treatment if they so desire. SISs are not the thing bringing drug users to the brink of death, but they can bring them back by preventing overdoses and providing them with addiction treatment resources.

By preventing overdoses, helping those suffering from addiction find treatment options, and providing a variety of benefits to the surrounding community, SISs have the potential to be a valuable part of America’s solution to the opioid crisis. Other alternatives have been tried. Incarceration did not work. MAT and other addiction treatments have their own issues. Other countries have been benefiting from SISs for years. Statistically speaking, SISs make sense: they save lives, take strain off local responders, decrease infection transmission rates, take drug use off the streets, and act as a gateway to other forms of treatment. In the face of increasing deaths and bereft families and communities, SISs are a ray of hope that should not be shuttered.

Works Cited

Armbrecht, Eric, et al. “Supervised Injection Facilities and Other Supervised Consumption Sites: Effectiveness and Value; Final Evidence Report.” Institute for Clinical and Economic Review , 8 Jan. 2021, icer.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/ICER_SIF_Final-Evidence- Report_010821- 1.pdf. Accessed 11 Apr. 2023.

Bozza, Steven, and Jeffrey Berger. “Safe Injection Sites: A Moral Reflection.” The Linacre Quarterly, vol. 87, 2020, pp. 85-93, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32431451/ . Accessed 3 Apr. 2023.

“Drug Overdose Death Rates.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9 Feb. 2023, https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates#:~:text=Overall%2C%20drug%20overdose%20deaths%20rose,overdose%20deaths%20reported%20in%202021 .

Des Jarlais, Don C., et al. “Evaluating Vancouver's supervised injection facility: data and dollars, symbols and ethics.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol. 179, no. 11, 18 Nov. 2008. National Library of Medicine, 10.1503/cmaj.081678 . Accessed 10 Apr. 2023.

Gordon, Elana. “Lessons from Vancouver: U.S. cities consider supervised injection facilities.” WHYY, NPR, 5 July 2018.

Gray, Dan. “Why Injection Sites Are Considered More Effective Than Needle Exchanges.” Healthline, 12 Jan. 2021, www.healthline.com/health-news/why-safe-injection-sites- are-considered-more-effective-than-needle-exchange-programs . Accessed 10 Apr. 2023.

Interlandi, Janeen. “One Year Inside a Radical New Approach to America’s Overdose Crisis.” New York Times, 22 Feb. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/02/22/opinion/drug-crisis-addiction-harm-reduction.html. Accessed 10 Apr. 2023.

Kreit, Adam. “Safe Injection Sites and the Federal ‘Crack House’ Statute.” Boston College Law Review, vol. 60, no. 2, 25 Feb. 2019, pp. 415-468. 

Lofaro, Ryan J. and Hugh T. Miller. “Narrative Politics in Policy Discourse: The Debate Over Safe Injection Sites in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.” Contemporary Drug Problems, vol. 48, 2021, pp. 75-95. Sage, doi.org/10.1177/0091450921993821 . Accessed 3 Apr. 2023.

Mancher, Michelle and Alan Leshner, ed. Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Save Lives, edited by Michelle Mancher and Alan Leshner, Washington, D.C., The National Academies Press, 30 Mar. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541389/ . Accessed 12 Apr. 2023.

Ng, Jennifer, et al. “Does Evidence Support Supervised Injection Sites?” Canadian Family Physician, vol. 63, no. 11, Nov. 2017. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5685449/ . Accessed 10 Apr. 2023.

Ptucha, Tessa. “Redirecting the 50-Year-Long War on Drugs in the United States: Safe Injection Sites as the Necessary Weapons.” Hofstra Law Review, vol. 50, Sep. 2021. Hofstra Law Review, www.hofstrala wreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/bb.2.ptucha.pdf. Accessed 3 Apr. 2023.

Rosen, Jeffrey A. “Philadelphia Inquirer Op-Ed: Safe Injection Sites Enable Drug Users and Endanger Communities.” United States Department of Justice Archives, 3 Feb. 2020, www.justice.gov/archives/opa/blog/philadelphia-inquirer-op-ed-safe-injection-sites-enable-drug-users-and-endanger-communities#:~:text=It%20has%20been%20shown%20to,functioning%20and%20retention%20in%20treatment . Accessed 3 Apr. 2023.

“Summary of Information on The Safety and Effectiveness of Syringe Services Programs (SSPs).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Jan. 2023, www.cdc.gov/ssp/syringe-services-programs-summary.html . Accessed 11 Apr. 2023.

Valencia, Jorge, et al. “Recurring Severe Injection-Related Infections in People Who Inject Drugs and the Need for Safe Injection Sites in Madrid, Spain.” Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 25 May 2021. National Library of Medicine, 10.1093/ofid/ofab251 . Accessed 3 Apr. 2023.

Walks, Emani. “The Paradox of Policing as Protection: A Harm Reduction Approach to Prostitution Using Safe Injection Sites as a Guide.” Duke Journal of Gender, Law, & Policy, vol. 26, no. 2, 2019, pp. 157-180. Duke Law Scholarship Repository , scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1340&context=djglp . Accessed 3 Apr. 2023.

duke essays 2023

Kate Drab is a chemical engineering major and member of the Class of 2026. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Kate now lives in Howard Hall. She took this paper as an opportunity to explore and better understand the premise of SISs and the intense reactions they inspire on both sides. Kate would like to thank Dr. Schepers for his support and encouragement.

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Endnote: Our Duke, Your Duke

Multicolored index cards pinned to a corkboard with handwritten messages on them.

One of the more fascinating finds in our special Duke Centennial exhibit, Our Duke: Constructing a Century, isn’t in a display case. It’s a wall of index cards telling us what the exhibit leaves out.

“What’s a Duke moment or memory you would like to share that you didn’t see?” reads the sign, inviting visitors to write in their own historical milestones. Some are facetious. Some are sweet. Many are sports-related, as you could probably guess.

It’s a reminder that there’s the story of Duke we all know. The one-room schoolhouse that grew into a Gothic Wonderland, home to world-renowned researchers and Cameron Crazies. Then there are all the individual stories of everyone who’s ever been a student here. Each one had their own Duke experience, which was just a chapter in their larger life story.

Want to share your own Duke moment with us? Even if you can’t come to campus, visit the exhibit website and fill out the “Your Duke” form online. Responses may be preserved in the University Archives—for our bicentennial exhibit down the line.

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  27. Safe Injection Sites: A Step Forward

    Accessed 11 Apr. 2023. Valencia, Jorge, et al. "Recurring Severe Injection-Related Infections in People Who Inject Drugs and the Need for Safe Injection Sites in Madrid, Spain." Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 25 May 2021.

  28. Endnote: Our Duke, Your Duke

    One of the more fascinating finds in our special Duke Centennial exhibit, Our Duke: Constructing a Century, isn't in a display case. It's a wall of index cards telling us what the exhibit leaves out. "What's a Duke moment or memory you would like to share that you didn't see?" reads the sign, inviting visitors … Continue reading Endnote: Our Duke, Your Duke →