Filling out the supplemental applications for several universities can be daunting. Our team of former admissions officers from highly selective colleges and universities (including Duke) are here to help! Please find below our advice and tips on how to answer Duke University’s 2023 supplemental essay questions.

Required 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)

This is the classic “Why Duke?” question. In responding to this essay, it’s important to tie your personal goals and hopes for college together with how Duke can help you fulfill those desires. Being specific is important here – is it the campus location, the economics department, the cooking club? Let the admissions officers know why you are applying to Duke.

We want to emphasize that the following questions are optional for all 2023-24 applicants. Feel free to answer them if you believe that doing so will add something meaningful that is not already shared elsewhere in your application. Five optional questions are available – a maximum of two can be selected. Please select 0 – 2 optional essay topics. (250 word limit for each)

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.

Duke is trying to uncover the person behind the application. It’s important for students to feel like they’ve shared their true identity and personality in full with the admissions staff – who you are, what you value and what has shaped you as a person. What will you bring to campus that no one else will?

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

This is a fun (and interesting and original) question! If you decide to answer it, you should be sure to tell the admissions committee about something that is unique and memorable. If you tell them about your academic performance in Honors Chemistry going from a B- in semester 1 to an A in semester 2… that is not too exciting! But if you describe an independent study that you had with your favorite teacher, learning about [insert exciting new discovery here], then that would be much more impactful. Or perhaps you and your classmates made it to the statewide competition in American studies and government, or maybe you had an epiphany about what you want to study in college based on a book you read in high school, or an academic competition – those are the types of experiences to share. And don’t forget to answer the second part of the question: What made it so fascinating?

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 wants to know about your interactions with others. In particular, tell Duke admissions about your go-to person for heated (or deep) discussions. Is it a parent, sibling or other relative? A peer, teacher or school administrator? Coach, supervisor, club advisor? But more than this, Duke admissions officers want to know what you and your conversation partner discuss, because the content of your discussions tells them a lot about you. Are you talking about academics? Politics and policy? The arts? Climate change? The more you tell Duke about yourself, the more the faculty and staff will want to meet you!

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 a chance for you to express – and embrace – your individuality. You can talk about how you are different from your family, classmates or peers in your favorite organizations. What do you contribute to the conversations because you are different? What have you learned from others who are different from you?

You can be different in many ways! Your political leanings, your religion, your sexuality or gender identity, your race. Or maybe you’re different in less obvious ways – for example, the clothes you wear and your personal style, or your favorite types of music or movies, or taste in food. As long as you let the admissions committee know that you have contributed to others and have learned from others, you will have successfully shared more about yourself.

Duke’s commitment to inclusion and belonging includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Feel free to share with us more about how your identity in this context has meaning for you as an individual or as a member of a community.

Duke is a diverse institution and welcomes the LGBTQ+ community. Applicants should consider answering this question if their gender identity or sexual orientation has shaped their experiences and perspective. If you decide to answer the Duke optional essay with information about your gender identity or sexual orientation, then there is no need to complete this essay. If, however, you answer the Duke optional essay with other information about you – for example, your community, family or culture – then this essay will allow you to provide Duke with even more info about your background. Consider each essay an opportunity to share something about yourself with the admissions office!

About the author
Stephen Friedfeld

Stephen is the co-founder and COO of AcceptU. He received a BA from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University Teachers College, and a Ph.D. from Rice University. Prior to founding AcceptU, Stephen was an Assistant Dean of admissions at Cornell for four years and an Associate Dean of graduate admissions at Princeton University for six years. Stephen is an IECA Associate Member.

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