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How to Write Duke’s Optional Human Experience Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Robert Crystal in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info. 

 

What’s Covered:

 

 

Duke has optional essays for this year’s application. Students can choose to respond to, at most, two of the four prompts. One option asks:

 

“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)

 

In this article, we break down what exactly this prompt is asking and how to approach it. If you are interested in learning more about Duke’s other supplemental prompts, you can read our article on how to write the Duke University essays

 

What Does Diversity Mean?

 

In this option, Duke is asking for you to share a unique perspective or experience you’ve had that would help Duke understand you better. You could talk about a community that you are part of, your family, or your cultural background. Don’t be intimidated by the word “diversity.” This word holds a great deal of power, and it can be intimidating because it covers such a huge spectrum of identities and experiences. 

 

Diversity could be related to your demographics, such as your socioeconomic status, health, culture, or ethnicity, which are often the areas that come to mind when you think about diversity. However, your own diversity can come from other areas of your life. It could be related to your interests, hobbies, values, and opinions. You can draw on anything that makes you different from others or something that makes you similar to a particular group of people. 

 

All these different elements of your demographic information are elements that are probably already indicated somewhere in your college applications. This essay is a great way for you to draw on an experience that has made you the person you are today but is not quite visible on your application.

 

Why Is Duke Asking This?

 

This prompt enables students to discuss the diverse perspectives and experiences that they would bring to Duke. The university wants to accept students from unique backgrounds because it believes that this makes its community strong. You have 250 words to tell Duke how you will bring a different perspective to the school, so focus on the aspects of your life that make you stand out from other applicants. 

 

When considering your response, ask yourself this question: “What kind of communities will I seek out at Duke?” This is important to reflect on because it gets to the heart of the prompt. Admissions officers want to have an overall picture of what the incoming class will look like. They want to know what communities you will be part of or which areas of campus life you will contribute to if you attend the university. 

 

In a broader sense, Duke wants to discover who you are through these essays. It wants to know your unique perspectives and how you think about ideas and the world around you. Learning these aspects of your personality helps the admissions officers understand how you will function in the classroom and the community, so it is important that you are true to yourself in all senses. 

 

Relate Your Response to Duke

 

There is a common misconception around this prompt that your essay should be extremely profound and emotional. Your goal isn’t to make the reader cry. Your goal should be to give them an accurate representation of your life. Then, you want to connect that to your possible life at Duke.

 

Duke has an extremely unique culture because it is a large research university with a great athletics program and a lively social scene with a variety of opportunities for civic engagement and activities. The school particularly emphasizes the importance of students pursuing their academic and professional interests not only as a means for personal development but also as a way to contribute to the communities around them. 

 

In short, Duke has a collaborative environment that focuses on connecting each individual to their community. It wants to know what resources and communities you will seek out at Duke and more importantly, how you will give back to them.

 

While your essay doesn’t necessarily need to address characteristics like socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or disability, your essay should reflect the spirit of Duke’s unique campus community. It should demonstrate the unique perspective and experiences that you as an individual will bring to the school, and you should imply that you are eager to share your opinion with others and learn from those around you.


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At CollegeVine, experts host weekly livestreams on college admissions topics, including application advice, essay writing tips, and college information sessions. To register or check out more livestreams, visit www.collegevine.com/livestreams.