How to Write the Duke Application Essay 2015-2016
Read our new post on the Duke Application Essay for 2016-2017.
Although the institution is known for its world-class academics and research facilities, very few schools’ possess as much school spirit as Duke at sporting events. Indeed, students who attend Duke are able to receive the benefits of attending a prestigious university while simultaneously enjoying the fruits of a “work-hard, play-hard” culture (not that the two are mutually exclusive by definition, but having both is not that common). Duke accordingly draws large numbers of applicants every year; consistently ranked in the top 10, Duke University admissions are becoming increasingly competitive.
Duke especially is known for its holistic admissions process, with its Dean of Admissions appearing on talk shows and podcasts to emphasize the importance of a well-rounded application. Serious applicants to Duke know not only to show off the great academic and extracurricular profiles expected of a top university, but also to place a special importance on writing powerful supplemental essays.
Below, we’ve analyzed each of the essay questions that you’ll encounter on the Duke application.
Duke University Application Essay Prompts
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 to help us understand you better-perhaps related to a community you belong to, your sexual orientation or gender identity, or your family or cultural background-we encourage you to do so. 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)
Note: this year’s Duke app is essentially identical to last year’s. We’ve updated this year’s post only slightly to reflect new trends in admissions. Read last year’s post here.
This essay’s purpose is two-fold: it attempts to determine how you are unique while also assessing how you will fit into the Duke community. Applicants who have an interesting background or story that illustrates diversity or understanding of other cultures should definitely share their experiences. For example, if you’ve ever lived abroad, writing about the new perspectives you gained from whatever culture you were exposed to can be an effective vehicle to explain how you plan to bring those perspectives to the Duke community. However, it is crucial that you frame whatever diverse experience you want to write about in a cathartic manner rather than simply an objective manner. Remember that college essays are supposed to show your character development/growth. Simply recounting experiences only goes about halfway to explaining the sort of individual you are. To knock the essay out of the park, you want to explain how certain experiences changed your perception of the world and allowed you to grow. For example, your time spent living in Hungary was not valuable purely because you witnessed a different culture; it was valuable because of the mutual understanding you gained through attempting to communicate with a baker that spoke no English but ultimately wanted to help you find your way back home. This sort of essay implies that you jumped directly into the metaphorical trenches of cultural barrier-smashing – you weren’t an observer; rather, you were actually a participant in the diversity that you are referencing.
Now, if you’re someone who has never even left your homogenous hometown before, you may be feeling pretty stumped on this question. What diversity could you possibly highlight? Keep in mind that this question is asks “share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had to help us understand you better-perhaps related to a community you belong to.” Notice that the definition of a “community” is relatively open-ended. The community to which you belong does not necessarily have to be cultural. Perhaps you found a community within a group of anime enthusiasts in an online forum. Your essay could focus on how bridging a lack of face-to-face interaction and geographic proximity through a mutual love of an art form ultimately helped you realize that you can create communities wherever you go.
After you have successfully developed your diverse aspect (whether a physical/cultural difference or more of a situational difference or nuance), you want to come full circle and relate it to your time at Duke. Don’t necessarily stop at how Duke can allow you to continue experiencing diversity; instead, focus on how you will be an active body contributing to that diversity because of the experiences you’ve had and the perspectives you bring.
With these tips, you should be well on your way to writing the perfect Duke Supplement. Best of luck from the Admissions Hero team!
For more help, feel free to reach out to work 1-on-1 with one of CollegeVine’s trained Duke essay specialists.