How to Write the “Why Duke” 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.
Duke University has one required essay and one optional essay, where you can choose to respond to two of several prompts. It is important to write strong essays for your application to Duke because it is a highly competitive school. For more information, read this comprehensive guide on how to write the application essays for Duke University.
Understand the 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. (250 words)
This is a classic college application essay prompt, and it is the one required prompt that all Duke applicants must respond to. If you are in the process of applying to colleges, you have probably seen many supplemental essays prompts that look similar to this one. Nearly every college or university will ask for some version of this essay to gauge your interest in their school. Have you done your research? Are you a good fit? Do you want things that the school can provide you?
Applying to colleges is a matchmaking process, and essay prompts like this help colleges determine whether you are the right match for them. The admissions officers want to know if an applicant is invested in their school and to admit those applicants who are most likely to take advantage of all the opportunities that the school offers.
A compelling response to this essay prompt will avoid sweeping generalizations that could apply to any college or university: “The engineering department is doing groundbreaking work. The liberal arts curriculum strikes the perfect balance between depth and breadth.”
Anything that you write that applies to more than one school or department will not be a sufficient response to this prompt. Your response needs to be specific to Duke and only Duke, and the admissions officer should feel confident when reading your application that you know what the university can offer you that no other school can.
Use Specific Examples
The best way to demonstrate your interest in Duke is to use specific examples of your goals, interests, and previous experiences. Most importantly, do your research, and identify specific academic departments, faculty, research opportunities, student organizations, scholarships, and other resources on campus that match your goals and interests. To help you with this, you should explore Duke University’s website, social media accounts, and any interviews or articles written by current students or recent graduates.
Connect Yourself to Duke
A great way to start your essay is by describing your specific academic and professional goals and then transitioning into a discussion on the academic offerings and preprofessional programming that you will take advantage of at Duke. Afterward, you can draw connections between your other skills and interests and programs, opportunities, and resources at the university.
Make sure you weave information about yourself and other helpful context into the essay so you are building a narrative and not just rattling off a list of things that you researched on the Duke University website. These details will help admissions officers understand who you are as an applicant and how that relates to your desire to attend Duke and take advantage of the various opportunities that you have identified.