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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!