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The Ivy Coach Daily

August 8, 2023

2023-2024 Duke Supplemental Essay Prompts

A view of Duke University's science center.
Duke’s supplemental essays have been published for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle.

Duke University has released its supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-2024 college admissions cycle. In addition to The Common Application’s Personal Statement, Duke’s Class of 2028 applicants must write one supplemental essay. Two additional essays are optional. Of course, as loyal readers of Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog know all too well, any optional essay in elite college admissions should not be considered optional. If students want to get in, they must write both optional essays as well.

2023-2024 Duke Essay Topics and Questions

Required Essay

The first prompt, the required essay, has a limit of 250 words and reads as follows:

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.

It’s a Why Duke essay prompt. As such, an applicant’s approach should be filled with specific examples after specific examples that only apply to Duke. Name-dropping professors or listing classes are not genuine specifics about a university. Instead, it should be an applicant’s goal to capture the enduring specifics of a school — programs, institute, culture, traditions, activities — and how a student will contribute their singular hook — rather than well-roundedness — to the institution.

Optional Essay Prompts

Applicants are offered the opportunity to answer two of the following five prompts in 250 words or less. These essays are optional, though they should not be treated as such.

1. Perspective response

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.

In the wake of the Affirmative Action ruling against Affirmative Action, this essay prompt presents an opportunity for students to share the prism of their experience. While it can certainly focus on a student’s race or faith (as Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion makes clear), it doesn’t have to and can instead spotlight an applicant’s unique lived experience that has nothing to do with their racial or religious background.

2. Intellectual experience

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

Ideally, an applicant’s answer will zero in on their hook. All of Duke’s admissions essays should be considered puzzle pieces. The specific topic that a student writes about in their Personal Statement should never be written about again since doing so would be redundant. Still, each essay should dovetail one another to showcase how a student is going to contribute their singular hook to Duke’s community.

3. Beliefs & values

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, like all highly selective universities, wants to admit students who will respectfully disagree with one another. It’s why it’s crucial to Duke that they accept a class filled with students of varying backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Duke’s admissions committee wants to see that even when someone voices an opinion that differs from theirs, they can hear them out and be malleable to alter their mindset.

4. Being different

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.

The “being different” prompt is another opportunity for Duke’s applicants to highlight the diversity they will bring to Durham. Even though the Supreme Court outlawed the overall consideration of race in admissions decision-making, it can still be considered within the context of an applicant’s life narrative. But one’s answer to this Duke essay prompt, of course, doesn’t have to relate to race. It can relate to faith — or sexuality, gender, diversity of thought, or anything else.

5. Orientation, identity, expression

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’s admissions committee has long asked its applicants to express their thoughts and feelings on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. But an applicant need not be a member of the LGBTQ+ community to be able to answer this prompt. 

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Duke University Essays

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to Duke’s Class of 2028 by submitting powerful essays that wow Duke admissions officers, fill out Ivy Coach’s consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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