College Intel

Duke University Admissions

Duke University is known for many things: its gorgeous campus, designed in the Gothic style primarily by Julian Abele, its spirited student body who quite literally camp out for varsity sports games, its formidable roster of alumni such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and President Richard Nixon, and its Nobel prize-winning faculty who regularly rank as some of the most cited and well-funded in the world. Duke challenges prospective students with a highly competitive application process, but rewards those who are admitted with a Southern college lifestyle in sunny Durham, North Carolina with all of the trappings of an elite research university.

Eighty-five percent of the 6,800 undergraduates enroll in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, while the remaining fifteen percent enroll in the Pratt School of Engineering, although cross-registration between the two schools is encouraged. Duke’s “Curriculum 2000” seeks to develop critical thinking skills and to expand historical and analytical awareness of the world through a current-issues seminar for first years, and an emphasis on research and entrepreneurship that pervades the whole undergraduate experience. Duke also operates campuses in Singapore and Kunshan, China, and provides students with an abundance of merit-based scholarships and opportunities to expand student horizons, including a program that allows high achieving students to cross-enroll at nearby UNC Chapel Hill.

Duke was established in 1838 as part of an educational initiative of the Methodist Church (an informal relationship between the university and the church remains to this day). Initially called the “Brown School,” Duke went through many iterations before receiving its current name in 1924 due to the philanthropy of the prominent Duke family of industrialists. Its history in the 20th century was marked by decades of civil rights activism for the desegregation of campus facilities and the admission of women and African Americans. The legacy of this activism has continued into the 21st century with the removal of Confederate names from campus buildings. Today, Duke boasts a robust selection of cultural and gender/sexuality affinity organizations on campus.

Greek life is a large part of campus social life, with about a third of the student body participating in either a fraternity or sorority. Duke is also well known for its “Selective Living Groups,” residential communities that mimic the social life of a fraternity or sorority but are largely coeducational and unaffiliated with any national organization. Additionally, athletics such as men’s basketball (go Blue Devils!) form an integral part of campus social life. Since varsity games are free to students, it’s not uncommon to see tailgate parties and elaborate tents go up in anticipation for a big game with a rival school, while bonfires and raging parties follow in their wake.

For the Class of 2027, Duke received roughly 50,000 applications, but only admitted 6.3% of those students, making it one of the most selective universities in the United States. According to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, admissions officers appreciate “well-lopsided students that will make an impact on our campus and in our community.” Students who have demonstrated the necessary academic rigor and specialized extracurricular commitment to be admitted are rewarded for their efforts with $1.1 billion in research funding, including $600 million from the National Institutes of Health, a generous financial aid program that covers 100% of demonstrated need, and graduate employability outcomes on par of the likes of Harvard and Stanford.

Through initiatives such as DukeEngage and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke places a large emphasis on community service and civic-mindedness, qualities which they also value in prospective applicants. A robust civic perspective can be demonstrated in the extensive supplemental essays component of the Duke application, and should be reflected in any recommendations and extracurricular activities. Ivy Coach is here to help cultivate an application that highlights this very “lopsidedness” (think: changing the world in one super specific, often unusual way) that they are looking for year in and year out.


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