While optional, we at CollegeVine highly recommend that you respond to this prompt. At first glance, the prompt can seem complex and intimidating, but it ultimately boils down to one question: What is your personal perspective and experience?
Before writing, let’s take a look at recent developments at Duke. Newly-minted president Vince Price has made it the institution’s initiative to foster a diversity of views and knowledge within its student body. Diversity is not relegated solely to student body demographics or race; it is characterized by the variety of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives embodied by individuals. Duke wants to better understand how your background, ideas, etc., will contribute to its increasingly diverse community.
Duke’s most recent book selections for its first-year student summer reading program reflect what the institution values about diversity. These texts encompass a range of divergent authorial experiences and often spur readers to think more critically about how backgrounds shape and mold individuals’ perspectives. Consider reading or researching Duke’s past selected texts to gain a better understanding of how you can share your own experiences.
The following have been Duke’s selected texts:
- “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel
- “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
- “The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood” by Richard Blanco
As an exercise for brainstorming, try sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and writing detailed, specific answers to these following questions:
- What is definitive about my background? Family? Community? Friends?
- What life experiences have been important in my development?
- What do I care about? What do I want to change about the world?
- What “steps” in my journey have brought me to where I am today?
When you’re finished with this exercise, ask yourself if the responses encapsulate your identity or whether you’re missing any important details. You can also talk to friends and family who, in some capacities, might know you better than you know yourself.
The Requirements: One required 150-word essay, one required 250-word essay and one optional 250-word essay.
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Topic of your choice, Community
Duke University 2017-2018 Application Essay Question Explanations
If you are applying to the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences/Pratt School of Engineering as a first year applicant, please discuss why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something particular about Duke that attracts you? (Please limit your response to no more than 150 words.)
This is a classic why essay, albeit a short one. Your answer should be personal and, if possible, unexpected. This is not the place to detail your love of the campus or dining hall. And Duke already knows it has “world-class” professors. Admissions wants to know what excites you about the specific school within Duke to which you are applying — something that is aligned with your interests and academic background. Since this is a short essay, try to narrow your focus to one or two elements and make a bridge from Duke’s resources to your own experiences and goals for the future. Is there is a professor in your department who has done research you admire that you hope to work with? Is there a program that combines your unique interests that is not offered at any other school? Get specific. Let Duke know what resources you will take advantage of that others might not think of or know about.
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)
This is a classic community essay, through and through. Admissions Officers want to know what or who has made you into the person you are today. Where do you come from? What has shaped you as a person, and how has that made your perspective unique? What you focus on here can be reflective of larger cultural constructs or specific to you and only you. Admissions is looking to add diverse perspectives to the melting pot that is their student body. Is there anything you can teach your classmates about your hometown, traditions, culture, cuisine, orientation, identity, race, or ethnicity that they might not already know? Also consider why your particular background or experience will be useful in an academic setting. How will it help inspire and/or inform others? Were you raised in a Muslim family? Do you identify as genderqueer? Were you adopted as a child? What has influenced your identity? What do you believe and how will your worldview bring something of value to the community at Duke?
(Optional) If you would like the opportunity, we invite you to share more about your sexual orientation either below or in the Duke optional essay. (250 words)
Duke was one of the first schools to embrace the subject of sexual orientation in their essay questions (see the community essay prompt), and this is yet another step in their overt attempt to recruit a truly diverse pool of applicants. The school wants you to know that they are embracing all sexual orientations, and if you are open to discussing your own history and identity, feel free to share your story. Note that this question will likely not be applicable to all students, so if you don’t have a related story to tell, this is one of the few “optional” supplemental essays that we would encourage you to skip.