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How to Respond to the Duke Supplemental Essay Prompts
When applying to a school as selective as Duke University, the supplemental essay portion is key to making your mark. There is sure to be a sea of stellar applicants with impressive transcripts and extensive extracurricular involvement. Standing out on the Duke supplemental essays relies on telling your story in a compelling way.
Duke’s supplemental essays cover pretty generic topics. However, this makes coming up with a unique angle while staying within tight word limits especially tricky. It is helpful to break each prompt into pieces and identify the points you hope to address. Proper planning helps keep your responses clear, concise, and example-driven.
Below, we give you more tips on how to tackle each prompt. We also provide thought starters for incorporating anecdotes from your own experiences.
Don’t miss: How to write an essay about yourself
“(Optional) 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 prompt invites you to explain what makes you, “you.” Has your religion played a big role in your values? Are you an only child, or the youngest of eight? Did you grow up in a tiny town or bustling city? Have you had to overcome daily obstacles due to a disability? Did you visit a place that changed your worldview? Were you home-schooled? Notice how varied the interpretations of this question can be. That’s because there are so many pieces that comprise our identity–our physical and personality traits, our upbringing, experiences we have, interests we develop, or connections we form with others.
Most everyone could write a multi-page essay over what has shaped their outlook on life. Try picking one thing that feels personal. What is a true core component of why you are the way you are today? Above all, aim for authenticity since this question encourages being real.
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Questions to consider:
- Do you identify with a group that is marginalized or misunderstood?
- Is your life devoted to any hobbies, interests, or causes?
- What events or people have changed your perspective?
Don’t miss: How to write a 250 word essay
“Please share with us why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something in particular about Duke’s academic or other offerings that attract you? (200 words maximum)”
This prompt asks, “why our school” and allows you to showcase your interest in Duke. As the only required question, it is particularly necessary to have a fresh answer compared to the rest of the pack. Avoid merely complimenting the school (Duke already knows it has a prestigious reputation!). Writing how much you admire Duke’s academic prowess or campus life is the expected answer. So don’t take the easy way out and do your research. Explore resources like Duke’s website, social media, and course catalog. Look into what the university offers that aligns with your own personal, academic, and professional aspirations to establish that you are a great fit. When you reference very specific examples, it demonstrates how genuine you are. Your essay should be tailored in a way so that no other college’s name could be substituted for Duke’s.
Questions to consider:
- If you visited campus, what feelings washed over you? What settings could you envision yourself enjoying as a student?
- How can Duke’s unique offerings help you accomplish your goals?
- Is there anything you were involved with in high school that Duke allows you to continue pursuing?
“(Optional) Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you would like to share with us more about your identity in these areas, you can do so here, or use any previous essay prompt you feel is appropriate. (250 words maximum)”
Similar to prompt #1, this prompt touches on diversity and identity; however, it more explicitly calls out sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Given that this is an optional question, it may be wise to refrain from answering if you do not have a strong personal connection to these three topics. You do not want to come across insincere or insensitive. But if any of these areas have formed a key part of your identity, go for it! This is a fantastic opportunity to expound upon struggles you may have faced and celebrate who you are. If you touch on these identifiers in prompt #1, be sure you are introducing new information or presenting the story with a different spin. This response should add more depth to the admission teams’ understanding of your character. Make sure you do not weaken your personal narrative with repetitiveness.
Questions to consider:
- What makes Duke a place where you can feel accepted?
- Why do you feel it is important we all embrace our sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression?
- What barriers have you encountered because of how you identify?
Related: How to write a 500 word essay
- “Show don’t tell” as much as you can through short story examples
- Do not shy away from injecting your personality and voice into your responses
- Think of what makes you truly distinctive and has formed the person you are today for prompt #1
- Cite specific examples of how you will take advantage of Duke’s resources for prompt #2
- Be vulnerable about how you identify in prompt #3, but don’t force an answer if it does not apply to you
Also see: How to choose a college