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How to Respond to the 2022-2023 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

Required Essay

Prompt #1

“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. (250 word limit)”

For this essay, it will be important for you to do a little bit of research about Duke as a school and a community, and to make a list of the things that you like the most. Then, make a list of the things that you are looking for in a school unrelated to Duke. Look at both lists together, and make the connection between the two. 

A 250 word limit is the perfect amount of words for this type of question. This would be a good question to dive into specific things that draw you into Duke University– mentioning things that you are looking for in a school that maybe only Duke has.  

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Questions to consider: 

  • What professors are you looking forward to working with?
  • What research opportunities does Duke offer that you are interested in?
  • What draws you in about the community at Duke?

Don’t miss: How to write a 250 word essay

Optional Essays

Although these essays are optional, we always encourage students to write them anyway so that the university is able to see who you are at a deeper level. If you have the same academic statistics as another student and the admissions professionals are trying to decide between the two of you, it could come down to the essays and which student they know more about. Help them get to know you better!

Each of these essays should be a maximum of 250 words, and there is no minimum. But, it would be a good idea to write at least 150 words so that the admissions committee has enough writing to get to know you.

Prompt #1

“We seek a diverse student body that embodies the wide range of human experience. In that context, we are interested in what you’d like to share about your lived experiences and how they’ve influenced how you think of yourself.”

This is a question that you may be being asked quite a bit on college supplemental essay prompts, just worded in different ways. Think about an experience that you did not write about on your application that makes you unique compared to other applicants. They are looking for something personal, honest, and open, so take a deep look into your life to see if there is anything that you feel comfortable sharing with them. 

Once you have figured out what experience you want to share, it may help to free write in a stream-of-consciousness type of way to help you get your thoughts flowing. After that, you can always go back and edit for length and clarity. If you don’t feel comfortable writing about a personal experience, that is okay! That is one of the reasons why this prompt is optional. 

Questions to consider:

  •  What type of person do you consider yourself to be?
  • What experiences have shaped you?
  • How have you been influenced by the experiences in your life?

Also see: How to respond to the Common App essay prompts

Prompt #2

“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?”

In college, often the beliefs that you held as a child or in high school tend to develop or change completely. They are asking you this to get a feel for what kind of person you are, and more specifically, what kind of student or team-player you are. Generally, colleges and universities want to find students who are willing to test the beliefs of themselves and others so that they can see more than just one side of a situation, whether that be academically, socially, or personally. 

In this situation, a lot of people instantly think about politics. You do not have to write about politics if you do not want to, and honestly, thinking deeper about this question than just surface level will make your essay more interesting and engaging. This is a difficult question to answer because it is sometimes hard to admit that our beliefs are sometimes wrong, or to admit that we disagree with people often. But, this is an important question because they want to see your response to the challenge.  

Questions to consider: 

  • What is something that you and your friends often debate about?
  • Is there a topic that comes up at the dinner table a great deal that you end up having banter over?
  • What are you passionate about?

Prompt #3

“What has been your best academic experience in the last two years, and what made it so good?”

This is another one of those questions where you want to look deeper than the surface. It is important to not just re-word what you already wrote on your application or what your transcript already revealed. It also may be helpful to think about something more than just the classes that you took. Did you go on a field trip that made you passionate about what you wanted to study after high school? Maybe you had a career fair at school that shifted your mind academically. These are all great things to think about before you start writing this essay.

This type of essay  tells the admissions professionals a great deal about who you are as a student, so this would be an important essay to write if you had to pick one of the optional ones. 

Questions to consider: 

  • What was your favorite class in high school?
  • What about that class made it special?
  • Did you have a specific teacher that made you decide what major you wanted to go into?

Prompt #4

“Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you’d like to share with us more about your identity in this context, feel free to do so here.”

This prompt is great because it is generally something a regular college application cannot answer. This is the place where you can tell more about who you are as a person, what your personal identity is, and why that makes you you if you choose to do so. You can write as little as you’d like or go right up to the 250 word maximum– whatever makes you most comfortable.

Questions to consider: 

  • What type of person do you identify as?
  • How has your culture shaped who you are?
  • How will you use who you are to shape your college experience?

Related: How to write a 500 word essay

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • “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
Key Takeaways

Also see: How to choose a college

Additional supplemental essay guides