A Guide to the Duke Supplement

Personal Statement Tips

A Guide to the Duke Supplement

First of all, congratulations on your decision to apply to Duke! The Duke supplement is short and fairly straightforward, but it’s a great opportunity to add depth to your Common App.


The first question that all students are asked to answer (in 150 words) is about a significant extracurricular activity. This is a great opportunity for you to expand on someone that you were unable to highlight on your common app. Was there something you may have wanted to write about for your personal statement but didn't feel like you could write a full essay on it? Here’s your chance. Your 150 words should not be wasted explaining the extracurricular activity. Instead, you should write about how that activity played a meaningful role in your personal development. How did it challenge you? What did you learn?


The next question is different based on which school you will be applying to: The Trinity School of the Arts or the Pratt School of Engineering. Both are trying to get at the core question – Why Duke? This question is a trap because I bet that the majority of these submissions are about things you can get to from within 3 clicks of the Duke homepage. A little digging here will go a long way.


I would start off with a statement that briefly highlights some of the things you're most excited about at Duke – school spirit (Do you want to be a Cameron Crazie?), the beautiful campus (have you visited? Mention that!), rigorous academics (Duke is a Top 10 school!), etc. Then, pick something specific that you've researched a little more about. If Duke Basketball is really your thing, instead of writing about wanting to go to games (which most people do), write about wanting to be a Line Monitor. That shows that you've done your research. Most freshmen on campus probably don't even know what a Line Monitor is until basketball season.


If you're interested in a particular field of study, check out that department’s website. Here are a few to get you started:



All of these sites will allow you to learn more about your intended field of study. Within each department, there are bound to be countless research opportunities, information about professors, and special programs run out of that department. Read up on a professor’s recent publications. Maybe you’d like to be a research assistant for him/her in the future. These websites will also tell you more about programs that students usually don’t even hear about until they declare a major. For example, the Hart Leadership Program (http://hart.sanford.duke.edu/) is run out of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. There are even more programs run directly out of the Hart Leadership Program! One of them (SOL) focuses on Service Opportunities in Leadership. You could write about how you want to combine your love of service with your passion for leadership by applying for the SOL program.


Maybe you don’t know what you want to study yet – that’s totally normal! There are so many more things that make Duke unique.


Do you want to live in the Duke Smart Home? Though sponsored by the Pratt School of Engineering, you do not have to be an engineer to live there. Check it out here: http://smarthome.duke.edu/


Perhaps you want to come back from winter break a little early to immerse yourself in a challenging global topic. Read more about Winter Forum here: http://undergraduatedean.duke.edu/programs/winter-forum


Want to find a way to write about your passion for travel without talking about Duke’s study abroad program? Look into Alternative Spring Break programs (http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/ucae/leadership/programs/alternative-breaks-program-abp) where students look beyond Duke and Durham and participate in programs that positively impact societal issues.


My last piece of advice is to see if you can reach out to a current student that is involved in an aspect of your Why Duke? response. Talking directly to a current biomedical engineer with allow you to ask more about their research opportunities.