Analyzing the Duke Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Padya Paramita

Analyzing the Duke Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

Duke rocked the admissions world with a record low acceptance rate of 5.7% in 2019, making it one of the most competitive schools in the country. And the admissions selection process is only getting tougher in Durham, North Carolina. If you’re planning to apply to this top ten university, stellar grades and test scores won’t be enough. You will need to convince admissions officers that you’ve done your research and know without a doubt that you’re a good fit. It’s time to put your all into the Duke supplemental essays 2019-2020 to show why you’re worth considering over the competition. 

Upon reading your essays, admissions officers want to learn more about your intellectual pursuits and the communities that matter to you. Duke proudly boasts a diverse campus and looks for students who will take advantage of the school’s resources “intelligently, creatively and enthusiastically.” Make sure your essays reflect how you plan to do so. To guide you through the Duke supplemental essays 2019-2020, I’ve outlined the prompts, the dos and don’ts of answering them, and tips to help you stand out in the tough application pool.

Required Questions

Prompt 1

If you are applying to the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences as either a first-year or transfer applicant, please discuss why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something particular about Duke that attracts you? (250 words maximum)

Since Duke has become one of the most selective schools with increasing momentum, it’s going to take a lot more than saying you like all of its features, or that you really want to attend one of the North Carolina Research Triangle schools in order to impress the admissions officers. Since you don’t have a lot of available words, you have to be as specific as possible when writing the Duke supplemental essays 2019-2020

It would be wise to keep the focus on your prospective major and talk about how and why you’re a good fit for the program. Do the necessary research to learn about specific courses within the major that align with your unique goals, talk about Duke facilities that can help you reach them, and find ways to connect your passion for your subject with Duke’s expertise in the field. The limit of 250 words allows enough space to discuss an extracurricular interest alongside your academic goals, so mention a student organization relevant to the theme of your application. This helps you touch upon the “something particular that attracts you to Duke” aspect of the question.

Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!



Prompt 2

If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as either a first-year or transfer applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke. (250 words maximum)

Since the prompt is divided into two parts, you essentially have only 125 words each, first to talk about why you want to study engineering, and second, why you’ve chosen Duke specifically. For the first part, describe any instances that clearly convey why engineering is the perfect field for you. How did you first discover your love for engineering? How have you honed your skills throughout high school? But the overall goal of your supplemental essay must be to highlight what the Pratt School can provide that you can’t find at any other top undergraduate engineering school

To narrow down your scope, think about the discipline you wish to pursue at Pratt - show admissions officers how you’re suited to become a valuable addition to the Global Development Engineering or Innovation and Entrepreneurship programs, for instance. If you’ve prepared through a rigorous STEM-heavy course load or an extracurricular initiative you’ve implemented to specialize in the area, this is the place to talk about it. Upon reading your response, admissions officers should be confident that not only are you a strong candidate for an engineering degree, but also that you’re specifically geared for success as a future Pratt student.

Optional Questions

Prompt 1

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 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 question among the Duke supplemental essays 2019-2020 wants to gauge how you would add to the diversity of Duke’s campus. Remember, the word “diversity” doesn’t only include factors that are out of your control such as race or ethnicity. If you want to talk about your cultural or religious community - since your familial background is one of the topics that Duke has primarily encouraged - that’s great! But if you believe it wouldn’t make you stand out, think about a community that you’ve found thanks to an extracurricular activity or work experience. No matter what community you choose, you shouldn’t dedicate all of your words to your explanation of the premise. This essay should be about you - think about how your perspective has been shaped by the community, and vice versa. How would you be different had this community not existed? 

Make sure you haven’t elaborated on this part of your profile elsewhere in your application. This essay is a great way of providing more context on something meaningful, that admissions officers wouldn’t easily be able to guess. Even though this is optional, because this prompt is flexible, the vast majority of applicants will answer it and you should too.

Prompt 2

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 how you identify as LGBTQIA+, and have not done so elsewhere in the application, we invite you to do so here. (250 word limit) 

Duke wants to make sure they’re admitting students who bring a variety of perspectives and part of that is ensuring that they provide a chance for LGBTQIA+ students to share their experiences. If you feel comfortable talking about your journey - do so. You could write a powerful essay highlighting how your sexuality or gender identity plays a role in your interests and goals. 

Instead of general statements about identity, provide anecdotes on the ways it has changed your perspective and impact on others. How has your outlook changed since you realized you’re not straight or cisgender? Has it affected your extracurricular choices or career aspirations? Have you found community through this identity? Remember that this essay is optional, so if you’re uncomfortable talking about your identity, you don’t have to write this essay. And if you’re not LGBTQIA+, you absolutely should NOT write this essay.

Nikki Champlin, a writing expert from Yale and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, gives additional tips for crafting supplemental essays here:

Additional Tips for the Duke Supplemental Essays 2019-2020

  • Emphasize What You Can Bring to the Duke Community - Since Duke admissions officers already know what makes the school great, the supplemental prompts are geared to understand how you would uniquely contribute to the Duke community. When you sit down to brainstorm your Duke supplemental essays 2019-2020, make sure you think about how you can add to the multicultural flair that Duke prides itself on.
  • Include Duke Specifics - It can be very easy to get carried away when talking about yourself. Yes, it’s your supplemental essays, but you don’t want to write a response that could be used for any school. So it’s important that you keep in mind the research you’ve done on Duke. Try to talk about how you and your perspective would thrive at Duke’s welcoming campus. If there is a pre-existing student organization at Duke that includes people with similar backgrounds - or you would like to start one - include that in your essay as well.
  • Use the Word Limit Wisely - While 250 isn’t the most restrictive word limit in the world, it’s not extremely generous either. When writing your Duke supplemental essays 2019-2020, prioritize the content necessary to get your narrative across, and cut any unnecessary statements. Each sentence should provide new information that makes you memorable in the reader’s mind. If you go over the limit - or start repeating your personal statement - it’s time to make cuts and keep what’s new and relevant.

While Duke University is by no means easy to get into, the Duke supplemental essays 2019-2020 provide a great chance to convince admissions officers that you’ve done your research and are a perfect fit. So take advantage of this opportunity and brainstorm essays that not only highlight your experiences but also convey your commitment to Duke’s academic programs and passionate community. You’ve got this!

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