Essay Scoop: How to Answer Duke University Essays

Julia de Raadt
Julia de Raadt

Julia has dedicated much of her career to education. Since commencing with Empowerly, Julia has looked after the research team which handles student questions on different topics about college admission.

Duke University: home of the Blue Devils. Apart from an excellent track record in varsity team athletics, Duke also boasts an incredible curriculum of classes. The school has a reputation for academic excellence, civic engagement and excellence in innovation and enterprise. Here are some suggestions for responding to the Duke University essays if you want to call Durham, NC your home for the next four years.

General Tips

Duke seeks students who will bring a variety of experiences, backgrounds, interests and opinions to the campus. The admissions office looks for ambitious and curious students; those who want to tackle issues head-on, and are open to change. When responding to the the application essay questions, keep this in mind and craft responses that demonstrates these qualities.

Duke University Essays: The Prompts

Share a perspective

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)

A prompt pair like this is built to help you explain the backstory and underlying motivation behind a passion. An explanation that includes personal examples will go a long way. They can range from a specific moment from any point in your life or a string of moments that back up your message. The most important component however is the reflective nature of the question so be sure to convey lessons you learned (using the word “I” will help).

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

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?

(150 words maximum)

Due to the short 150 word length, you will need to spread your focus across two areas:

  • a future goal (likely related to the longer prompt)
  • and a couple school-specific resources that will propel you to accomplishing it.

The first prompt is perfect for explaining your vision of the future and this essay complements by asking for a rough plan. The most successful essays keep this in mind and complete the following framework: I am interested in x academic field because y (first prompt) and want to do z by taking advantage of [insert specifics] Duke opportunities. 


The Duke University essays pose a tall order for students, but not an impossible one. As always, keep your writing as clear as possible; and most of all, demonstrate why you are a strong candidate for this school. Of course, feel free to refresh the basics of college essay writing here if you need it. Our team of essay editors and college counselors are happy to meet with you! We would love to tell you more about the program; book a free consultation below to get started.

Questions? Let us know!