Duke University College Visit

For the past few years, clients that visited Duke University came back declaring their love and that they wanted to apply Early Decision.  I was eager to visit for myself to see what all the hype was about.  I was not disappointed.  The campus itself is beautiful with modern, state-of-the art facilities wrapped in Gothic architecture. The students we met were each more impressive than the next, filled with energy and pride for Duke.


We started our tour at the Pratt School of Engineering where we got to see their facilities and learn about the curriculum.  Pratt has infused a lot more hands-on learning in the past several years including a first-year design class and culminating in a senior pod design class.  Students design a robot around a theme each year; this year the theme was the Olympics.  There is a new “maker space” and numerous 3D printers.  We also saw a prototype of a prosthetic arm to help pre-health students learn to draw blood because it self-repaired after each try. Our engineering school tour guide, Hunter, also described how 3D printers work.

Hunter participated in Duke Engineers for International Development where he helped develop a water system in Honduras.  He led the group his second time in the program.  Most Duke engineers go into consulting, but Hunter was one of the few hoping to enter industry as an engineer. His favorite class was visual learning where the professor tasked students with creating a Happy Meal toy.

After our Engineering School tour, we met several Dukes and Duchesses who led us around campus. Dukes and Duchesses act as student ambassadors for Duke’s President leading tours and helping with special events.

It was clear that these students are the crème de la crème; they were dynamic, friendly, articulate and highly accomplished.  They also pursued interesting academic combinations that align with Duke’s focus on interdisciplinary learning.

Sophia, my tour guide hailed from San Francisco.  She was a public policy major and minored in Art History and French (she studied abroad in Southern France).  She was President of her sorority and was a mover and shaker on campus.  Sophia discussed being one of the only sophomores in an upper division public policy.

After writing a policy statement in class, the professor asked her to present her paper via Skype to the guest speaker.  Nervously she approached the front of the class and discussed her paper. At the end of the presentation, she found out that the person she was speaking to held a high-level position in the Canadian government.  Sophia has a job with a consulting firm upon graduation.

Social Life

We arrived the week before the Duke vs. UNC Chapel Hill basketball game. Long known for their intense rivalry, Duke students were “tenting to be eligible for 1,400 student tickets to the game.  Approximately 1,200 students tent outside for up to two months leading up to the game and the remaining 200 camp out a few days prior to the game.  Hunter, our Pratt engineering tour guide, described his experience with both pride for having accomplished his goal and relief that it was coming to an end.  He and a group of 11 other students had been sleeping outside in a tent since January 5. 

At least two students in each group must remain in the tent at all times or forfeit their place in line.  Enforcers perform frequent tent checks, usually around 3 am, to make sure that the groups adhere to the rules. Hunter, jokingly said that he got really got at studying outside in the tent and waking up at 3 in the morning.   When asked if he would do it again, he smiled and replied: “Once is enough!  But I’m glad I did it.”  (Fortunately his perseverance paid off with a win over UNC!)

Sophia also discussed the Greek life on campus, which has undergone scrutiny by administration of late due to perceived exclusivity and other issues.  She suspects that Greek life will be moved off campus soon.  Duke also offers Selected Learning Groups, which are living and learning communities around themes.

Duke provides numerous opportunities for students, but students must be proactive in seeking out opportunities.  As our tour guides commented, “There are so many pathways open to students, but it’s important to seek them out and not wait for things to come to you.”

Student Body

All our tour guides found their fellow students passionate and supportive of one another’s endeavors. In general, we found students: polished, sophisticated, accomplished, whip-smart, intellectually curious, motivated, collaborative, attractive, high-energy, exclusive, rah rah, movers and shakers, and dynamic.

After our tour, we had lunch at the bustling new Brodhead Center, think, Chelsea Market meets upscale food court.  The options were endless from Italian to fresh Salads to Poke bowls to Vegetarian grain bowls. Energy emanated throughout campus; everywhere we looked students seemed engaged and happy.

Surrounding Area

Durham is located about a mile from campus and has become quite the hot spot for cool eateries, bars and shops.  There is a Whole Foods and several great restaurants.

They also recently completed “The Ruby” a new arts center located on the lower part of campus.  This center demonstrates Duke’s emphasis on the arts.

Admissions and Financial Aid

Admissions to Duke is highly select.  For the class of 2021, Pratt School of Engineering accepted 26% of its applicants who applied Early Decision (ED) and 7% who applied Regular Decision (RD). Trinity School of Arts and Sciences accepted 24% ED and 8% RD.

Duke offers a highly prized, full ride merit scholarship for Robertson Scholars, a joint program with UNC Chapel Hill.  Students lucky enough to receive this coveted leadership scholarship spend a semester on Carolina’s campus.


Duke provides an amazing blend of outstanding academics and intense fun built around strong traditions.  It’s a great place for proactive students who have a genuine passion for learning and doing.

Duke University

2138 Campus Drive
Durham, NC 27708
(919) 684-3214

Duke University
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