How to Write the Duke University Supplement 2018-2019

Duke is a private university in Durham, North Carolina. There are approximately 6,500 undergraduate students and the school is known for both academics and sports. The acceptance rate for the class of 2022 was 8.3%.

Duke has two optional supplements, but as you should know there’s no such thing as an optional writing supplement. Both are broken down below:

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)

Let’s start with a short critique of this question, specifically its wording. It’s phrased in a way that puts pressure on a student to either write about a time that they were othered, or a time that they used their privilege to stand up for someone who was being discriminated against. Duke could do better with the phrasing (it’s also confusing) but we do think the crux of this question is looking for examples of diversity. Duke wants insight into how you think about things and contextualize your own experiences, and they want to bring together a group of diverse students.

Start by broadening your definition of diversity and community. It shouldn’t be something you wrote about in your activities section and make sure you think really small. If you and your friends religiously go to a coffee house every Monday afternoon to discuss last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, that’s a community. If you and your family go to cooking classes with your neighbors once a month, so is that.

It’s hard to ignore the political nature of this question but you don’t need to feel pressure to marginalize yourself. The more communities they’re bringing together the better, so think about the groups you’re a part of and use that as a way to show the reader an important aspect of your life. 

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.

We think it’s really great that Duke is giving this space to students who identify as LGBTQIA+. If you identify this way but don’t feel comfortable writing about it, don’t feel pressure to write this. It’s okay to not have everything figured yet. If you don’t identify as LGBTQIA+, you’ll disregard this prompt and also not complain about the fact that you don’t get an additional space. Everyone needs room to write about things that have had a profound impact on their lives, and this is certainly one of them.


We know this supplement is tricky, so reach out if you need help.