How to Write the Duke Supplement 2019-2020

Duke is a private university in Durham, North Carolina. The school is known for intense academics and a booming sports scene. If you’re on the fence about applying early, consider this: 51% of Duke’s class of 2023 was filled by early decision round applicants. The overall acceptance rate for class of 2023 was around 7%.

Duke’s supplement, which didn’t change from last year, is technically optional. But not really! There’s no such thing as an optional supplement, and with an acceptance rate below 10% there’s no excuse not to submit a response.  

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 is a lengthy one. But at its core this prompt says that the diversity of Duke’s student body leads to a stronger community, so your response needs to show that you welcome diversity and are open and accepting of others. If you are not those things, you shouldn’t be applying to Duke.  

When working with TKG clients, we answer this question by asking our students to think about conversations, interactions, and experiences that they’ve had with people who are different from them. Think about a time when you learned something (anything, really) from someone who doesn’t share the same background as you.

As always, you need to think small. A simple interaction between two people can be powerful. Your essay should come from a humble and understanding point of view, not an I-saved-the-world mentality. If you’ve done volunteer work, that might come to mind here, but you need to dig deeper. If you really are open to others and learning about viewpoints and lifestyles other than your own, you shouldn’t have to travel to do it.  

A few ideas that came to mind are:

  • That time you went to your friend’s house for dinner and helped their parents make dinner and learned about their food culture

  • A time when you were on your way into a protest and talked to someone from the “other side,” or an argument you had that caused you to evaluate your side of things.

Your response should come in the form of a story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. The best way to go about this is to write down (or type out) every detail that you can remember about the interaction, even the details that seem insignificant. Do your best to recall what started the conversation, what sparked the debate, and what you were doing and thinking when you decided to engage when you could have walked away. Then write the story out with as much detail as possible and edit, edit, and edit some more.

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) 

VERY IMPORTANT: This question is only for those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. If you do not identify as LGBTQIA+, no, you are not being discriminated against and no, you can not invent an identity to get more space. Thank you to Duke for asking this very necessary question.

Duke is asking this question because these communities are marginalized, and they want to know if you’ve had to deal with anything that has had a profound impact on your life. And while we think it’s important and great that they asked this question, please do not feel that if you have to bare your soul if you answer this. You don’t have to reveal anything that you’re not comfortable with to get into college. If there are things that you haven’t shared with your family, you don’t need to write about them here. This space is for you to say what you feel safe saying, and nothing more.


If you need getting on the right track, contact us here.