Duke University

When you arrive for Duke’s information session, they give you a sticker that says “I visited Duke University.”  So even if you aren’t accepted, hopefully you’ll remember their charming Southern hospitality!

Cafe in Perkins Library
Perkins Library is the main library for undergrads. The doors lock at midnight but they won’t kick students out.

I arrived late and missed my info session (so I didn’t get the sticker).  If I had made it in time, I probably would have learned that Duke has about 6,500 undergraduates and a little over 8,000 graduate students.  Believe it or not, as many students are from California than North Carolina, with 15% of the class coming from both states.  New York, Florida and New Jersey students make up the next largest populations.  The top five majors are economics, biomedical engineering, biology, psychology and public policy studies.  Engineers make up about 15% of the campus, and the genders are equally balanced, unlike most other colleges, which have more women than men.  You’ll find more quick facts here. 

Duke sits on a huge 9,000-acre campus in Durham, with 7,000 of those acres making up the Duke Forest, some of which is contiguous with the campus.  The Forest provides recreation and research opportunities for faculty and students.

Duke’s iconic chapel, as seen from the dorms on Central Campus. Founded by Methodists, Duke is non-sectarian.

The freshmen live on East campus and have separate dining facilities from upperclassmen.  Over 90% of all students live on campus for all four years.  Sophomores, juniors and seniors live in a variety of housing options on West and Central campuses.  Fraternity and sorority houses (about 30% of the students join a Greek organization) are interspersed with other selective, themed living houses, which include an arts theme house, an Asian cultural theme house, and entrepreneurship dorm, a women’s living option, a “smart home” in which students must make changes each year to increase the facility’s sustainability, and many other choices

While 70% of the classes at Duke have fewer than 19 students, my tour guide Emma noted that introductory classes could have 200 or more students in them.  For large intro classes like this, smaller groups would meet weekly, most likely with a graduate student, to go into more depth.  Tutoring in all intro level courses is free for undergraduates.

“DukeEngage” challenges students to spend a summer (8 weeks minimum) doing an immersive community service activity in conjunction with a local non-profit/community based organization – and Duke pays for students’ expenses for this experience.  Sort of like an in-depth study abroad project, Duke students travel all over the world – and sometimes places within the United States – to help build and create programs in a variety of areas, including education, the environment, microfinance, public health, and more.

Duke is obviously well-known for its research, natural sciences and medical school, which is right on the same campus as the undergraduate programs.  If you make the trip down to Durham to visit Duke, make sure to save an hour to tour the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Evelyn visited Duke in 2014 and Michelle visited in 2022.  You can scroll through all of our photos of Duke’s beautiful campus below.

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