Who We Look For
Duke offers a multitude of opportunities to its undergraduates. We’re looking for students ready to respond to those opportunities intelligently, creatively and enthusiastically. We like ambition and curiosity, talent and persistence, energy and humanity.
When we read an application and then discuss an application in our Admissions Committee, we consider both the academic and the personal qualities of each student. We think about what a student has accomplished within the context of the opportunities and challenges he or she has faced. And we seek those students who will bring a variety of experiences, backgrounds, interests and opinions to the campus. We especially appreciate students who love thinking hard about things and who like to make a difference in the world.
Because the admissions process is so personal and contextual, it's impossible to predict a candidate's chances of admission by looking at academic qualifications alone. We're guided initially by our assessment of six primary factors:
- The rigor of a candidate's academic program
- Academic performance as measured by grades in academic courses
- Letters of recommendation from two teachers and a counselor
- Extracurricular activities
- The quality of thought and expression in the application essay
- Standardized test scores
Students we accept haven't just gone through the motions—they've put heart and soul into the areas that interest them. Frankly, students we do not admit often have these qualities as well. That's why Admissions Committee members spend countless hours reading and evaluating applications each year. Ultimately, we consider applicants within the context of their particular circumstances and the applicant pool as a whole, and do our best to determine which students will make the best match with Duke.
Key Characteristics We Seek
- A sense of engagement -- with ideas, with other people, with a community
- An inclination to take full advantage of the talents and abilities you've been given
- An interest in being challenged; a healthy ambition
- The ability and desire to make a difference
- Creativity, curiosity and a sense of fun
- An openness to opportunities
We do NOT require minimum scores on the SAT or ACT, GPA, or class rank for consideration or admission.
Duke in Your Area
Every year our admissions officers travel to locations throughout the United States and the world to give high school students and their families an inside look at the Duke experience. At our programs, you can find out about Duke's academic offerings and student life, as well as the admissions process and financial assistance options. Learn more about Duke in your area.
How do my scores compare?
To gain a better perspective on the median scores of accepted students and to see how your achievements might compare:View the Class of 2021 Profile
You don't really feel the stress and nervous excitement of getting ready for college until close to the end of your high school career. But preparing for college is much more than the flurry of activity during those last few months.
We've compiled some tips that will assist you in preparing for the college selection process and for college itself:
- Enroll in the best available and most challenging courses. We recommend four years of English and at least three years of mathematics, natural sciences, foreign language, and social studies. We generally expect students to enroll in five academic courses per year, and if a student does not take four years in a particular subject area, it should be replaced with an academic course of equal rigor. For students applying to the Pratt School of Engineering, we require coursework in calculus and strongly recommend physics. We also encourage students to enroll in advanced-level work in as many areas as reasonable, regardless of your intended major. For some students, this will include AP or IB courses, whereas for others it will include honors, accelerated, or college courses.
- Get involved in the school or local community. Not only are extracurricular activities a great way for you to balance your academic life, but they are also a means by which you can identify your passions and interests. Understanding what is important to you can help give the Admissions Committee an idea of your potential impact on our campus.
- Investigate the standardized tests most colleges and universities require for admission. Buy a study guide and begin taking practice SAT and ACT tests. We recommend that a student take an official SAT or ACT in the springtime of the junior year.
- Develop a list of important college characteristics. Knowing what to look for when reading through college websites and brochures, or knowing what to ask when speaking with a college representative, will save time and result in a more thoughtful college choice. Think about tangibles (academic programs offered, size, location) and intangibles (intellectual and student culture).
- Investigate the websites of your favorite schools. This is an easy and inexpensive way for you to get an overall sense of a school's community, setting, and academic programs. Browsing student blogs and social media will also give you a firsthand look at student life.
- Get to know your guidance counselor. Guidance counselors are extremely important people during the application process. They serve not only as recommenders but also as invaluable resources to help you select the college that best suits your needs, drawing on their knowledge of a wide range of schools and experience with many students.
Duke University's Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and Pratt School of Engineering award a limited amount of course credit and advanced placement on the basis of scores earned on Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and pre-matriculation college course work. However, course credit and advanced placement are not granted until the student has been admitted and until the official report of exam results is received and evaluated by our Registrar's Office. Since this process is handled outside the Admissions Office, a credit evaluation cannot be made until the student arrives on campus.
Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Policy
Trinity College of Arts & Sciences students may be granted up to two elective course credits toward the degree requirement of 34 course credits for any combination of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or pre-matriculation college credit. For more detailed information about receiving Trinity College course credit on the basis of AP and international exam scores or on the basis of college coursework completed at another American college, click here.
Pratt School of Engineering Policy
The Pratt School of Engineering evaluates AP and IB credit as Trinity College does, but awards transfer credit to qualified students for college-level course work with a grade of at least C- prior to matriculation. Although the criteria for evaluating such work are the same as in Trinity College, the Pratt School requires official notification by letter from the high school principal or guidance counselor that the credit earned was not used to meet high school diploma requirements. For more information about receiving Pratt course credit on the basis of AP and IB exam scores, click here; similarly, for details regarding credit on the basis of college coursework completed at another American college or university prior to enrollment at Duke, click here.
International Placement Testing
Entering students who have completed internationally recognized college-level examinations (the British "A" levels, the French Baccalaureate, the German Abitur or Swiss Maturite Certificate) with superior scores will receive international placement credit in essentially the same way that credit is awarded for AP exams.
Placement in Foreign Language Courses
Students with previous experience in one of the foreign languages offered at Duke who wish to continue their studies at Duke should consult Languages at Duke for placement guidelines. Some languages, including Latin, French and German, use the SAT-II or AP exam scores, if available, for placement. The Spanish language program requires the SAT-II or AP exam scores for placement, and students must have their exam results sent to Duke before they enroll in late August.
Students who plan to begin a new language that they have not previously studied do not need to submit a placement score and may register for an introductory course.
Placement in Mathematics Courses
The Department of Mathematics offers several different approaches to the study of calculus. Students should consider their strengths and interests in determining how much math they need to take at Duke. For specific information about suitable math courses, refer to the Academic Advising Center.
Apart from credit you may receive for advanced coursework taken in high school, it will prepare you for the rigors of Duke academics. The admissions committee wants to see students who stretch themselves intellectually and make the most of available opportunities. We know that these opportunities vary for individual students, and admissions does not prefer one type of program over another.
Duke offers a number of academic enrichment programs for fourth - 12th graders.
Duke Youth Programs, part of Duke University Continuing Studies, have provided summer academic enrichment for academically motivated youth for more than 20 years. These programs include Duke Young Writers' Camp, Duke Action Science Camp for Young Women, Duke Expressions! Fine Arts Camp, Duke Creative Writers' Workshop, Constructing Your College Experience and Duke Drama Workshop.
Duke's Talent Identification Program (TIP) identifies gifted students and provides a variety of resources and summer programs to nurture their development.
Duke Summer College for High School Students gives current 10th and 11th graders the opportunity to earn college credit while studying in classes with Duke undergraduates.
Duke Summer Academy for High School Students offers students currently in grades 9-12 the chance to enjoy personal enrichment courses oriented toward a global perspective.
Although we love for students to participate in programs beyond their high school curricula, the programs listed above are completely separate from Duke's Office of Undergraduate Admissions. The various offices do not share lists of participants.
We like students who love to think, who strive, who are willing to take a chance and who understand that sometimes you learn more from failure than from success. Christoph Guttentag, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions