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Duke Undergraduate Admissions

Academic Opportunities


ways to navigate the curriculum

Jameson Kuang

Jameson Kuang

T'14, music, biology

Student Story

Duke combines rigorous academic demands with exceptional flexibility. The distinctive academic opportunities available to our students are unparalleled in higher education. They come together to promote a love of lifelong learning and an appreciation of what it means to be a citizen and leader in today's world.

Inquiry Across Disciplines



The arts are vital to reaching the fullness of human experience and achieving a well-rounded education. They give intellectual and emotional texture to daily life and create community through the sharing of concerts, exhibitions, readings, and productions. The arts are, therefore, fundamental to Duke's teaching and research mission, providing historical and cultural insight, offering diverse perspectives on human behavior and concerns, and affording students opportunities to experience artistic creation and production.



Duke’s commitment to the humanities in all its forms can be observed at every level of its curriculum, culture and operations. The university’s many strengths in the humanities – art, history, religion, literature, critical theory, race and gender studies and new initiatives such as Visual Studies – demonstrate this commitment, as well as strong interests in both interdisciplinarity and the core disciplines.

Social Sciences

Social Sciences

The goal of the study of social and behavioral science at Duke is to catalyze pioneering social science research and methods across the social and behavioral sciences by creating new knowledge relevant to contemporary social problems. We focus our research on facilitating access and creating data sources relevant to understanding social problems. By enhancing the skills of researchers, strengthening research teams and training the next generation of social science researchers we translate our findings so that they can influence contemporary understanding of social problems and, in turn, influencing policy debates and solutions.

Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences

Duke scientists are developing medicines to cure diseases, exploring the secrets inside atoms and expanding our understanding of environmental problems. They are among the leaders of the world's scientific community, as seen by their professional honors, funding levels, journal citations and other indicators.



Duke's Pratt School of Engineering is a vibrant teaching and research institution that focuses on educating both undergraduate and graduate students and exploring the frontiers of engineering. The Pratt School offers undergraduate degrees in biomedical engineering; civil engineering; electrical and computer engineering; and mechanical engineering. Nearly 20 percent of Duke undergraduates are enrolled in the Pratt School, which is also among Duke's nine graduate and professional schools. Overall, it is home to about 120 faculty members in five departments, 1,200 undergraduates and 750 graduate students.

Your Opportunities

No other university makes as wide a range of opportunities so easily available to all of its undergraduates. 

From the outset, Duke undergraduates enjoy opportunities to engage in original research and receive mentorship by world-class faculty. The Undergraduate Research Support Office identifies grants and assistantships for undergraduate projects and summer programs. The Howard Hughes Undergraduate Program, the Duke Center for Genomic and Computational Biology, the Pratt School of Engineering and a variety of departmental programs offer summer opportunities for first-, second- and third-year students. Several programs offer travel and research grants, including awards for research abroad.

You can make significant contributions to the research effort and scholarly productivity at Duke. In turn, you will establish meaningful relationships with the faculty, deepen your academic experience, develop marketable career skills, and prepare yourself for competitive graduate and professional schools. Indeed, most graduate programs will expect to see some track record of undergraduate research as a requirement for admission. Industry in all fields welcomes students who already have the kind of applicable job experience gained through the practice of research. And, of course, you have the unique opportunity of becoming the expert in something and contributing a novel discovery to the world. Finally, a research project can be the basis for a senior honors thesis, leading to the award of Graduation with Distinction.

An undergraduate research experience is open to any student who is qualified and chooses to pursue one. Research opportunities are available in all disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. Over 50% of all Duke undergraduates will have a research experience at Duke before they graduate.

Qualifications for doing research depend on the nature of the project, the discipline and the way in which you get involved. Some programs and courses may expect you to have some background knowledge or coursework before you get started. Others are intended for beginners. So a research experience can begin in your first year, or it can wait until your senior year.

At Duke, knowledge of today's world is bounded not by disciplines, but by the limits of human curiosity. Duke scholars collaborate frequently across specialties, and students learn both in class and through real world experiences to approach questions through multiple perspectives.

Duke's commitment to cross- and interdisciplinary research and teaching is a signature part of the university's identity and mission.  Undergraduates will enter an environment that equips them to grasp the multiple dimensions of complex problems such as environmental pollution, economic competitiveness, human health and cultural understanding. This commitment has spurred research innovation both within the disciplines and outside, pivotal to the university's mission to put knowledge in the service of society and a major attractor in faculty hiring and student recruitment.

The Focus Program exposes first- and second-year students to ideas from the vantage point of different disciplines across the humanities, sciences and social sciences. The program's Interdisciplinary seminar clusters nurture students' intellectual curiosity and sense of academic adventure. Small group seminars of no more than 18 students interact with some of Duke’s most distinguished professors. This intimate learning experience encourages personal intellectual responsibility while establishing student-professor rapport. Faculty and students engage in a comfortable interaction that continues throughout their academic life and later careers.

Program II was created over 40 years ago to meet the needs of a small number of students whose academic interests were not adequately met through existing majors, minors, and certificate programs in Program I.  This alternative program of study in Trinity College offers students the opportunity to create a curriculum tailored to their individual academic interests.  Each Program II is unique, but all share in common that they are designed by the students themselves.

Here are some examples:

  • The Art of Mutimedia Storytelling
  • Fairy Tales & Folklore: Medieval to Present
  • Global Health Disparities & Development Strategies
  • Health Disparities in the U.S. & Their Effects on Child Development
  • Queer Studies: Policy, Rights & Ethics of Dissimilarity
  • The Development of Language: Phylogeny, Ontogeny & History
  • Theoretical Neuroscience

Undergraduate students can take advantage of a novel and unique opportunity to address a broad range of societal challenges from a multidisciplinary perspective. Duke's seven signature institutes and more than 60 interdisciplinary centers offer innovative certificate programs and other means of engaging in problem-centered, collaborative, and often entrepreneurial knowledge generation and dissemination in the service of society.

Global education includes both international study abroad and domestic study away. There are over 200 programs total across the globe. Most are international but the domestic away programs include the Duke Marine Lab, Duke in New York Financial Markets, Duke in New York Drama, Duke in Los Angeles, and Duke in Washington, D.C. 

Study abroad programs are both Duke administered and approved. Administered programs are taught abroad by Duke faculty. Approved programs are taught by faculty at other institutions for a more traditional type of exchange.  

DukeEngage empowers students to address critical human needs through immersive service, in the process transforming students, advancing the University’s educational mission, and providing meaningful assistance to communities in the U.S. and abroad.

DukeEngage provides funding for Duke undergraduates who wish to pursue an immersive (minimum of eight weeks) service experience by meeting a community need locally, domestically or internationally. DukeEngage was launched in 2007 through the establishment of a $30 million endowment from The Duke Endowment and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program has benefited from the additional support of a growing number of generous and devoted alumni and friends. Since the program began, more than 1,400 Duke students have participated. 

Students each year participate in a vast range of civic engagement activities, including environmental advocacy, community outreach, global health, education, social justice and more.

DukeImmerse offers a semester-long and fundamentally different learning environment for a select group of students and faculty members, who together focus full-time on an intellectually stimulating, research-oriented topic.  Students enroll in four courses, as in a typical semester, but the courses are fully integrated, taught from multiple perspectives, and unconstrained by traditional courses' limitations of time and location.  Creative approaches to thought and solutions are encouraged, as is working across disciplinary lines.

Duke’s primary scholarship commitment is to provide need-based financial aid in order to enable all qualified students, regardless of financial circumstance, to receive a high-quality education.

Duke also offers a limited number of merit scholarships each year through endowments from individuals, foundations and corporations to recognize outstanding students. The criteria for each scholarship have been determined by the benefactor. Many of these scholarships are based solely upon achievement, while others consider financial need as a determining factor. All applicants to Duke are considered for all applicable scholarships. Over 60 merit scholarships are awarded each year. Students are also encouraged to investigate local and other external scholarship sources such as business, religious, civic and fraternal organizations.

For a list of available merit and post-graduate scholarships, as well as detailed descriptions of each, please visit the website of the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows

The Alice M. Baldwin Scholars Program was created to inspire and support undergraduate women in the classroom, in leadership and in their future professions. The four-year program accepts 18 first-year Trinity and Pratt students each fall.

The Baldwin Scholars participate in two academic seminars, a sophomore residential experience and an internship. In addition, they network with student mentors, faculty and Duke alumnae through community service projects, lectures and informal dinners.

The goal of the four-year Cardea Fellows Program is to enable students to prepare competitive applications to medical school and other health professions schools. Every undergraduate admitted to Duke has demonstrated academic excellence, yet some students may not have had the opportunity to develop a foundation in science and math that will accelerate them toward careers in the health professions. Participants in the Cardea Fellows Program form a learning community, enhancing the competitive success of each fellow. 

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program provides underrepresented minority students with an awareness of the challenges and opportunities of academic life. Each year, five sophomore students are selected as Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows; they receive stipends for the academic terms and summers for two years. Fellows who go on to pursue Ph.D. degrees in the core humanities, the social sciences or the physical sciences are eligible to receive up to $10,000 of undergraduate student loan repayment by the Mellon Foundation.

With a 2010 $1 million award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Duke's Howard Hughes Research Program supports undergraduate research in Inquiry across Scale: From Genes to Cognition, an interdisciplinary program that emphasizes collaborative inquiry across scale in rapidly developing areas of scientific research.

In pursuing the Inquiry across Scale program, we continue to develop our Research Fellows undergraduate research program and tailor our Vertically Integrated Partners (VIP) research teams of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates to address research questions in five areas: Neuroimmunology, Genetic and Physiological Regulation of Body Size, Neural Mechanism and Decision Making, Primate Genomics, and Molecular Biology and Evolution of Olfactory Circuits.

The Pratt Engineering Undergraduate Fellows Program provides engineering undergraduates with an opportunity to do intensive research in their engineering major and receive course credit and the opportunity to do summer research. The school-wide competitive program includes faculty and students of the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. The program is under the direction of Martha Absher, Assistant Dean for Education and Outreach Programs for the Pratt School of Engineering.

Pratt Engineering Undergraduate Fellows work on research projects under the direction of faculty advisers.

DukeEngage provides full funding for select Duke undergraduates to pursue an immersive summer of service in partnership with a U.S. or international community. This renowned program empowers students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to tackle real-world societal issues.

Any undergraduate who has completed at least two semesters of classes can apply to participate. Since its founding in 2007, DukeEngage has allowed more than 2,000 students to provide meaningful service in nearly 70 nations worldwide.

The Service-Learning Program supports Duke's mission of promoting knowledge in the service of society by fostering service-learning on campus.

Service-learning is a teaching and learning approach that integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities. Students taking Duke’s service-learning courses commit to completing a certain number of hours of service work outside of class and to reflecting on this work through class discussions and assignments. Past service experiences--always related to the content of a course--have included building assistive devices for people with disabilities, staging chemistry demonstrations, documenting the stories of local veterans or farmworkers, tutoring in local schools, conducting research on Duke’s dining and sustainability practices, starting social endeavors, visting with the elderly, serving on boards of local arts organizations and much, much more.

In recent years over 30% of Duke students have taken a service-learning course at some time during their studies, and in spring 2012, Duke’s service-learning programs were once again recognized as among the best in the nation in the annual ranking from U.S. News & World Report magazine.

The Hart Leadership Program provides undergraduates with a unique opportunity to practice the art of leadership.

The program offers courses on topics such as civic participation, political engagement, social entrepreneurship, ethics and public life, and organizational change and development. Students can also participate in the Hart Leadership's experiential learning programs: Enterprising Leadership Initiative, Service Opportunities in Leadership and Hart Fellows

Since 1995, the Hart Leadership Program's interns and fellows have conducted community-based projects with partner organizations in 13 U.S. cities and 35 countries.