Duke University – A Brief Introduction

Duke University

Duke University is well known for many things: its school of engineering, champion men’s basketball team, medical school, ample school spirit at sporting events, and of course their academic prowess. While often glossed over by international students, since it is not one of the Ivies, Duke is ranked 8th best University in the U.S. tying with University of Pennsylvania and outperforming Dartmouth, Brown and Cornell, according to U.S. News and World Report.


Duke’s Location in the North Carolina research triangle cannot be beat.  Duke, UNC – Chapel Hill and North Carolina – State (all located in North Carolina) create a triangle, geographically and are well known for bringing technological, medical and cultural expertise to the Raleigh-Durham area. While many students applying to U.S. universities from overseas may prefer to attend schools in New York or California, North Carolina is understated, friendlier and still offers high rates of academic expertise in a variety of disciplines, without the chaos affiliated with overpopulated metropolitan areas on the coasts. While Duke is located merely two hours from the beach, it still offers the opportunity for beach holidays, as well as access to several smaller cities.


Visually, Duke’s architecture is akin to Hogwarts, with its tall steeples, gothic style buildings and royal, medieval appearance.  While most of the campus is as ancient as it looks, the medical section of campus is designed in a modern gothic style, to fit in with its architectural theme. Not only are the most iconic buildings on campus built in the style of kings, but student housing will also make one feel like royalty.  A plethora of hidden alcoves and grand archways adorn campus, creating the feel of a medieval fortress.


There are also over 500 clubs and organisations one can join on campus, including co-ed interest-based housing options, in addition to sororities and fraternities.  There is also a Quiddich team, as well as a battleship club, played like the board the game in canoes in the campus pool, without actual explosives, of course.


Duke’s most renowned sports teams are their men’s basketball and lacrosse teams, and the women’s golf team. While Duke, UNC – Chapel Hill and NC – State have many sports rivalries, the biggest known event to Duke students is their home game against Chapel Hill.  Students may obtain free tickets, but only if they are lucky and patient enough to get their hands on some.  Many students will spend up to six weeks in a tent with 12 of their best friends just before tickets are released to reserve their seat at the game.  In fact, there are three degrees of what is called ‘tenting’ at Duke.  Black tenters are the most hardcore, and spend an entire six weeks living in a tent, waiting for tickets to be issued.  Next there are the Blue tenters, who start camping out a week or two later, then white tenters start camping out just a week or two before tickets are doled out.

Students at Duke

With 50 majors, 47 minors and 24 certificates offered, no one focuses on only one study at Duke. As a result of the large amount of encouragement to cross- study at Duke, many students double major, conduct research, volunteer on campus, as well as get involved in several clubs, some even earn an additional certificate in another subject area outside their major.

Admissions at Duke

  • Duke is very proud of the arts.  Therefore, if you play an instrument, it is always beneficial to submit a supplement.  This will help you to stand out.  Also, playing an unusual instrument, such as the harp or bassoon is almost always beneficial for admittance.
  • Special talents, as well as geographical distribution are also likely to help with admittance. One with diverse experiences, an interdisciplinary background, or a large amount of engagement or impact is also likely to be admitted.
  • While getting into Duke is not all about grades, a very high caliber of academics is expected, as well as a well-rounded area of interest.
  • All students automatically apply for 48 scholarships when they submit their application at Duke, even if they are applying as an international student.
  •  Admittance rates are 3x higher for Early Decision applicants. However, this acceptance is binding.
  • While students applying from Australia are not able to take AP classes, an alternative to show an individual’s capability would be to take college level courses while still in high school.


Since there are no APs in Australia, this makes the SAT score even more important.  However, more important than the SAT is the essay portion of the application.  Even after the SAT reformats, Duke will still require the optional essay to gain admission. As for SAT2 tests, it is very advisable not to take a test in your native language.  Admissions officers want to see that you are pushing your academic interests, and not looking for an easy A.

Other Quirky Facts about Duke

The engineering department has come up with a plethora of interesting innovations. They have developed a Rhumba type lawn mower that will mow the lawn without human supervision. In addition, Duke students have created a machine that one wears like gloves, which translates sign language into speech. They have also developed a 5D cube, in which all students can go into, to learn about the world of virtual reality, or to assist their research.  Also, engineers at Duke have developed a Smart Home, which recycles all energy, and is able to communicate with humans, take commands and adjust itself accordingly.

Another unique extracurricular activity one can get involved with at Duke, is their lemur center. Durham is the only place, outside of Madagascar with a large population of Lemurs.  At the Lemur Center, one can volunteer in whatever department they wish, to help care for these cute little creatures.  The center is two hours away from campus and shuttle busses transport students there and back for free.


If you have any more questions about Duke University from an Australian/American perspective e-mail [email protected]

A graduate from Columbia University and a native New Yorker, Nico is now in Melbourne helping students here to realize their American college dream. Her understanding of U.S. higher education and experience in the Ivy League will guide you through both the SAT exam and the entire admission process.

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