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Is Duke right for you?

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

This article was originally written and published by Rose Wong in 2020.

A private research university in Durham, North Carolina, Duke provides 6,526 undergraduate students a college experience filled with academic rigor, basketball madness and stellar pre-professional opportunities. After three years on this beautiful campus, I can both sing my love for this school and be critical of certain aspects of it, which I am eager to share as you explore different colleges and find your match.


Undergraduate education is split into the Trinity School of Arts and Sciences and the Pratt School of Engineering. The most popular majors are computer science, economics and public policy, in respective order. The student faculty ratio is six to one, and most classes have less than 20 students. Note that introductory/gateway classes (i.e. Stats 101) and popular courses (i.e. Earth Science aka “Rocks for Jocks”) would have more people.

A Duke education is hard, but can also be phenomenal. I have been in classes that I just wanted to get through, and others that absolutely boggled my mind, shifted my worldview and challenged who I thought I was as a person. With Duke classes, you get what you put in, and you can expect to spend a lot of time in the the infamous Perkins library.

Courtesy of Duke Chronicle

Social Life

I have heard Duke referred to as an “Ivy plus” university or “the Harvard of the South.” Duke is very similar to an Ivy in prestige and academic reputation, but certainly differs in its social culture. For example, most schools that Duke is commonly compared against are not particularly invested in their athletics teams. Meanwhile, Duke has arguably the best men’s college basketball team in the country. You may not be a basketball fan, but you will be a Duke basketball fan. Dorms and social organizations have watch parties for games, and students tent in K-Ville (K stands for our basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski) for weeks to get into the Duke-UNC game, which is broadcasted on primetime ESPN. It is a school spirit unlike any other.

Also unlike schools such as Columbia, Harvard or Cornell, Greek life has a huge presence at Duke. (You are in the South after all.) While, of course, you can have a thriving social life without being part of a sorority/fraternity, you will likely know many people who are and find that most parties are Greek-affiliated.

Another set of social organizations at Duke are SLGs--Selection Living Groups. They are co-ed, and like sororities/fraternities, host parties and provide a living space for its members. You rush into them as well.

Bottom line: Duke social life screams selectivity. Some of us choose to be “independent,” which has its pros and cons. I personally have found friends whom I am thankful for every day, all as an independent.

(Or you can join the Duke Chronicle! We give you friends for your labor! ;))

Courtesy of Schaich Bergermann Partner


I love this lil’ city. The lesser-known sibling of Raleigh, “Durm” is North Carolina’s liberal nook, still with all the southern charm. Increasingly gentrified, the city has been experiencing an influx of young professionals from across the country and a burgeoning restaurant and social scene. It would be hard for me to pick my favorite restaurant in downtown Durham--there are too many!

Photo: Best of the Bull

Opportunities beyond the classroom

A popular program is DukeEngage, which allows students to spend eight weeks in a city within or outside of the United States serving the local community. Oftentimes referred to as “voluntourism.”

We also have the Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina, where students can spend a semester taking classes and interacting with sea life. The coastal campus is perfect for those interested in Marine biology, but any major is welcome to apply. Everyone I talked to said they had an amazing experience at the Marine Lab.

Many students also study abroad, with 54% of our 2019 graduates having done so. You can go anywhere from Berlin to Cameroon, St. Petersburg to Singapore.

I am barely scraping the surface--a university is large and complex and I am still learning about Duke as a senior. But if you have any questions, please shoot me an email! And if you are interested in applying or finding the right school for you, we are always here to help!

Want to find the perfect college to achieve your goals? Maybe it's Duke, or maybe something that's an even better fit for you. Download my completely free College Research Guide to get a leg up in the college search process:

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