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Engaged in Learning


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ach year, Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead encourages students to explore new areas and step outside their comfort zones. “It’s the whole person, not the student alone but all the sides of you, fully engaged and acting in concert, that will get the full education Duke can give you,” he says. “The way to find yourself at Duke is to lose yourself in the new things it offers, to take some chances and follow the lure of what’s interesting, without undue concern to demonstrate moment-by-moment that you are on the official road to success.”


President Brodhead advises students to take advantage of the pervasive academic energy and restlessness that is found both in Duke’s award-winning faculty and in their fellow students. As a group, Duke undergraduates are intelligent, talented, and bold; they are not content with the status quo. As individuals, they represent diverse economic situations, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, values, and interests. At Duke, they enjoy exceptional academic opportunities, paired with a youthful sense of flexibility and school spirit – a combination that makes Duke unlike any other institution in American higher education.


Admissions Criteria: The university seeks and attracts students who are considered thinkers as well as doers. “There is no single profile of the Duke undergraduate, because the university emphasizes individuality,” said Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions. “One of the many things we look for is the student who thinks well, who makes theoretical connections and recognizes contradictions, who is an active learner rather than a passive listener.”


Because the university emphasizes a melding of experiences inside and outside the classroom, the Admissions Committee looks at many criteria, including the student’s academic record and quality of the secondary school program, recommendations from teachers and counselors, extracurricular activities and accomplishments, the application essay, and standardized test scores. In addition, the committee strives to create balance in racial and economic diversity as well as a variety of backgrounds and interests. This year’s entering class reflects 50 foreign countries, and students of color comprise 45 percent of the class.


What Duke Offers: To help students explore areas that kindle their enthusiasm for learning, Duke provides both a rigorous academic curriculum and considerable flexibility in course selection and degree programs. Undergraduates can choose courses in nearly 100 different programs comprising the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Duke students are extremely well prepared for graduate/professional schools, where their acceptance rate is well above the national average.


Students with interests outside one of the 36 established arts and sciences majors can design their own curriculum with the help of a faculty advisor. In addition, the university offers five accredited engineering programs, dual degrees, minors in most fields, and 16 certificate programs in fields such as architectural engineering, human development, neurosciences, and policy journalism.


Teaching Environment: At Duke, learning is a priority and teaching is personal. Ninety percent of the faculty teaches undergraduates, primarily in small classes of 16 to 35 students. The undergraduate student-faculty ratio is 11:1.


Several programs are specifically designed for first-year students. One program unique to the Duke philosophy is Focus, around a dozen different programs of interrelated seminars for first-year students who live and learn together. Also, in more than 45 first-year seminars, professors chosen for their outstanding undergraduate teaching lead classes of 15 or fewer students.


Undergraduate Experience: The Duke undergraduate experience is designed to enhance a life of learning. Everything – from the curriculum to the many opportunities for community service, academic support, and special-interest clubs and organizations – supports the natural intellectual curiosity of Duke students and their commitment to make a difference in the world when they graduate.

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