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Articles / Why Duke University Stood Out To Me

Why Duke University Stood Out To Me

A Written by Amelia Leone | March 22, 2023
Duke University by Pattern on Unsplash
Photo by by Pattern on Unsplash

Notes From My Duke Campus Tour

At this point in my college search, I have considered several college types–big, small, city, suburban, prestigious, ‘rah rah.’ Before touring Duke University, I still had no sense of what I wanted, or rather, what aspects of a school I wanted to prioritize. As it is easy to get caught up in the minute details of a school, a friendly reminder to myself and all other college applicants: a school will rarely have every single thing you are looking for. Instead, it is important to be mindful about which characteristics are essential to your ideal college experience–whether that’s location, size, or campus culture–and which you can be flexible with.

As I strolled out of my Duke tour, I realized that I had a better grasp on my personal priorities for a college. I understood which traits of the school I particularly appreciated, felt impartial to, and wasn’t a fan of. My next step will be to apply these opinions to a broader scale of schools in order to point myself in a more beneficial and specific direction in my college search.

I came to realize that, for me, attending a medium-sized school with strong academics, ample amounts of spirit, and a large yet walkable campus was of the utmost importance.

With all that being said, below I have compiled a short description on the campus, academics, and school spirit at Duke University. First, reflect on yourself and determine your non-negotiables. Next, feel free to take a look at my description of those three aspects of Duke and see if they align!

Vibrant Campus

Duke Universty Broadhead Center by Srini Somanchi on Unsplash

Duke has a little under seven thousand undergraduates, plus just over ten thousand graduate and professional students. To many prospective students, however, those numbers are hard to conceptualize and merely feel like school facts. To me, the best way to describe the feel of the population would be by explaining what I saw during a weekday lunchtime on campus.

Due to the fact that the West Campus dining hall in particular is famous for its wide variety of high-quality food, it felt as though a majority of the school crowded into the central walkway during lunchtime. Though there were likely thousands of students located in and around the dining hall, several times I saw classmates bump into each other and spark friendly conversation. Additionally, many students chose to eat and converse outside at Duke’s central eating area, accurately named “The Plaza.” Here, students congregate for meals, hangouts, and in-between class chats.

The main West Campus dining hall in Broadhead Center, which is informally known as the WU (West Union), is a Time-Out Market type restaurant with thirteen individual food stalls representing every ethnic flavor you could imagine. Best part is that you get to use your dining dollars, called Blue Bucks, which are included in your food plan! When I went, I selected Indian curry, chicken tikka masala and delicious naan from a large buffet that had many meat and meatless options.

Due to the fact that I visited in January, it was extremely sunny out, which I was told was a common occurrence. It seemed as though most students simply popped on sweatshirts and joined their friends outside. Because it was lunchtime and everyone was centrally located around the WU, the Plaza was bustling but not crowded. People chatted within their circle but also often wandered about the plaza and spoke with passersby or club representatives who had set up tables. To me, the Plaza and WU felt like the heartbeat of campus. The area had lots of personality and room, both physically and socially, for everyone.

Outside of the Plaza, the campus is composed of beautiful Gothic style buildings and large expanses of bright green grass. Also, the campus is located in the middle of the forest so there are tons of trees along the perimeter.

Academics That Encourage Growth

Duke’s “Growth from exploration” motto is deeply embodied in its curriculum and was expressed all throughout the tour. Duke University is divided into two colleges–the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and the Pratt School of Engineering. This allows the schools to exist as both a liberal arts and research institution.

During my tour, the student leader explained how her favorite thing about the university is the fact that students can uniquely shape their journey by combining up to three avenues of study–major, minor, and certificate. Apparently 83 percent of students choose to complete some combination of these three things, which contributes to an intellectually stimulating community and prepares students for the job market.

Strong School Spirit

Duke Cameron Indoor Stadium by  Ian Mackey via Unsplash

With Duke’s stellar Division I sports teams comes school spirit, and a lot of it! While I was there, I got to see the students “tenting,” or camping out, in front of the Duke stadium for the few weeks leading up to the highly anticipated Duke vs University of North Carolina basketball game. Though this tenting tradition occurs during only one month of the year, the passion and pride which drives it is a constant, according to students. Even when taking a short walk around campus, one will find Duke merch all over the place.

Through talk I overheard of nighttime activities, it's clear that students enjoy nights out and have vibrant social lives. However, I doesn't seem like this infringes on students’ work ethic. If anything, balancing school work and social life speaks to their ability to manage responsibilities and create a well-rounded lifestyle.

I felt that at Duke, students could truly get the best of both worlds. Between the strong academics, invigorating social life and exciting school spirit, it appears as though Duke University allows students to make a perfectly enjoyable and balanced life.

📚 Don't forget to join the CC Community for more discussion on applying to Duke University and other colleges!

Written by


Amelia Leone

Amelia Leone is a current junior at NEST+m High School in Manhattan. She is an editor of her school's newspaper as well as the President of the non-profit tutoring organization, Learning Pals. Amelia enjoys running, dancing, and exploring NYC’s vibrant foods, thrilling activities, and hidden places.

Growing up in New York City, Amelia has been exposed to a variety of cultures and perspectives. She looks forward to sharing her own experience with the college process, as well as experiences of students with varying goals and backgrounds

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