Impressions Of
Duke University

Academic Experience

Male Biology Major C/O 2021

Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
There are tons of advisors in the Biology department. I got my own advisor who has experience with both the pre-medical track and the sciences, so they help you decide which path to take.

How accessible have your professors been so far?
Extremely accessible. If you need help, the professors make a point to set up a meeting with you.

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’ve always had an interest in biology. I’ve been set on this path since the eighth grade.

Female Public Policy Major C/O 2020

Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
One class I took last semester was called Ethics, and it is probably the best class I’ve taken at Duke, and our professor was very much a proponent of being the devil’s advocate. If people didn’t speak up for a more conservative viewpoint then he would. He created a very open class environment and we could say idea that we wouldn’t be comfortable saying otherwise, but I think that was the nature of that class. I have been in other classes where you can guess the general vibe of the room and it might be a little bit less open if you have an alternative viewpoint to the majority.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
It depends on who you surround yourself with because I think it can be both. I’ve been able to collaborate with my friends, but it also can feel a bit competitive. When I started off doing pre-med, there are people who are willing to work together with you but there are also people who want to work on their own. You learn to find the people that suit your studying environment. The competitive environment might be more apparent in certain classes based on what the requirements for that class are and for people to be able to apply for medical school.

Male Computer Science Major C/O 2019

Is there anything you feel the Computer Science Department does especially well or poorly?
It’s one of the most popular majors now. [10% of Duke undergraduates majored in Computer and Information Sciences.] With the high growth and interest, the department has struggled to handle the increasing demand. This makes it hard for professors to run classes or form relationships with the students. It seems like these are just growing pains but professors are very accomplished, and you are able to be surrounded by very smart people.

How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s not very competitive. At a school like this where people are individually focused, no one will do things to compare, like asking you what you got on the test, and people don’t care about another person’s GPA. It’s common to form study groups to work through the class.

Social Opportunities

Male Biology Major C/O 2021

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
I don’t do much other than going out for dinner with friends in the Durham area. A bunch of students hold events in their living situations and all over campus.

What do you like to do with your friends?
I like to go out to eat, go to Sky Zone, go bowling, or stay on campus and just invite people over to my apartment. We also have video game stations around campus. There are lots of extracurricular activities on campus. Duke will promote different organizations to hold concerts or events that students can come to. Duke also holds movie nights in different recreational centers every weekend.

What have been some of your favorite times at Duke?
Hanging out with my friends. The Black community is pretty strong, so a lot of times we are just hanging out in a dorm or going to one of these off-campus activities.

Female Public Policy Major C/O 2020

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
Usually, I’ll find time to hang out with friends, whether that’s just hanging out, going out to eat, or watching a movie. Occasionally, I’ll go out with friends and stuff but it’s not too frequently. If that’s the case, really the only two places you can go are Shooters or Devine’s or an off-campus party. Or, you can go to someone’s dorm or apartment and hang out with those guys. If I’m going to a party, it’s usually a friend of mine who’s hosting it or it’s a frat party.

How happy are you with the weekend options? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m not mad about it. I do know, having talked to friends at schools in more city environments, that at those schools there are more options if you don’t want to do something that’s not very college-y. That’d be nice, but I also don’t mind it. Because there are not as many activities to do, you have to really find the things and people you really enjoy. You get to really hang out with people. There’s always something going on at Duke that you could do, whether that be a performance or a movie showing. There’s also stuff going on in downtown Durham or on the outskirts.

Male Computer Science Major C/O 2019

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
The social formula here is a routine, which is basically a [small party] before an event. People typically go out on Wednesday and Saturday to a bar called Shooters’. On Thursday and Friday, people go to other bars where it’s a better atmosphere for talking. We also have Greek parties or functions with sororities.

How happy are you with the nightlife at Duke? Is there anything you would change?
I’m happy with it and have had an enjoyable time. I think because there is Greek life at a school this size [6,994], you see the same people a lot. This can make it feel small, but it’s not a big deal.

Campus Culture

Male Biology Major C/O 2021

How has the size of Duke influenced your social experience? [There are about 7,000 undergraduate students at Duke.]
It’s a small size so you get to know everyone eventually. It can be exhausting seeing the same people every day, but this just means you get to know them better. I’ve enjoyed having a small school because I get to know my friends better than I would otherwise.

How strong is the community for people of color on Duke’s campus?
It’s very close I’d say. All the activities held that target our demographic help build this community. The Black Student Alliance Invitational is a good way for people to get to know students from other grade levels.

Female Public Policy Major C/O 2020

How did you meet your closest friends?
A lot of them were from my focus program my freshman year. You live with them and take classes with them, so I met them by proximity. I also met people through classes. You have mutual friends, so you start talking and hanging out and whatnot.

To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think it depends on what group you’re looking at. Greek organizations have a reputation of being White and heterosexual, and the majority of students that’s the case here. There is slightly more diversity in SLG’s, but that is because in their selection process they are intentional about creating a group that has diverse people. People do tend to self-segregate by race or sexual orientations because they connect with people through cultural groups. There are possibilities to find diverse groups if you look for it, like in acapella groups or dance groups where their identity markers aren’t based on a certain group. I think there’s a long way to go, but it’s not completely self-segregated.

Female Public Policy and Philosophy Double Major C/O 2019

To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think it depends. It’s definitely fragmented between Greek life, SLG, and independents. In Greek life specifically, there’s not that much mixing. It’s pretty homogenous. It’s mostly white, wealthy, heterosexuals. In SLG’s it’s a little bit better, but people still trend towards wealthy heterosexuals. Independent living is less fragmented than SLG’s and Greek life. [Duke’s student body is about 44% White, 21% Asian-American and 10% Black. Socioeconomically, 19% of students come from the top 1%.]

What made you choose an SLG organization over a Greek life organization?
I just felt that I fit in better. I did go through the beginning rounds of sorority rush, and I didn’t necessarily think it fit my personality. Greek rush is a lot more structured and formal, while SLG rush is very casual and I met people and made connections with them, so I definitely preferred that.

Durham, NC

Pros of

  • “It’s a small community so you can get to know the community members who live around you.”
  • “Durham was named ‘the foodie capital of the South’ by the NY Post.
  • “We aren’t too far from lakes, mountains, or beaches.”
  • “There is a lot of history and interesting architecture to explore in downtown Durham.”

Cons of

  • “The transportation is lacking if you don’t have a car.”
  • “It’s not a city. There’s not much to do outside of Duke. A lot of my life revolves around Duke, which is great because I love Duke.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Male Biology Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Duke before entering as a freshman?
The breadth of resources can sometimes be overwhelming. Not knowing about the resources offered can hurt you, but it’s helpful if you take the time to comb through the different opportunities.

What is something somebody should know that has not been mentioned?
[There have been racist incidents] so be prepared for this mentally. We have had instances of racial epithets written on the walls of certain buildings. Be in the mindset that just because you are in college, you aren’t isolated from it.

Female Public Policy Major C/O 2020

What is something you wish you knew about Duke before entering as a freshman?
It’s a pretty pre-professional school. There are some traditional tracks that a lot of students will take, and those are generally pre-med, anything in technology or computer science, and then business or finance. Oftentimes people will feel pressured to pursue one of those three and if you are someone who is not necessarily interested in those there will be moments when you think you should be interested in them. Duke has amazing alumni in all of those three tracks, which is great if you’re interested in them. So, know that if you have interests that are not in those three tracks, it might be harder to find the wealth of alumni and opportunity. They’ll be there, but you have to go out of your way to find them. I think that’s something that comes with the growing and maturing during your college experience. [The top three industries employing Duke students are Information Technology, Healthcare, and Finance.]

Male Computer Science Major C/O 2019

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Check out the food scene, or maybe stop by the library and see what it’s like to actually work and be a Duke student.

Reasons to attend and not to attend Duke University

To Attend

  • “It has a pretty amazing alumni network. There will always be people you can reach out to who will help you. When I graduate, I will definitely want to help any students who reach out to me.”
  • “The types of opportunities Duke has forces you to be outgoing in terms of networking on campus. That may not be where everyone is most comfortable, and it certainly sometimes feels disingenuous, but it is an important life skill to learn.”
  • “It’s fun. There is a good social network and a good balance between academics and social life. Without it, I would be drowning from the work.”

To Not Attend

  • “Socially it can be hard.” [If you’re not part of an SLG or Greek life organization, it can feel like you are not getting the full Duke experience.]
  • “The pre-professional culture can sometimes be a lot and will make you feel like the only reason you’re doing something is to get to the next place.”
  • “The academic rigor can be a problem for students.”
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