While optional, we at CollegeVine highly recommend that you respond to this prompt. At first glance, the prompt can seem complex and intimidating, but it ultimately boils down to one question: What is your personal perspective and experience?
Before writing, let’s take a look at recent developments at Duke. Newly-minted president Vince Price has made it the institution’s initiative to foster a diversity of views and knowledge within its student body. Diversity is not relegated solely to student body demographics or race; it is characterized by the variety of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives embodied by individuals. Duke wants to better understand how your background, ideas, etc., will contribute to its increasingly diverse community.
Duke’s most recent book selections for its first-year student summer reading program reflect what the institution values about diversity. These texts encompass a range of divergent authorial experiences and often spur readers to think more critically about how backgrounds shape and mold individuals’ perspectives. Consider reading or researching Duke’s past selected texts to gain a better understanding of how you can share your own experiences.
The following have been Duke’s selected texts:
- “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel
- “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
- “The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood” by Richard Blanco
As an exercise for brainstorming, try sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and writing detailed, specific answers to these following questions:
- What is definitive about my background? Family? Community? Friends?
- What life experiences have been important in my development?
- What do I care about? What do I want to change about the world?
- What “steps” in my journey have brought me to where I am today?
When you’re finished with this exercise, ask yourself if the responses encapsulate your identity or whether you’re missing any important details. You can also talk to friends and family who, in some capacities, might know you better than you know yourself.
Above: Want to make it to N.C. State’s graduation? You’ll need to write a great college application essay and get in first. Photo from the News & Observer.
College application season is upon us. As you’re preparing your applications, put some thought into the toughest part: the essay. When I was applying for college, I found that most of the applications required at least a couple essays, so it’s worth trying to make yours as strong as possible. (You can read one of the essays I submitted here.)
Here are some tips on making your essay stand out from the thousands that college admission boards read.
Don’t write about school.
Essays are your chance to show the college that you have more to offer to the community than your killer brain and outstanding study habits. Don’t use the thousand-word essay as another opportunity to tell them how much you study; instead, use it to tell them a personal story about yourself or about something you care about. Your transcript is probably enough to prove to them how well you do in school.
Choose something small to write about.
Even if you’re only applying to a few schools, you’ll have to write multiple essays — and you don’t have tons of time. You can’t really undertake a whole essay about your four years on the high school football team. Plus, you probably have a word limit that wouldn’t do a broad topic justice. For that reason, pick a small moment to talk about. Pick a story about one game that you performed well in rather than trying to fit in something about all four years.
Make sure you answer the prompt.
This may seem like a simple one, but you can easily lose the prompt you are trying to answer when you write. Personally, I know I get a little excited about a topic and might start by answering the prompt … but at the end of the essay, I am talking about something totally different. This is where outlines come in handy to make sure you are on track.
Set up an “editing station.”
The best feedback I got on my essays was from my friends. We set up a Google Doc and put all our essays in. We each read others’ essays and made notes about where certain sections needed more clarity. A little peer reviewing is helpful. since working on an essay for a long time can make it difficult for you to see the shortcomings. You may understand what you mean, but the college admissions board might not.