This post will be long, so there will be a quick summary at the bottom for those who don’t want to read the entire post.
Hi everyone, I am a current junior at Duke, and like many of you, I looked at College Confidential religiously when I was applying to college. Also like a lot of you, I applied to as many top ranked colleges as possible and was fortunate enough to get accepted into Duke among many other great schools. However, looking back now, I don’t believe that I would attend Duke again if I was given the opportunity to go back in time.
With college decisions coming out soon, I wanted to spend a little time giving back to the community that helped me out so much when I was still in high school. I often see mostly positive things on this website for any school, so I felt like my different perspective may be useful for anyone trying to decide whether or not Duke would be a great fit for them.
Before going any further, I want to acknowledge that there are many people who do enjoy and love Duke. This post is not to discredit those people or make any kind of judgement towards them. Also, there may be some of you that have your heart set out on Duke. If this is you, I truly hope that you find more happiness and fulfillment than I ever did at the university.
Having said that, keep in mind that this entire post is my opinion based on my own personal experiences and observations. Some of the things I may talk about could easily be an issue with college in general or society. Others on this board may tell you about their wonderful experience at Duke, and you should read their posts as well to gain a more comprehensive perspective about Duke.
I’ve listed some common conceptions or beliefs about Duke below, and I will elaborate on them as much as I can. Feel free to read as much or as little as you would like. However, here are a few terms that you may want to get familiar with before proceeding:
- Marketplace: The freshman dining hall
- Shooter’s/Shooter’s II/Shoots/WNS (Wednesday Night Shooter’s): The most common nightclub that people go to at Duke. It’s located near East Campus.
- SLG (Selective Living Group): These are advertised as alternatives to Greek life. At the core, they are basically a group of about 100 people who live together and hang out
- 9th Street: A street located near East Campus that has some popular restaurants
- Food points: The currency of meal plans at Duke. 1 food point = 1 dollar.
- Independent: Someone who is not affiliated with a Greek or SLG organization
- WASP: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. A term used to refer to the elite of the elite in the United States
- Social organization: Term I used to refer to Greek life and SLGs
Common Questions and Beliefs
This section will mostly cover basic questions that most people have about Duke.
- Everyone at Duke has to be incredibly smart and accomplished right?
No. This was one of the biggest surprises and disappointments for me when I entered Duke. While there are some incredibly bright and amazing people at Duke, a lot of them have more or less been prepared to go to an Ivy League caliber school from birth by their family.
Most students here also care more about prestige and money than making a difference in the world. The most common topics of discussion are:
- Greek life
- Internship/Job Recruiting
- How much work people are doing
By the time you graduate, about half of your graduating class will enter either finance or consulting.
- Is Durham a fun city?
It’s more fun than a typical suburb, but it’s not as fun as a large city. The best thing about Durham is probably the food. Outside of that, there are a few bars if you’re into that scene and a few nice shopping areas like Brightleaf and the Tobacco District. Durham isn’t really the safest city though, so you’ll want to go with other people at night if you feel the need to venture into it.
Even with these things, most people, especially freshman, will just typically go to Shooter’s and grab the occasional meal on 9th Street on the weekend. Duke definitely has more of a campus feel to it than a city feel.
- Is the campus nice?
Outside of what you see on the main quad from West Campus, there isn’t really much else to see. East campus looks more or less uniform on the main quad, and the dorms not on the main quad aren’t exactly the prettiest. Central campus looks like a rundown area of a city. Also, the administration likes to renovate the grass on West Campus a lot for whatever, so expect to smell fertilizer, mulch, and dirt often around West. However, if you like wide open campuses, you’ll really like how spread out Duke’s campus is.
- I hear that there is are a lot of issues with sexual assault at Duke. Is this true?
This is a pretty controversial topic at Duke and across college campuses in general. I do personally know a few people that have been sexually assaulted and raped while at Duke. The university has published some recent findings about sexual assault on campus if you want to read more.
Overall, I believe that if you go out with a group of friends and take care of one another, you should be safe. However, unfortunately, this isn’t a fool proof way to avoid these kinds of problems because drugs and alcohol make situations more difficult.
- Is the food on campus good?
As a freshman, you’ll mostly be getting your meals at Marketplace because of the meal plan. Most freshmen do start to get sick of Marketplace though, and you’ll often hear people complaining about it by the second month of school or so.
There’s a decent variety on West Campus, but it is quite pricey if you’re not on financial aid. The university seems to be cutting away dining options from students though after renovating the main eating location on West Campus, West Union. There used to be a lot of food trucks lined up near the Chapel, and you used to be able to order delivery from a few off-campus restaurants with food points. However, the food trucks have virtually been forced off the Chapel area, and you can only order food after 8 P.M. now.
- Is there a social hierarchy at Duke?
Unfortunately, yes. Things like Greek life and SLGS help perpetuate the hierarchy. I’ll talk more about the social scene in the next section.
- How’s the dating culture at Duke?
Hook-up culture is definitely the norm here. I’ll only comment on heterosexual relationships since I don’t know much else about other relationships.
20% of guys hook-up and date 80% of the girls here. These guys are typically at the top of the social hierarchy. On the other hand, girls have a lot easier time having these kinds of relationships since most guys don’t care too much about a girl’s social status on campus as long as she is physically attractive enough to them.
- Is basketball really that big?
Yes. Most people at least enjoy watching Duke Basketball games with their friends, and it’s a great way to meet and connect with people. I will say that basketball is something that unifies students together on campus, so it’s fun to get into it. If you’re not into basketball, no one will judge you, and you can easily avoid it.
- Can I have fun without drugs and alcohol?
Probably, but you’ll have to make your own fun. Most social activities involve some form of alcohol. If you want to enjoy a night in with friends, you can, but don’t expect that to be the norm at Duke.
- How hard is Duke?
This really depends on your major and what you’re good at. If you put the effort into studying and keeping up with your classes, you should be fine. The average GPA is around a 3.4 – 3.6 I believe. People on the pre-med track tend to be the least collaborative and most competitive students.