What is Duke University Known For? Is Duke a Good School?

From its humble beginnings as a Quaker and Methodist seminary established in 1836, Duke University has become one of the most recognizable and respected private schools in the United States. 

Located in the North Carolina research triangle, Duke boasts a gorgeous campus, complete with a historic chapel designed by renowned African American architects Horace Trumbauer and Julian Abele, as well as one of the best medical centers in the country.

Thanks to its $12.7 billion endowment, Duke has more than enough funding to support several highly innovative research programs and initiatives.

Some of the more notable include the Duke Global Health Center, through which students and faculty members work together to address the diseases that affect some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. 

At the Duke Center for Genomic and Computational Biology, scientists work to study the human genome and apply the knowledge they gain to improve human life.

As one might expect from a school with such outstanding support, Duke has been associated with some of the world’s greatest leaders. 

Former students include Senator Elizabeth Dole and President Richard Nixon. Faculty and alumni at Duke include five winners of the Nobel Prize, as well as some of the biggest names in the business world, such as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Any school would be happy for just a couple of these attributes. But great research and respected alumni are only part of what Duke University is known for.

What Majors & Academics Are Duke Known For?

Duke University
Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), Vinik Building of the Fitzpatrick Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

So great is Duke’s academic reputation that it regularly gets confused for an Ivy League school, such as Harvard or Yale. 

Although Duke does not belong to the Ivy League Athletic Conference, one quick look at its best-known major shows why people would make that assumption.

At the Fuqua School of Business, students can take advantage of Duke’s legendary law school to earn a unique JD/MBA degree. 

In only four short years, students can earn a joint degree with a focus on their chosen field. The program puts future legal experts on the fast track, preparing them for careers in finance, law, management, and more.

Perhaps the best-known programs at Duke are related to the School of Medicine, such as its anesthesiology degree. Taking advantage of the university’s state-of-the-art Medical Center, the anesthesiology program puts a priority on collaboration, working closely with nurses and staff. 

Emphasizing outcome-based care, the program teaches students to become practitioners who put the patient’s needs first.

Students in the anesthesia program can participate in the Developing Research Excellence in Anesthesia Management (DREAM) Campaign, which gives students funding for collaboration and research.

That’s just one of the many research projects available to the School of Medicine students. Working with resources such as the state-of-the-heart F.G. Hall Laboratory, faculty members and students can study diseases and cures in unprecedented detail. 

Working in translational research, students in the School of Medicine bridge the gap between laboratory study and real treatments, improving patients’ lives every day.

Is Duke a Good School?

Duke University is one of the most well-known schools in the world. But that reputation isn’t just marketing hype, as it’s been confirmed by nearly every major ranking outlet in the world.

According to The Princeton Review, Duke is #19 on the list of Best Value Colleges and #12 in Career Placement. Forbes Magazine puts Duke within the top ten nationally and in the number one spot among Southern institutions.

Thanks to the school’s academics, diversity, value, and more, Niche.com gives Duke an overall grade of A+. 

Niche puts Duke among the top on several of its specialized lists, including Best Colleges for Student Athletes in America, Best Colleges for Public Policy in America, and Best Christian Colleges in America.

But for many, the only ranking that matters is the one done by U.S. News & World Report, the most respected outlet covering higher education. 

Even by the site’s exacting standards, Duke stands out, tied for ninth place in national universities, alongside luminaries such as Johns Hopkins University and the California Institute of Technology.

Duke Traditions

While Duke puts forward a face of high-minded academics and serious scholarly work, the school also offers plenty of traditions to keep things loose.

Unsurprisingly, the most well-known traditions relate to the basketball team, and a group of fanatics who call themselves “Cameron Crazies,” after the school’s main arena Cameron Stadium. 

The Crazies show support for their team by filling up the student section in outrageous costumes, making the most possible noise to throw off the opposing team and give the Blue Devils an extra boost.

On the more relaxing side of things, there’s the Midnight Breakfast. Before exams start, students get together to take a break from studying and encourage one another by enjoying a breakfast meal at the strike of midnight. 

The Midnight Breakfast is part of the meal plan for first-year students, but others can join in by paying separately.

First-year students also play an essential role in making the campus beautiful by participating in the bridge painting program. The school encourages students to paint the Pettigrew Bridge facing campus drive, and bring their own personal spirit of expression to the structure.

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at Duke

Duke University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

At a historic school like Duke, new students run the risk of feeling disconnected and alone. Fortunately, the university has a wide range of opportunities for students to interact with one another.

One of the more lighthearted clubs at Duke is Hoof’N’Horn, a student-run musical theater group. Since 1936, Hoof’N’Horn has brought together students with a passion for performance. 

The group stages two musicals, ranging from classics such as The Wizard of Oz to new favorites like Into the Woods and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Computer whizzes can put their skills to good use as part of HackDuke, an annual charity coding event. Members get together to consider new ways that technology can improve their communities. Launching their coding and design projects, participants work to make technology more accessible and useful.

These two only begin to scratch the surface of the many offerings at Duke. For every interest and every hobby, there’s a club or event in which students can get involved.

What Sports Are Duke Known For?

Duke may be located in North Carolina, but fans of Blue Devils sports can be found across the country. The Blue Devils field 27 varsity teams, in addition to numerous intermural teams.

One of the school’s most successful programs is the women’s soccer team. Competing in NCAA Division I, the Blue Devils have made it to the NCAA tournament 25 times since the team began in 1988. 

During that time, the team has taken three conference regular-season championships and was the runner-up to the NCAA tournament three times, most recently in 2015.

Duke also has one of the most prominent men’s lacrosse programs, competing in the sport since 1938. 

As part of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the lacrosse team was awarded the conference crown seven times, including three straight championships from 2007-2009. 

The team has appeared in the NCAA tournament 24 times, winning the championship three times, going back-to-back in 2013-2014.

But without question, the most well-known program at Duke is their men’s basketball team. Since its first season in 1905-1906, the team has earned an impressive record of 2,214–904 and five NCAA championships. 

All of these championships occurred under the leadership of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, who guided the team for 42 years.

Why Duke?

Chances are, you’ve heard of Duke and its reputation for excellence. As one of the best schools in the country and an elite private institution in the heart of the research triangle, Duke is also one of the nation’s most popular schools.

In fact, Duke receives more applications than even many Ivy League schools. In 2020, 35,220 hopefuls applied to Yale and 23,836 applied to Princeton, but 39,783 students applied to join the Class of 2024 at Duke University.

Furthermore, Duke has an acceptance rate low enough to rival those of most Ivies. Where Brown accepts 6.9% of its applicants and Harvard takes 4.9%, Duke has an acceptance rate of 7.7%, making it an incredibly competitive institution. 

For every ten students who apply, eight will be rejected in most cases.

Facing such odds, some might wonder if it is even worth applying to Duke. But that question falls away when you look at everything Duke has to offer. 

Each year, the school spends over 1 billion dollars on research, ranking tenth in the nation in research spending. With that support, Duke offers its students unprecedented opportunities to learn, chances that you won’t find anywhere else.

But as we’ve seen, it isn’t just about hitting the books at Duke. With a host of proud traditions and an active student body, Duke is sure to expand your social horizons even as it expands your mind. 

And with one of the nation’s best athletic programs, there’s always something exciting happening on campus.

None of this makes the application process easy, but it does prove that there’s no better choice than Duke for a student who wants only the best.

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