Frequently Asked Questions

About DukeEngage







About DukeEngage

What is DukeEngage?

DukeEngage empowers students to address critical human needs through immersive service, in the process transforming students, advancing the University’s educational mission, and providing meaningful assistance to communities in the U.S. and abroad. Funded by grants—$15 million each—from The Duke Endowment and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, DukeEngage enables partner organizations to work with students, faculty, and staff to create projects that serve community needs while providing full funding to students for these endeavors. EAch summer, approximately 425 Duke undergraduates participate in either independent projects or group programs, with nearly a quarter serving within the United States.  

What is civic engagement?

Civic engagement is action undertaken at the request of a community partner that is designed to identify and address issues of public concern.  This definition may incorporate everything from traditional service work to non-partisan political participation and includes both direct service---or “hands-on” work—and “capacity building” activities.

What types of opportunities are available through DukeEngage?

Students are eligible to participate in a wide variety of domestic and international group programs. Duke faculty, staff, or volunteer-sending organizations develop all DukeEngage programs.  Alternatively, one may choose to collaborate with a community partner and a Duke faculty or staff mentor to develop an independent project. 

What costs are covered by DukeEngage?

Students doing independent projects will be funded based on the cost of living in their host community. All program-related expenses are covered for group programs.  These may include: travel, meals and accommodations, vaccinations, visas, and incidentals.  Participants receiving need-based financial aid will receive a summer earnings waiver.

Are there specific start and end dates for each program?

Each group program will have its own respective start and end dates that apply to participating students.  Specific departure and return dates for each group program will be announced as soon as they are known.  Start and end dates for independent projects are left to the discretion of the student and community partner. All experiences must last a minimum of eight consecutive weeks.



Who is eligible to participate in DukeEngage?

Any student who has completed two semesters at Duke and who will spend at least one semester back on campus after the DukeEngage experience is eligible to participate.  Because one of our primary goals of the program is for the campus community to benefit from the shared experience of participants, graduating seniors are not eligible to take part. Students may participate in only one funded DukeEngage experience.

Are there prerequisites or language requirements for group programs? 

DukeEngage staff and program leaders will determine language or other applicable prerequisites, which will be identified in program descriptions.

If I am returning to Duke for one semester after DukeEngage, am I still eligible?

Yes. Students in good standing who have completed two semesters before the start of their DukeEngage program, and who will complete at least one semester at Duke after DukeEngage are eligible. This includes students enrolled in study abroad before or after DukeEngage.

If I am accepted to DukeEngage and decline, am I eligible to reapply?

Students accepted to DukeEngage are asked to submit a binding statement of intent within a few days of receiving notification from our office. If you are accepted and chose not to participate, simply decline the offer, and you will be eligible to apply again in the future. If you do submit a statement of intent to participate and later withdraw, you  will be ineligible to re-apply.

I’m an international student and don’t have a social security card, or I am a US citizen and I have lost my card. The application says one is required. What do I do?

If you are a US citizen or permanent resident, apply for a replacement social security card as soon as possible. If you are an international student, apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The completed ITIN document is  not required at the time of application, but is required to successfully enroll if you are accepted to the program.

I have or expect to receive a grant of summer travel funds from another Duke University department or program. How might this affect my eligibility to participate in DukeEngage?

Students may only receive funds from one Duke source for any program. If you expect to receive funding from other Duke programs for the same summer, you must obtain written permission from DukeEngage prior to accepting the other funding, and you must let the other program know. You may be able to obtain two grants for the same summer if the programs do not overlap.

I’m studying abroad. Am I eligible for DukeEngage?

Yes, students studying abroad may apply. If needed, your interview will be conducted via phone or Skype.

I do not have a passport. Can I still apply?

You should apply for a passport before submitting your application, however your application will be accepted without the passport in hand. If you are accepted to an international program, you will be expected to bring your passport to DukeEngage in mid-January to register for your program. DukeEngage does not cover the cost of applying for student passports.

If I am a Duke student-athlete, am I eligible to participate in ACE and DukeEngage?
You may not participate in ACE (Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic-Engagement Program) and DukeEngage during the same summer. If you have participated in DukeEngage between 2010 and 2016, you are eligible to apply to ACE for summer 2017.

If you accept an offer from DukeEngage to participate in a summer 2017 group program or independent project, you are ineligible to participate in ACE in 2017. Conversely, if you accept an offer to participate in ACE for summer 2017, you are ineligible to participate in DukeEngage in 2017. Please refer to the ACE website for specific eligibility, application requirements, and key program dates.



What should I be aware of when I write my application?

A strong, persuasive DukeEngage application is not easy to write. You will need to present a compelling case for yourself, including your past work and volunteer experiences, your classwork, and goals. It will take you several hours to answer all of the questions. We do not recommend waiting until the last minute to start your application; ideally, you should start your application as soon as you have determined the program(s) to which you would like to apply. As with any other written assignment, starting well ahead of the deadline will give you time to organize your thoughts, draft, revise, edit, and submit your best work. Applications are not accepted after the noon (Eastern Standard Time) deadline. You should prepare to submit your application ahead of this time and not wait until the last minute.

Additionally, to complete your application, you will need to provide some additional information. You will need your health insurance card, your passport (for those wishing to travel internationally), the name of a qualified reference (i.e.: someone who is not a friend, roommate or family member), and contact information for your parent or guardian. Gathering these documents and this information before you start your application can help streamline your application preparations.

Finally, DukeEngage staff are not able to help students with applications generally. We are pleased to help you if you have a questions such as “what is an example of a teamwork experience?” or “can my high school track coach serve as a reference?” but we cannot appraise or edit the content of individual student applications. If you would like an outside opinion on your application, we recommend making an appointment at the Thompson Writing Center. 

What commitments should students consider when applying?

Group programs take place throughout the summer and last a minimum of eight consecutive weeks.  Group program dates are set by program staff and must be adhered to by students.  Independent projects also must last a minimum of eight weeks and may continue for up to one year.  Under the guidance of the Duke faculty or staff member who agreed to act as their mentor at the time of application, participants implementing independent project must submit a capstone project upon completing  DukeEngage.  The capstone may be a research paper, poster or plan of continued service or action related to the independent project. All students are required to attend the Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy.

To how many programs and how soon can a student apply? 

A student may apply for an independent project or up to two group programs (one must be domestic) as early as the freshman year.

Can several students apply to volunteer on an independent project with the same community partner? 

Yes, however, each student must submit his/her own application, and each application will receive separate consideration. Up to three students may take part in the same independent project.

How can I learn more about specific group programs and how to apply for an independent project?

Throughout the year, DukeEngage will hold information sessions related to specific group sites. Notifications will be announced on our web site, our DukeEngage Twitter site and via the DukeEngage listserv.  Students interested in proposing an independent project should schedule an appointment with our independent project coordinator by writing

May I cut text from a document and paste it into my DukeEngage application?

If you’d like to draft your application outside of the DukeEngage application portal, we highly recommend that you use a text document like TextPad (in Microsoft). Using Word may create copy-and-paste issues with punctuation and quotation marks. We still recommend that you save your work regularly, and that you allow ample time ahead of the submission deadline to transfer your application. You may not submit a text document in lieu of an application.

Why is the punctuation and/or paragraph formatting in my application not showing up?

Most commonly, we find this occurs when applicants copy and paste from a Word document. We recommend that you draft in a text document like TextPad, rather than Word, in order to prevent issues like this.

I’m a freshman and only have high school/home contacts to use as references. Is this Ok?

Yes. Your reference should be someone who can speak to your character and work and/or volunteer experience. Ideally, this person is someone who has seen you in action, like a coach, a supervisor, a club advisor, or a mentor. Your reference should not be: a friend, roommate, or family member. Additionally, your reference should know they are being listed on your application and prepared to receive a phone call or email from your Program Director. You may want to tell your reference a little about the program or project to which you are applying so that they have some context if they are contacted.

Does my reference need to include a letter?

No. Your reference does not need to include a letter or any additional information right now.  In fact, your reference does not need to do anything unless/until he or she is contacted by program leadership. Not all programs choose to contact references. Some choose to do so before interviews, others after. Whether or not your reference has been contacted should not be interpreted as an indication of the status of your application after it has been submitted.



What are my chances of being accepted? What factors most affect my chances of being accepted?

DukeEngage is competitive with approximately an 50% overall acceptance rate. Your chances of being accepted increase when you apply to programs that match your skills and interests.  Do you have the skills needed on the ground and have you demonstrated through coursework or co-curricular activities that you will be a strong contributor? A good team member? Are you applying to a place rather than focusing on a service theme? Come to advising and DukeEngage week to help inform your choices.

What percentage of DukeEngage participants are first-year students? Sophomores? Juniors?

Each year, approximately 25% of DukeEngage participants are first-year students, 50% sophomores, and 25% juniors.

Which is the most competitive program?

The most competitive programs are those that attract the most qualified applicants who demonstrate a real passion for the service work, flexibility, and motivation. In different years, the programs with the highest application rate changes, so this year’s numbers aren’t likely to be helpful in your decision-making. The real question is do you bring skills, experience and motivation applicant for the service themes and programs you’ve selected?

How and when will I be notified if I have been accepted to DukeEngage?

Each year, all deadlines and dates are advertised on our website.  DukeEngage sends acceptance notifications to students via an email to their address approximately one month after the application deadline.

If am I accepted, do I need the written approval of a parent or guardian to participate in DukeEngage?

Yes, unless you are a legally emancipated student, your parents or legal guardian must sign the Terms and Conditions of participation for DukeEngage.  Your parent(s) or guardian will also receive a copy of your submitted application.

If I am accepted, what pre-departure activities am I required to complete?

You are required to complete all paperwork, visa, and vaccination requirements. You must also complete all online trainings and DukeEngage surveys by the advertised deadlines. Additionally, you are also required to attend all Spring Semester pre-departure meetings scheduled by your program director and the DukeEngage Academy in its entirety.

May I defer my acceptance to DukeEngage to next year?

No. If you remain a student in good standing, we welcome you to re-apply the next year.



Do program directors interview every student who has applied to their program?

Due to the number of applications that programs receive, not every student who applies will be invited for an interview.  Interviews can take place any time during the application review period and may be conducted in person or via phone/Skype.  Not all program directors conduct interviews at the same time, nor do they send out all of the interview invitations at the same time.

I’m studying abroad. What should I do if contacted for an interview?

If you are studying abroad, it is important that you check your email address regularly during the application review period so that you can respond promptly to any program-related communication. When contacted for an interview, you should immediately let your program director know that you are abroad and ask for a Skype or phone interview. Your program director will accommodate this this request.  

If I’m currently studying abroad, does this affect my chances of getting into a program? Do I have to be on campus to be present for the interview?

Studying abroad does not affect your chances of getting into a program, nor do you have to be on campus for the interview (see question above). If you are studying off-campus the spring before your DukeEngage program begins, you will be expected to participate in all of your group pre-departure meetings to the extent that it’s possible and complete all DukeEngage required on-line modules. If you are studying away at the Duke Marine Lab spring semester, you are required to attend the DukeEngage Academy in person. If you are studying away at an international or out-of-state location, arrangements will be made for you to complete the DukeEngage Academy online.  



I will be studying away from the Duke campus in spring 2016 and will be outside the United States during the DukeEngage Academy. How can I meet the requirement of attending the Academy?

DukeEngage participants who study away/study abroad during the Spring 2016Semester are not excused from participating in the Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy. All students who are studying away or abroad and participating in DukeEngage must provide their GEO program information and study away/abroad travel itineraries following their DukeEngage Registration. For students who can demonstrate that returning to Duke during the Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy is not possible (due to study away/abroad program dates) or cost prohibitive (due to travel arrangements), there will be a full two-day set of comprehensive assignments that must be completed by the Wednesday following the DukeEngage Academy. This online Academy option is approved only on a case-by-case basis by the Assistant Director for Training & Student Development.

I haven’t taken a formal language class at Duke. How do I demonstrate that I am proficient enough to qualify for a program with a specified language course requirement?

Language ability will be assessed and evaluated by your Program Director. Please note that if granted an interview, the Program Director may conduct all or part of the interview in that language. If you have concerns that you may not have the proficiency to be accepted and effectively serve in a specific DukeEngage program, please contact the DukeEngage Program Director for more information.

Which DukeEngage programs and independent projects satisfy the internship and certificate requirements of Public Policy? Global Health? Innovation and Entrepreneurship?

Academic departments determine which DukeEngage programs and independent projects satisfy their particular requirements for internships and certificate programs.. To confirm whether your DukeEngage Program is eligible, please contact these host departments:

  • (Sanford School of Public Policy) Elise Goldwasser 
  • (Global Health) Lysa MacKeen  or Laura Bey 
  • (Innovation & Entrepreneurship) Kevin Hoch
  • (Nicholas School of the Environment) Marianne Drexler

Does Advance Placement (AP) credit I have been awarded satisfy the course requirements Engineering World Health has established for DukeEngage participants?

Engineering World Health states that applicants must have at least two semesters of physics and two semesters of calculus by the May preceding their DukeEngage summer. AP Credit can be used for one physics semester and one calculus semester only.

I wasn’t accepted to the program to which I applied. Who can I talk to? What are my options?

You may email your program director or program contact to ask how you might be able to build a better application for the future. You are also encouraged to email the DukeEngage office or speak with a DukeEngage staff advisor about other possible options still available to you in the current application cycle.

If I apply for an international program and am not accepted, may I still apply for an independent project this academic year?

Once you have applied and submitted an application for an international group program, you are ineligible to apply for an independent project in the same academic year. You may still apply to a U.S.-based group program. Deadline: January 24, 2017, Eastern Standard Time.

What happens if I apply for an international program this academic year, but rank a U.S.-based program as my first choice?

If you apply to an international program as your second choice and are selected for that program, you will have to make a decision as to whether you want to accept a spot in that program by the December intent to participate deadline.  If you do accept, your U.S.-based program application will be withdrawn. Please know that you will not be able to wait to see what the outcome of the US-based program decision will be. If you choose to turn down your spot in the international program, there is no guarantee that you will be offered a spot in your first choice US-based program. If you have any questions about this process, we encourage you to speak with a DukeEngage advisor.

This is DukeEngage