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Myths and misconceptions about applying to DukeEngage abound on campus. When? How? Why?  To help clarify things, you’ll find some frequently asked questions below. And check out our myth busters page! Don’t be shy about reaching out to our team if you have additional questions. Send us an email


Any student who has completed at least two semesters at Duke, who will be on active status at Duke during the summer of participation, and who will spend at least one semester back on campus after the DukeEngage experience is eligible to participate. This includes students enrolled in study abroad before or after DukeEngage.

Because post-program engagement and sharing with others is a central tenet of DukeEngage, the program is restricted to applications from current first-year students, sophomores and juniors who plan to return to campus following their DukeEngage experience. Seniors are not eligible to participate.

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 choose 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.

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

Generally, students may only receive funds from one Duke source for any DukeEngage 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.

Yes, students studying abroad may apply as long as all other eligibility requirements are met. If needed, your interview will be conducted via phone or Skype.

Double-check these two things:

  • Your passport must be valid for 6 months past the end date of your program. (Most countries will not permit a traveler to enter their country unless their passport is set to expire at least six months after the final date of travel.) If this is not the case, see the next question.
  • Additionally, some countries require a minimum of one un-stamped passport spread (facing pages) upon entry to the country. Please check your passport to make sure you meet this requirement. If you do not, you may want to apply to for additional pages.

You should apply for a passport before submitting your application (Thanksgiving break is an excellent opportunity to get this done), however your application will be accepted without the passport in hand. If you are accepted to an international program, you will be required to bring your passport to DukeEngage in mid-January to register for your program. The standard passport application process can take as long as six weeks. DukeEngage does not cover the cost of applying for student passports.

Important: If you do not have a valid passport by registration in mid-January, you may not be able to participate in DukeEngage.


A strong, persuasive DukeEngage application presents a compelling case for your suitability. You might want to mention your past work and volunteer experiences, your classwork, and goals.

You will need your passport name and expiration date (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.

DukeEngage staff are not able to help students with applications generally. We are pleased to help if you have 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 assess 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 Studio.

Finally, don’t wait until the last minute to start your application – it will probably take you several hours. Start your application as soon as you have determined the program(s) to which you would like to apply. Likewise, don’t wait until the last minute to submit! Applications are not accepted after the noon (Eastern Standard Time) deadline, and you should give yourself time to review.

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. All students are required to attend the Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy sessions.

Additional considerations for students pursuing independent projects: 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 projects must submit a capstone project upon completing DukeEngage. The capstone may be a video, a research paper, a presentation, a poster or plan of continued service or action related to the independent project.

In any given year, a student may apply for:

  • One independent project


  • Up to two group programs

If you’re considering two group programs, note that only one can be international.

Also, note that you would receive only one acceptance offer. If you are accepted to an international program in the fall, the deadline to commit or decline your acceptance is long before the US program deadline. If you apply to two US programs in the spring, you would only receive an offer to one of them. (If you are chosen by both program leaders, we will issue an offer to the program you ranked as your first choice on the application.) Please consider your application rankings carefully!

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 U.S.-based program. If you have any questions about this process, we encourage you to speak with a DukeEngage advisor.

Yes, up to three students may take part in the same independent project. However, each student must submit his/her own application and each application will receive separate consideration. Joint applicants should articulate what each individual brings to the project that is unique and valuable. There is no guarantee that all applicants in a joint project will be accepted.

After the application opens in the fall, DukeEngage holds information sessions related to specific group sites. Notifications about dates and locations will be announced on our website, on Facebook and Instagram, and via the DukeEngage email list.

Students interested in proposing an independent project should schedule an appointment with our independent project coordinator by writing

Our application does not allow returns (separate paragraphs), or any text formatting.

Also note that some punctuation marks do not translate correctly when pasting from Word – and that you may not see these errors until you save or even try to submit your application. Save regularly, and leave yourself plenty of time to review before you submit. You may not submit a text document in lieu of an application.

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 be comfortable receiving a phone call or email from the Program Director.

No. In fact, your reference does not need to do anything unless/until he or she is contacted by the Program Director. Not all Program Directors choose to contact references. Of those that do, some 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.

DukeEngage participants who study away/study abroad during the spring semester are not excused from participating in the Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy. If you cannot join by video conference, there will be a full set of comprehensive assignments to complete. This online Academy option is approved only on a case-by-case basis by the Assistant Director for Training & Student Development.

If you have concerns about your level of proficiency, please contact the Program Director for more information. Language ability will be assessed and evaluated by your Program Director. For example, if you are granted an interview, the Program Director might conduct all or part of the interview in that language.

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 host departments directly. Form more information about linking DukeEngage to your academic coursework, please review our Curricular Connections page.


DukeEngage is competitive, with an overall acceptance rate of approximately 50%. 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 based on genuine interest in a service theme, or are you applying based only on location? Come to advising and DukeEngage info sessions to help inform your choices.

Each year, approximately 25% of DukeEngage participants are first-year students, 50% sophomores, and 25% juniors. This is not planned or preferred; it has played out this way over time. The program overall does not have a preference for any particular year, but some program leaders may look for students who demonstrate maturity and mastery of certain skills.

In different years, the programs with the highest application rates change, so last year’s numbers aren’t likely to be helpful in your decision-making. Some programs attract a broad swath of students, which some appeal to specific interests. The real question is: Do you bring skills, experience and motivation for the programs and service themes you’re interested in?

All dates and deadlines are advertised on our website. DukeEngage sends acceptance notifications to students via an email to their address on Notification Day, approximately one month after the application deadline. All applicants will receive notification of application status: accepted, alternate, or not accepted.

Generally, yes. DukeEngage sends Notification of Acceptance emails to both students and their parent(s) or guardian. Unless you are a legally emancipated student, your parent or legal guardian must sign the Participation Agreement, which is attached to the Parent Notification Email. The Participation Agreement contains a description of the program you have been accepted to, or in the case of independent project students, a copy of your submitted application.

Mandatory pre-departure activities include

  • Registration (with all accompanying paperwork and visa requirements)
  • Student health/vaccination/prescription appointments if needed
  • Online training modules and surveys
  • Two site-specific orientation sessions scheduled by your Program Director in the spring semester
  • The Fortin Foundation Academy

The Academy includes:

  • Four two-hour training classes. Accepted students must be available for a two-hour session the same day each week for four consecutive weeks during spring semester of 2020. Sessions will occur between the hours of 5:00-9:00 pm, Monday-Thursday, and 12:00-5:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
  • DukeEngage Convocation. Sunday, March 22 from 3:00-6:00 pm
  • DukeEngage Reunion 2020. Sunday, August 30 from 1:00-5:00 pm

Failure to meet all requirements may result in dismissal from the program.

No, but if you remain a student in good standing and meet all eligibility requirements, you are welcome to re-apply the next year. Re-application does not guarantee preference or acceptance.

If you are eligible to apply to DukeEngage again during the current year or in the future, we suggest attending a drop-in advising session or making an appointment with a DukeEngage advisor to discuss ways to strengthen your application.

No. 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.

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 U.S.-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 U.S.-based program. If you have any questions about this process, we encourage you to speak with a DukeEngage advisor.

Although we very rarely cancel programs, we will do so if a location becomes a security risk for our students and staff, as might be the case following a natural disaster or military action, among other possible concerns. Risk levels are constantly monitored and assessed by our program leadership and by the Duke Global Travel Advisory Committee, with consultation from International SOS and the Duke Office of Corporate Risk Management.

In the event that program is cancelled before it begins, DukeEngage will advise a student participant about other possible options but makes no guarantee of a placement in another DukeEngage program or project. If a program is cancelled after it begins, the student will return a pro-rated portion of the stipend back to DukeEngage.


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.

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 request.

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 an international or out-of-state location, arrangements will be made for you to complete the DukeEngage Academy online.