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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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Great! You must possess a passport no later than January 16, 2020, in order to participate in a DukeEngage 2020 program or project abroad.

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.)
  • 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 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.

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 Studio.

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. (Please note: If you know you cannot attend the Academy prior to your desired summer of service, please speak with an adviser before you apply because you cannot do DukeEngage unless you attend the trainings.)

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.

A student may apply for an independent project or up to two group programs (one must be U.S.-based) as early as the freshman year. The options are:

  • One independent project
  • One U.S. group program
  • One international group program
  • One U.S. group program and one international group program
  • Two U.S. group programs

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.

Throughout October and again in January, 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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

DukeEngage participants who study away/study abroad during the spring semester 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.

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.

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 highly 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.

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 for the service themes and programs you’ve selected?

Each year, all deadlines and dates 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: (1) accepted, (2) pending as alternate, or (3) not accepted.

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. Note: If you are accepted as an Independent Project participant, your parent(s) or guardian will also receive a copy of your submitted application.

You are required to complete all paperwork, visa and vaccination requirements. You must also complete all online training and DukeEngage surveys by the advertised deadlines. Additionally, you must attend all spring semester pre-departure meetings scheduled by your program director and the entire two-day DukeEngage Academy. 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, we welcome you to re-apply the next year. Re-application does not guarantee preference or acceptance.

You may email your program director or program contact to ask how you might 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.

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 the Duke Marine Lab spring semester, you are required to attend the Fortin Foundation DukeEngage Academy in person. If you are studying away at an international or out-of-state location, if your program dates do not allow you to return in time, arrangements will be made for you to complete the DukeEngage Academy online.