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After a decade of DukeEngage, there are still many myths and misconceptions out there about how the program works. You may hear some of these floating around campus. But here’s the real story:

Myth: If you don’t get in the first time you apply, you’ll definitely get in the second time.

Ironically, we also hear, if you don’t get in the first time, you’ll never get in. In reality, neither of these statements is true. Program directors make selections based on the specific qualities and skills they describe in their program profiles. Just as students change from year to year, the application pool for each program changes. And the community partner needs may evolve. Each year offers a new opportunity for all eligible students to create thoughtful and successful applications.

Myth: The more times you apply, the more likely you are to get in.

This could be true in the sense that students who have gone through the application process once may create a more informed application the second — or third — time around. Having answered the questions, they may give more thoughtful responses. And they may be able to showcase additional experiences and greater maturity. Program directors may also take into account an applicant’s continued interest in a particular program or service theme. We encourage students — especially those whose applications were unsuccessful in the past — to meet with an adviser before applying again. We love helping students think about which programs are a good match for them. After talking with an adviser, many students realize that the program they previously applied for may not be the best fit for them after all.

Myth: Juniors are pretty much automatically accepted.

Not true. All applications are reviewed with an eye for the strongest possible program match. In an effort to form diverse groups, some program directors tell us they choose students to represent each academic year. Others look for specific skills or experience levels. All things being equal, it is true that there may be occasions when the application of a junior might take priority over that of a first- or second-year student, but only if the junior has submitted a high-caliber application and has made a strong case for his or her potential contributions to the program.

Myth: All U.S. programs are easier to get into than international programs.

Definitely not true. Some of our most competitive programs are in the U.S. In fact, on average, our U.S. programs attract as many applicants as our international ones. We’ve seen sustained growth in the numbers of U.S. applications in recent years, and we don’t expect that trend to reverse anytime soon. There’s never been a more important time to engage right here in the United States.

Myth: It’s much harder to be accepted to pursue an independent project.

The acceptance rate for independent projects is actually higher than for U.S. or international group programs. Independent projects are more complicated to arrange, but our staff members are here to help with the planning and implementation stages.

Myth: DukeEngage has tons of money.

We wish! The $30 million endowment you hear about was, indeed, the result of two generous gifts that allowed the University to launch and build an ambitious program. But DukeEngage costs far more than the endowment generates each year. (We do NOT have access to a $30 million operating budget.) To sustain enrollment levels and program quality, DukeEngage relies on support from the University, from Duke alumni, from DukeEngage alumni and their parents, and from external donors. Our team strives to be good stewards of limited program funds — working hard to spend and save wisely — so future Duke students will be able to participate in DukeEngage. And we expect program directors and participants to model the same good stewardship.

Myth: First-year students won’t be accepted to pursue independent projects.

First-year students are encouraged to inquire about and apply for independent projects. Successful applicants demonstrate strong project-planning skills, emotional maturity and a passion for their proposed project — no matter their age. Many first-year students are perfectly capable of doing those things, and some juniors aren’t. We evaluate each applicant on an individual basis.

Myth: A DukeEngage summer isn’t helpful for students pursuing a business, finance or tech career.

Not true. Across the board, today’s employers report that they value the soft skills and “real-world” experience a DukeEngage summer brings. (Hello, problem-solving and resilience!) Watch this video to hear business, finance and tech industry leaders talk about how a DukeEngage experience sets students apart from their peers in the job market. And check out our Career & Professional Resources page to find out how DukeEngage can help you be a stronger job applicant.

Myth: The world needs you!

The communities and people you will be working with have needs, but they also have incredible strengths and expertise. Be respectful of all that has come before you. Ask yourself: Where do I fit in? What can I contribute that will be appropriate and useful? What can I learn from the people I meet?

Myth: You’ll change the world.

Have reasonable expectations. You will be there for eight weeks in the life of a community. You may not see immediate results from your work, or produce a tangible outcome by the end. But you are contributing to an ongoing effort – not least of which is your own development as a global citizen. That’s why our motto is NOT “Challenge Yourself. Change the world.” It’s “Challenge Yourself. Change YOUR world.”