First-Year Programs

Programs for our First-Year Students

At Duke, first-year students live together on East Campus to build strong social bonds with their classmates. They also take courses designed to integrate them into the larger Duke academic community and prepare for a successful academic career.

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Academic Options For First Year Students

First-Year Seminars

The First-Year Seminar Program provides small, discussion-based courses intended to excite your intellectual curiosity and interest, develop your academic skills, and help integrate you into the community of scholars that is Duke University. First-Year Seminars are offered in a wide variety of academic disciplines within the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Many have an interdisciplinary focus, while others engage you in intriguing topics within a single academic field of study. Topics range from global environmental change to film and from visual culture to how urban design shapes politics.

Focus Program

Duke's Focus Program for first-year students provides clusters of courses designed around an interdisciplinary theme. Topics for study include the cognitive sciences, ethics and global citizenship, genomics, knowledge in the service of society, global health, international politics, contemporary and medieval cultures and social ideals. Focus faculty come from academic departments in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Medicine, and the Pratt School of Engineering and are leading researchers in their fields.

Thompson Writing Program

Writing and research are the cornerstones of the Duke undergraduate curriculum. The Thompson Writing Program (TWP) helps you develop as a writer from your first through senior year at Duke, and supports faculty who teach writing in a wide range of courses across the curriculum. All entering undergraduates must complete Writing 101 in their first year at Duke. Writing 101, "Academic Writing" is an intense introduction to critical thinking and writing; it teaches you how to argue creatively in response to the work of other scholars and intellectuals.


\shah-'TALK-wah\ is a free dinner TALK series for faculty and first-years.

Since the fall of 2008, Duke's Chautauqua series has replicated the spirit of 19th-century Chautauqua assemblies that took compelling cultural education to rural communities. In the setting of a free catered gourmet dinner, the series brings luminary Duke professors into East Campus residence halls for a discussion with first-year students, with a special emphasis on their research that connects to current political, social, scientific and environmental issues. Students have the opportunity to explore multiple majors without committing to a whole semester of classes and to spend quality time with faculty members in a small-group setting. We seek to blur the lines between academic space and residential space so that our newest students understand that the intellectual life does not end in the classroom, and that their academic experiences have great relevance to current events.