Programs and Academics for First-Year Students

Academic Options For First Year Students

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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.

See First-Year Seminar Course Offerings

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.

Explore Focus Program Courses

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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.

Explore the Thompson Writing Program

Spring Breakthrough

Spring Breakthrough courses are five-day seminars taught by some of Duke’s most engaging professors. The courses, and all meals and materials, are 100% free. There are no pre-reqs, grades, or credits. The only expectation is that you attend and engage with the group. Participation will be noted on transcripts. The program is for first year and sophomore students.