Duke studentsFirst Year

Your first year at Duke should be a time of exploration and discovery, not a time to rush through as many requirements as possible. Students usually complete curriculum requirements through a combination of courses in their prospective majors and courses that genuinely appeal to the breadth of their interests. In your first semester, we encourage you to pick at least one class as if you had no requirements to fulfill—this choice often takes students down paths that they'd not previously considered but which lead to exciting connections to faculty, research opportunities and careers.

Got questions? Before you arrive, you can contact the Academic Advising Center at (919) 684-6217 or advising.duke.edu. Once you're at Duke, your college advisor and the rest of your advising network are here to help.

Course selection

All students complete WRITING 101 in their first year. WRITING 101 offers students a foundation for and introduction to university-level writing. No more than 12 students are enrolled in each WRITING 101 section, creating a seminar environment consisting of vigorous class discussion and careful consideration of student writing. Each WRITING 101 section has a unique theme; for individual WRITING 101 descriptions, see the “Synopsis” column in DukeHub (located toward the far right).

Students are randomly assigned to complete WRITING 101 in either fall or spring semester. To know in which semester you are required to take WRITING 101 and for more advice on registering for a section, read page 5 of the "Registration" section of your Blue Book.

Please note: If you are assigned to take WRITING 101 in Fall 2017, you must register for it. Students who do not register in fall as assigned will not be able to register for WRITING 101 in the spring until all students assigned to register in the spring have done so.

 
 

All students complete a seminar course in their first year. Seminars at Duke are small-group learning experiences defined primarily by the highly interactive and dynamic way in which course texts and materials are presented, discussed and incorporated. Classes are limited to 18 students, allowing the opportunity to engage closely with a faculty member and peers. 

Typically, students choose to take a seminar during the semester that they are not taking WRITING 101. 

You can fulfill the seminar requirement with:

  • 89S seminars, open only to first-year students
  • Seminars 100-199, open to all students and appropriate for first-year students
  • Seminars 200-399, open to all students and sometimes appropriate for first-year students (check course description and synopsis on DukeHub)
  • The Focus Program's interdisciplinary seminars

Seminars usually have an -S designation in the course number (e.g., ENGLISH 89S). In DukeHub, be sure to check the "class designation" in the "Enrollment Information" panel to be sure it states "seminar."

Read more about Trinity's First-Year Seminar Program »

Your main goal of first-semester registration should be to find courses that interest you or pique your curiosity, but there are several academic requirements you must meet over the course of your four years. These are not mutually exclusive endeavors; many requirements are met as a result of authentic intellectual exploration.

View the Trinity graduation requirements »
Access the Trinity academic policies and procedures handbook »

Duke has 45 majors, 50 minors and 20 certificate programs that you can study. These programs provide a good framework for assisting with first-semester course selection. You can choose to take an introductory course to earn credit and explore interest in a particular major, or you can browse department websites for ideas on what subjects might interest you.

View departments and programs offering majors and minors  »
View certificate programs »

You may be surprised to see how courses in one department are widely applicable to many areas of study. For example, if you are interested in the following areas, you might look for courses in these departments:

Art, Music, Film ARTHIST, ARTSVIS, CLST, DOCST, DANCE, MUSIC, THEATRST, VMS
Business CULANTH, ENGLISH, ECON, HISTORY, PHIL, PSY, SOCIOL, PUBPOL
Environment ENVIRON, EOS, PUBPOL
Ethics EDUC, PHIL, POLSCI, PSY, PUBPOL, SOCIOL, RELIGION
Government, Politics ENGLISH, HISTORY, LIT, PHIL, POLSCI, PUBPOL, SOCIOL, WOMENST
Health, Medicine BIOLOGY, CHEM, EVANTH, GLHLTH, PSY, NEUROSCI
History ARTHIST, CULANTH, DOCST, HISTORY, POLSCI, SOCIOL
Math, Computers COMPSCI, MATH, PHYSICS, STA, ISIS
People, Cultures AAAS, AMES, CLST, CULANTH, EDUC, ENGLISH, HISTORY, ICS, LATAMER, LINGUIST, MEDREN, POLSCI, PUBPOL, SOCIOL, RELIGION, SXL, WOMST
Psychology BIOLOGY, EDUC, PSY, NEUROSCI
Writing, Journalism ENGLISH, LIT, PUBPOL, courses with a "W" (Writing) code

Bass Connections is a new university-wide initiative that provides students with greater exposure to inquiry across the disciplines, partnership with unlikely fellow thinkers, sustained mentorship in teams and the chance to experience the intersections of the academy and the broader world. Students can pursue problem-focused pathways through their Duke experience in five initial thematic areas:

View the Bass Connections advising information sheets »

You can explore the Bass Connections pathways through many different avenues: courses (including gateway courses serving as introductions to particular themes), project teams and numerous co-curricular activities. While many of these opportunities are available to students as soon as their first year, you can take part in Bass Connections at any time while at Duke.

For each student, discovering and developing a pathway through Bass Connections will be an individualized experience. Our directors of academic engagement for global and civic opportunities are available to advise you on how you might incorporate these interdisciplinary themes into your path at Duke. Make an appointment to talk with a global/civic DAE about Bass Connections.

If you are planning on applying to health professions schools, there is an extensive set of required courses you must complete, and Duke’s prehealth advisors recommend you get started on some of the necessary science and math courses—but no more than two in the same semester—during your first year.

Visit the Office of Health Professions Advising website »

Please note that admission requirements vary by prehealth area (e.g., premedical, preveterinary, prephysical therapy) and by individual schools. Requirements also change occasionally, so you’ll need to keep up with the most up-to-date information by consulting a prehealth advisor.

Selecting classes for the first time can be exciting and challenging. You are moving from a highly structured high school environment to a new and relatively unstructured university environment, where you have great freedom in choosing courses and exploring new subjects. As you evaluate each course, remember several considerations:

  • Call (919-684-6217) or email (advising@duke.edu) the AAC throughout the summer with questions about the course. We’ll answer your questions or connect you to someone who can.
  • Read the course description on ACES; sometimes there will be a synopsis with more details. Note any special restrictions or prerequisites.
  • Look at the other courses offered by the department. Is there an introductory course below the 200 level that might be taken first?
  • If the course is directed toward juniors and seniors or requires special knowledge of the field or previous coursework that you don’t have, then put off that course to a later time.
  • If there are no restrictions and you are interested in the topic and think your background is sufficient, feel free to enroll.
  • Some music classes (symphony, chorale, jazz ensemble, opera workshop, marching band or lessons) may require auditions. Wait to enroll in such courses when you arrive on campus.
  • When you arrive on campus in August, you will meet with your academic advisor during orientation. That’s a good time to review your class choices and make necessary changes.
  • On the first day of class, reevaluate. See if it is what you expected and confirm that your placement is correct. Look at the syllabus, how a grade will be determined, the amount of reading and writing required and what the textbook or reading material is like. Talk with your instructor if you have any concerns.
  • You will also be able to confer with AAC Peer Advisors, directors of academic engagement, faculty, directors of undergraduate studies , and preprofessional advisors in academic departments and others on campus.

If any of your courses turns out to be inappropriate, you can change it. Remember that drop/add extends two weeks into the fall semester.