Academic life at Duke is complex, multifaceted and challenging. All Duke students find classes that appeal to their curiosity and build on interests and expertise they brought with them to Duke. But not every class is that way. Some classes challenge students in ways that they'd never before experienced. This sort of challenge can be exhilarating—but occasionally, a class just feels difficult.
The first person you should talk to is your professor. Visit her or his office hours to discuss how the class is going, how you're taking notes and studying for exams and particular concepts that perplex you. S/he will give you guidance and may recommend additional academic support.
Succeeding in classes requires strategic choices about connecting to Duke's community of scholarly support. Everyone does it for some class or another, and the type of support and conversation you'll need will change and evolve depending on the class, where you are in life, the other commitments you have at the moment and what's going on at home or in your social life. Below I've listed—in alphabetical order—places where you can connect to people who are invested in your academic success and well-being. As well, some academic departments, such as economics and mathematics, collate and describe discipline-specific sources of academic support on their websites. Your academic advisor and academic dean are always ready to help you sort through your options to make these strategic choices that amplify the value of your Duke education.
AAC Peer Advising
Talking to someone who has gone before you can help you sort out the best academic steps. The AAC Peer Advisors provide the student-view of academic life in Trinity College, so talking to them can be a good supplement to conversations with your academic advisor or academic dean. Nearly all of them have benefited from one or more of the sources of academic support described on this page, so their perspective is based on experience.
Academic Resource Center (ARC)
When students think of academic support, they often think of the ARC. The ARC provides a variety of support, particularly individualized academic skills assessment and tutoring. The best way to learn about their multifaceted approach to academic support—in general or for particular classes—is to visit their website.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
CAPS takes a terrifically wholistic approach to your well-being. While they may be best known for their ability to provide confidential one-on-one counseling, they also facilitate workshops that help you integrate healthy approaches to managing the normal stressors of academic life—meditation workshops, yoga, discussion groups, etc. These workshops are very popular with undergraduates, and CAPS is always adding new ones in response to student demand.
Duke Student Wellness Center
Short-term fixes to academic or personal stress, including (but not limited to) alcohol, can sometimes become their own stressors. The Duke Student Wellness Center can work with you to realign your approaches to wellness and stress reduction so that you feel more balanced over the long-term.
Religious Life at Duke
Faith traditions that were strong at home and provided a framework for community and guidance can seem missing when arriving to Duke. This in itself can be a disruptive stressor. Some students find the counsel of a faith-based mentor—a chaplain, imam, rabbi, etc.—a good way to get grounded. A list of faith communities is here.
Residence Hall Librarians
If you're a first-year student who realizes s/he needs some consulting on strategic approaches to researching a paper assignment, you should really connect to your residence hall librarian as soon as possible. Every residence on East Campus is matched with an expert librarian, who can talk to you about your research assignment and help you find specialized library resources that you might not have known were available.
Health concerns—whether short-term or chronic—can impact your ability to focus on academics. These impacts can be due to missed classes or juggling the demands of health care. Getting well and staying well by seeking the medical support you need will allow you focus on your classes. Students with a documented disability may be referred to the Student Disabilities Access Office, which can work with you to determine reasonable accommodations.
The Thompson Writing Program's Writing Studio provides guidance in improving all aspects of the writing process. The studio's expertise is particularly helpful when you want to make a strong argument in a paper or other writing assignment, one that conveys to your instructor the clarity of your position and the depth of your research. In addition, the Writing Studio provides special consulting for ESL (English as a second language) students.