For Parents

Three students studying

The Focus Program (FOCUS) provides an excellent opportunity for incoming first-year Duke students to get acclimated to campus life, explore a variety of disciplines before declaring a major, experience in classroom and outside of classroom learning, engage with faculty, and position themselves for future success.

This selective program—an interdisciplinary learning and living experience—admits only 20-25% of the incoming first-year class. The program involves course clusters with small-group seminars taught by regular rank faculty from different departments across the university. Typically, the students take two (of three or four) courses from different departments in each cluster plus a weekly discussion seminar in which all faculty and students in the cluster participate. The program aims to introduce first-semester students to interdisciplinary learning and intellectual engagement both in and out of the traditional classroom environment. Faculty and students work together to apply multiple disciplinary perspectives on a common theme or topic within a cluster.

Along with the courses, the program provides a unique residential opportunity for FOCUS students. First-semester students from each cluster are placed in the same residence hall, thus nurturing collaborative study environments. The program also supports non-classroom experiences through service learning, field trips, and other activities that allow students to apply theoretical knowledge gained in classrooms to real world situations. Finally, the program supports follow-up projects by faculty-student partners who propose research or other creative or service projects after the semester has ended.

The FOCUS Student

Should your child apply for the Focus Program? Yes, it's challenging, but also very rewarding. Over the years, we've discovered many of FOCUS students share common characteristics. If these help describe your child, we hope you and he/she will consider the program:

  • Intellectually curious
  • Self-motivated
  • Strives for excellence
  • Actively involved
  • Open to interdisciplinary approach
  • Wanting to develop as a scholar
  • Works well with others

Many Duke students have participated in the Focus Program and attribute their success afterward to the program. Be sure to read some of these Alumni Stories on our website.