Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions
Application Process
Classes and Start of Semester

If you have questions we haven't answered, contact or (919) 684-9370.

General Questions

What is the Focus Program (FOCUS)?

The Focus Program (FOCUS) is an exciting opportunity for students to be exposed to ideas from the vantage point of different disciplines across the humanities, sciences and social sciences. FOCUS offers these extraordinary opportunities to first-year first semester students:

  • Interdisciplinary seminar clusters that nurture the FOCUS student's intellectual curiosity and sense of academic adventure. Students apply to FOCUS-the program-not to a specific course. Each cluster offers a range of interrelated seminars and features a community element while fulfilling Duke curriculum requirements.
  • Small group seminars of no more than 18 students interacting with some of Duke's most distinguished professors. This intimate learning experience encourages personal intellectual responsibility while establishing student-professor rapport. Faculty and students engage in a comfortable interaction that continues throughout their academic life and later careers.
  • Shared housing with other FOCUS students that facilitates discussion and scholarly exploration while taking part in Duke's rich East Campus living environment.
  • Integrated learning experiences across academic disciplines and opportunities to venture beyond Duke's campus into the community. Field trips, travel, community service, and research are incorporated into the interdisciplinary FOCUS learning experience.

Back to top ⤴

How long is FOCUS?

The Focus Program only has courses the first semester, freshman year.  However, we offer events, talks, and other fun things that students can participate in for all of their Duke experience.

Back to top ⤴

Do I have to live with other FOCUS students?

Students participating in the Focus Program during their first semester at Duke live in the same residence hall but also share it with other first-year students, enabling them to form a companionable academic and social community while encouraging friendships with all their first-year classmates. FOCUS students request roommates through Residence Life & Housing Services. All FOCUS students can request to have a single room or request roommates for a double or triple room.

Back to top ⤴

Can Pratt students take part in the Focus Program?

We have many Pratt students take part in FOCUS every year.  However, Pratt students have different first year requirements than Trinity students and may not be able to do the Focus Program.  We recommend talking to a Pratt dean about whether or not you can participate.

Back to top ⤴

Does FOCUS fulfill graduation requirements? (Related: What do the letters like NS, R, STS, EI next to the course name indicate?)

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of FOCUS, different cluster fulfill different requirements for different students. Courses can count for Major, Minor and General Education requirements for both Trinity and Pratt.


The Focus Program will fulfill the first-year seminar requirement and some general education requirements for all Trinity students. To graduate from Trinity, students must have completed their general education requirement, which are two courses in each of five areas of knowledge and two courses in each of six modes of inquiry. Areas of Knowledge are: Arts, Literatures, and Performance (ALP), Civilizations (CZ), Natural Sciences (NS), Quantitative Studies (QS), and Social Sciences (SS). Modes of Inquiry are: Cross-Cultural Inquiry (CCI), Ethical Inquiry (EI), Science, Technology, and Society (STS), Foreign Language (FL), Writing (W), and Research (R).


Pratt students can also fulfill some of their general education requirements, specifically the Social Science and Humanities requirement. Students in the Pratt School of Engineering are required to have a minimum of 5 courses in the social sciences and humanities (including foreign languages). At most, 2 of these 5 course credits can be met by using Advanced Placement (AP) credit. To satisfy the social science/humanities (SS/H) requirement in the Pratt School, a student must have at least one course with an SS Area of Knowledge code, and two courses that are in two of the other Areas of Knowledge that includes ALP, CZ, or FL. In addition, a student must show depth in one subject area by taking two courses with the same department subject code--and one course must be at the 200-level, or above.

Back to top ⤴

Application Process

How do I apply to the Focus Program?

The application process is simple. You need a Duke Student ID number to apply. You will also enter your preferred email address. You can use your Duke email address or another address. You will receive notices regarding the Focus Program and your application status at this address, so please use an email that you check regularly!

After imputing you information, you will select 4 (four) clusters (including course preferences) and answer a one to two question essay about your interest in the clusters. The Focus Program makes every effort to accommodate applicant preferences. You do not need to choose a discussion course because, if accepted to the cluster, you will be automatically enrolled in this course. 

The FOCUS application is available here.

We practice rolling admissions and the application is open from Feb. 1 until May 25. Your application must be complete before it is processed.

Back to top ⤴

What are the application dates?

Applications Open: February 1, 2023

Applications Close: May 25, 2023

FOCUS practices rolling admissions and encourages all students to apply as soon as they can. Early Decision students are able to apply until the May 25th deadline.

Back to top ⤴

When do I hear back about my application?

We will do our best to inform students of the status of their application within two weeks of its submission.

If it has been over two weeks and you have not heard back, please email us at

Back to top ⤴

If I’m only interested in one cluster, do I have to write an essay for all four?

YES. We require students to apply to 4 clusters. Incomplete applications will not be processed and be sent back to the applicant. 

If you do not wish to be in a cluster, you can decline your spot.  

Back to top ⤴

Is my FOCUS application binding?

No. You are able to turn down your place in any FOCUS cluster if accepted. 

Back to top ⤴

Classes and Start of Semester

When will I know my FOCUS courses?

Students will be able to see their FOCUS course when bookbag opens for first-year registration.

Back to top ⤴

How do I register for my FOCUS courses?

The Focus Program and Registrar’s offices register students for their FOCUS courses. Students cannot add or drop a FOCUS class. Students apply to FOCUS-the program-not to a specific course. Each cluster offers a range of interrelated seminars and features a community element while fulfilling Duke curriculum requirements.

Back to top ⤴

I’m in a class I didn’t pick on my application. How do I change classes?

Students apply to FOCUS-the program-not to a specific course. Each cluster offers a range of interrelated seminars and features a community element while fulfilling Duke curriculum requirements.

Due to FOCUS classes having a maximum of 18 students in each course, we cannot guarantee all students will be placed into the courses they marked as their preference on the application. Additionally, FOCUS directors make course decision based on the best combination of classes in a cluster for the students, which make not be the student classes as the student preference. 

If you have a conflict that might require a course change, please contact your cluster director and the Focus Program office. However, we cannot guarantee a course change, no matter the reason.

Back to top ⤴

Do I take Writing 101 the same semester as my FOCUS courses?

Generally, FOCUS students take Writing 101 their second semester, after their FOCUS classes end. All FOCUS students will be placed in the second semester Writing 101 registration group. 

However, some clusters offer a writing course that complements their cluster theme and some students choose to take Writing 101 anyway. Please talk to your advisor if you wish to take writing 101 in the fall.

Back to top ⤴

What if I need to drop FOCUS?

We understand that things will come up that require students to drop FOCUS. If you need to drop, please contact the Focus Program office and your cluster director. You will not be able to add/drop FOCUS courses yourself. Withdrawal from the Focus Program is discouraged after registration has been completed as it is harder to find other classes to fill your schedule.

Back to top ⤴