How To Get Into Duke Medical School: The Complete Guide

October 6, 2023


Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 10/06/23

Interested in joining a top-ranking medical school to make your dream of becoming a doctor a reality? Read on to learn everything you need to know about getting into Duke Medical School.


Dedicated to “preparing the next thought leaders in medicine, research, and patient care,” the Duke University School of Medicine is a respectable choice for aspiring doctors. Ranking as the fifth-best medical school for research, this university is well-known as a prestigious med school giant.

If you’d like to attend this impressive school known for producing excellence, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about getting into Duke University Medical School.

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Duke Medical School Programs

If you’re certain you’d like to join the medical field but aren’t completely set on becoming a doctor, you can explore your options at Duke. Here’s a list of their various medical programs:

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD): A traditional four-year MD program
  • Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP): Students are trained as physician-scientists and complete an MD and PhD
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT): A three-year program for students interested in physical therapy
  • Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD): A three-year program for students interested in occupational therapy
  • Physician Assistant Program (PA, MHS): A three-year program for students interested in practicing advanced medicine under a licensed physician
  • Other Master programs: Biostatistics, Biomedical Sciences, Population Health Sciences, and Management in Clinical Informatics
  • Medical Physics Graduate Program: A two-year graduate program for students interested in gaining more training in medical and health physics
  • Pathologists’ Assistant Program (MHS): A two-year program where graduates can work closely with pathologists and other pathology lab personnel
  • Biomedical PhD Programs: In numerous specialties

Depending on where you are in your journey to becoming a doctor, it’s important you explore your options.

Duke Medical School Acceptance Rate

You might wonder how many people make it past the application process and how hard it is to get into Duke University Medical School. The Duke School of Medicine acceptance rate is 2.9%.

Duke Medical School Requirements

If you’re set on joining Duke Medical School’s MD program, the next step is submitting your application. You’ll need to meet the following Duke School of Medicine requirements to apply:

Requirement Description
Coursework, Competencies, and Transcripts Your transcripts show your GPA and coursework
MCAT Score You must take the MCAT to apply to Duke
Letters of Recommendation You must submit at least four recommendation letters
Completed AMCAS Application Your completed AMCAS application includes your personal information, activities list, and personal statement
Secondary Application You must answer at least seven short essays in your secondary application
Interview Applicants who move on to the interview phase will participate in a virtual MMI

Source: Duke School of Medicine

Coursework and Competency Prerequisites

While Duke doesn’t require any prerequisite courses in prospective students’ undergraduates, they strongly recommend students have these courses and competencies to better prepare them for a rigorous medical curriculum:

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular Biology (Molecular Biology or Genetics are acceptable too)
  • An understanding of Statistics/Biostatistics
  • Physics/Biophysics
  • An understanding of the principles of Sociology
  • An understanding of the basic principles of Psychology
  • Coursework in Expository Writing may be fulfilled by numerous courses (Philosophy, English, History, Public Policy, Political Science, Religion, etc.)

Duke Medical School GPA Requirements

If you’re wondering how hard it is to get into Duke Medical School, it’s useful to check GPA requirements. The average GPA range of admitted students is approximately 3.8 to 3.98!

While these high ranges were the average GPAs, there were students admitted with much lower GPAs; students were admitted with GPAs as low as 3.45! 

Duke GPA score range graphic
Source: Duke School of Medicine

So, hope isn’t lost if you have a lower-than-average GPA – it just means you’ll have to make up for it in other parts of the application.

Duke Medical School MCAT Requirements

Duke University School of Medicine expects high MCAT scores. The average MCAT score range of Duke students who matriculated is 514 to 522. 

Duke MCAT score range graphic
Source: Duke University School of Medicine

Regardless, it is important you get well-prepared for the MCAT so that you have a competitive advantage.

Duke Medical School Letters of Recommendation

Along with your application, you must submit at least four letters of recommendation from people who can attest to your character. Two of these must be from science faculty members.

Duke Medical School Secondary Essays

One of the most important Duke Med School requirements is the supplemental application. In this application, you can expect to answer multiple short essay prompts.

The essay prompts work to humanize applicants by giving the admissions committee deeper insight into students’ character, values, and experiences. As such, these essays are extremely important to help you stand out! 

So, if you want to know how to get into Duke Medical School, the answer is learning to write some incredible essays

Luckily, we’ll review Duke Medical School’s essay questions and provide tips on how to properly answer them to ensure your individuality shines through!

Question 1

“Tell us more about who you are. This is your opportunity to tell us how you wish to be addressed, recognized and treated. (500 words)”

What to Consider Before Writing

As you only have 500 words to tell the committee about yourself, you’ll want to condense all of your ideas and consider the following before answering the question:

  • What matters the most to you?
  • What makes you unique?
  • How do you identify?
  • What type of person do you consider yourself to be?
  • What type of person do you want the committee to consider you?
  • What are your top three experiences that have shaped who you are? Which one stands out the most?

Tips on How to Answer

This essay question is a combination of a “tell us about yourself” and a diversity essay prompt. Stick to only one or two relevant experiences when discussing your diversity. This is a great place to talk about challenges or obstacles you have faced that make you a diverse candidate and how you overcame these challenges.

Remember, you don’t necessarily have to prove how these experiences will make you a better physician. Instead, you should use this essay to talk about the life you have led, your passions, and your ability to persevere. You may also talk about how this experience inspired you to become a doctor or ignited your interest in medicine.

Question 2

“Trust and rapport are essential in your day-to-day interactions with people. How do you cultivate a relationship with a person who may be very different from you?”

What to Consider Before Writing

This question focuses on your empathy and interpersonal skills. Answering these questions can help you formulate your writing: 

  • How do you go about forming relationships with others?
  • Can you think of times you’ve interacted with others from different backgrounds? 
  • Was there a conflict? If so, how was it resolved? 

Tips on How to Answer 

You only have 400 words to write your answer, so you’ll need to keep your writing concise. Describe a relationship you have or have had with someone who is different from you and discuss how that relationship impacted you. You’ll need to demonstrate cultural awareness and compassion in your answer. 

Question 3

“Describe a situation where you have chosen to advocate for someone who is different from yourself. Define your view of advocacy. What risks, if any, might be associated with your choice to be an advocate? (400 words)”

What to Consider Before Writing

To make your answer concise and to the point, ask yourself the following:

  • When have you stood up for someone?
  • What does advocacy mean in your own words?
  • What role does advocacy have in medicine?
  • Why is it sometimes difficult to be an advocate?

Tips on How to Answer

Your act of advocacy can be as small as addressing discrimination within your own friend group or family. Regardless, focus on a realistic experience you had; even if it was a relatively small interaction, you might have still learned a lot from it.

Remember to answer all aspects of this question! When defining advocacy, don’t use a definition you found online (and on that note, don’t start this essay with “the dictionary defines advocacy as…” as it’s overdone).

Think about what advocacy means to you, use a dictionary definition as a foundation if you’re stuck, and build on it to make it more personal. Don’t forget to mention potential risks – this is a three-part question. 

Question 4

“Not achieving a goal or one’s desire can sometimes be disheartening. What have you learned/gained from your setbacks and disappointments and how does this translate to your current way of thinking? (400 words)”

What to Consider Before Writing

Humans fail all the time. We’re imperfect, and that’s what helps us grow and become better people. To narrow down your setbacks/disappointments, consider the following:

  • Setbacks/disappointment can be a feeling and not always a “truth.”
  • Which setback sticks out the most to you?
  • What does it mean to feel disappointed?
  • What is the importance of setbacks in your life?

Tips on How to Answer

Again, be honest. Focus on a real setback or time you’ve been disappointed in yourself without trying to just list a failure you can turn into a strength.

It’s okay to show some vulnerability and humility here; just be sure you show how your setback helped you grow. 

Question 5 

“What do you value most as a leader and as a contributor? What attributes do you possess as a leader and as a team member and how do you apply them on a daily basis? (400 words)”

What to Consider Before Writing

Answering these questions will help you answer this prompt: 

  • What qualities do you value in a leader? 
  • What qualities do you value in teammates when you’re in a leadership position? 
  • Describe a time you’ve been a leader. 
  • Describe a time you’ve been a team member. 

Tips on How to Answer 

This prompt asks you to reflect on both sides of the coin – the purpose is to show that you’d be a stellar addition to the Duke class as both a leader and a team member. Remember to emphasize your answer on the last point of this question – Duke wants to see how you apply your qualities on a daily basis. Give examples! 

Question 6

“Critical thinking involves a number of characteristics. Research experience enhances critical analysis skills. Describe any research experience or another situation in which you utilized critical thinking. How will critical thinking be important in your future career? (400 words)”

What to Consider Before Writing

These are some guiding questions to ask yourself before writing: 

  • What does critical thinking mean in your own words?
  • What are your most impactful research experiences? 
  • What have you been curious about? How did you use your critical thinking to learn more about this curiosity?

Tips on How to Answer

You don’t have a lot of wiggle room on the word limit here to go in-depth on more than one or two anecdotes. Ensure you don’t spend most of your answer only describing this experience! The second part of the question is equally, if not more, important than the first.

Question 7 

“Potential sources of health inequities exist. Duke’s Moments to Movement (M2M) is a collective stand to address these issues. Describe your experience and reflection with race and its relationship to disparities in health, health care and society. (400 words)”

What to Consider Before Writing 

These are some things you should do and consider before writing: 

  • Learn more about Duke’s Moments to Movement collective. 
  • Consider the relationship between race and disparities in health care. 
  • Reflect on your values and the idea of care for all. 

Tips on How to Answer 

You’ll definitely need to read more about Duke’s Moments to Movement collective and its goal. Reflect on either your own experiences, a friend’s, or a family member’s; this will lay the foundation for a response rooted in your values and beliefs. 

Question 8 

“How has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced your journey to medical school? Have these events changed your outlook on medicine’s role in society? (400 words)”

What to Consider Before Writing

Here are some things to think about for this question: 

  • Consider the impacts that COVID-19 personally had on you.
  • Reflect on how your thoughts and feelings surrounding medicine may have changed.
  • How might you respond, as a healthcare worker, to another worldwide pandemic? 

Tips on How to Answer

The COVID-19 pandemic affected all of us in some way or another. Be authentic and sincere about the effects it has had on your life. As someone aspiring to work in healthcare, this question likely strikes a chord with you. 

Question 9 

“Please let us know of any additional information tha you would like us to consider while reviewing your application.” 

What to Consider Before Writing

Here is what you consider in advance: 

  • Do you have any accomplishments or interests that you are unable to discuss on your application as it is? 
  • Are there any areas of your application that you want to expand on? 
  • What are other aspects of your life, background, or personality that would be helpful for the admissions committee to know? 

Tips on How to Answer

This question is completely up to you to respond to as you wish. It’s a great chance for you to give your application a boost by expanding on reasons why you’re a great candidate. 

Duke Medical School Interview Format

The last step is your interview. Duke calls this their “fit” day, as applicants are reviewed to see if they would be a good match and fit.

These virtual interviews take the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format. The MMI is a series of 8-10 interview stations or encounters that last approximately 9 minutes and are actually centered on a "scenario."

These questions are intended to assess your thinking process and provide more insight into your empathy, problem-solving skills, insight and integrity, and compassion. While we’ve all attended virtual meetings in our pajamas, you’ll want to take care to dress professionally and be prepared for this interview to make a good impression!

Duke Medical School Tuition & Fees

Obtaining an MD from Duke doesn’t come cheap. Students can expect to pay at least $72,757 in Duke School of Medicine tuition and fees in their first year of medical school. However, here’s a breakdown of the total cost of attending Duke School of Medicine as a first-year student:

Table outlining the duke medical school tuition and fees per year
Table outlining duke medical school fees
Source: Duke University School of Medicine

Fortunately, there are various medical school scholarships that can ease the financial burden of medical school! These scholarships offer full and partial funding for tuition.

Duke Medical School also offers selective needs-based financial aid through grants and low-interest loans.

Duke Medical School Application Timeline

Be sure to pay attention to the following dates to ensure you apply to Duke med school in a timely manner:

Date Description
June 25 AMCAS opens
July to October 15 Duke receives completed applications, and by late July, Duke sends out invitations to complete the supplemental application
Mid-July to November 15 All supplemental applications are received, reviewed, and qualified applicants are invited to interview starting late August to early January
Early September to Early February Virtual interviews take place
Mid to Late February Final decisions will be made, and applicants will receive a phone call – those waitlisted or not being considered will receive an email
Mid-April Applicants should have no more than three acceptances at this time, contacting those schools that they wish to withdraw from by this day
May 1 Applicants must “plan to enroll” at Duke University School of Medicine and withdraw all other offers
June 15 Applicants must “commit to enroll” at Duke University School of Medicine and withdraw all other waitlist offers

Tips for Getting Into Duke Medical School 

Ready to boost your chances of acceptance at the Duke University School of Medicine? These tips can help you increase your odds. 

Take All Recommended Courses 

Although Duke doesn’t have course requirements, taking recommended courses can help you learn skills and knowledge you’ll need for med school and show you’re ready to handle the rigorous curriculum Duke offers. Consider taking: 

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, or Genetics 
  • Statistics/Biostatistics
  • Physics/Biophysics
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Any courses that are writing-intensive

While you don’t need to take all these courses, doing so helps you prepare for the road ahead! 

Pre-Write Your Secondaries for a Quick Turnaround Time 

You’ll need to write at least seven short essays as part of your Duke secondary application. Each of these essays has a word limit of between 400 and 500 words. Many sources recommended quickly turning around secondaries to demonstrate interest in the school. 

As such, you may find value in pre-writing your secondaries before you receive your application. While prompts may change, they usually maintain the same theme or idea – this also gives you more time to write! 

Commit Yourself to Patient Care Experiences

Duke University’s Patient First MD curriculum means you’ll develop patient care skills from day one, condense science knowledge into one year instead of two, and care for patients a year earlier than at other med schools. Showing your commitment to patient care through clinical experiences can help demonstrate your fit. 

FAQs: How to Get Into Duke Medical School

If you still have questions about how to get into Duke University Medical School, read on to find the answers.

1. What GPA Do You Need to Get Into Duke Medical School?

The average GPA range of admitted students is 3.8 to 3.98. However, some applicants with lower GPAs were offered admission.

2. Is it Hard to Get Into Duke Medical School?

As a prestigious medical school with a low acceptance rate of 2.9%, Duke Medical School is competitive! 

3. How Do I Get Into Duke Medical School?

Do your best to maintain a high undergraduate GPA, gain experience that will make you stand out, study hard for the MCAT, learn how to write excellent essays, and prepare for your interview.

But most importantly, ask for help if you need it! Inspira Advantage gives you the necessary resources and support to significantly increase your chances of getting into Duke Medical School or any other school you’re interested in!

4. What MCAT Score Do I Need to Get Into Duke?

You should aim to score between 516 and 522, but getting into Duke with lower scores is still possible.

5. What is the Interview Format for Duke Medical School?

The interview consists of eight to ten virtual multiple mini interviews.

6. When Should I Write My MCAT to Get Into Duke Medical School?

Duke accepts MCAT scores that are less than five years old. However, at the latest, you must take the MCAT in September of the cycle you’re applying in. We recommend taking the MCAT earlier to provide an opportunity for a potential retest if needed. 

7. Does Duke Med School Require Prerequisite Courses? 

No, but Duke does recommend students take courses such as Biochemistry and Cellular Biology. 

Final Thoughts

This guide has provided all the information you need to know about how to get into Duke Medical School. Despite the stats of admitted students and the low acceptance rate, if you put in the work and are dedicated, you too can become a Duke Blue Devil and take the first big step toward realizing your dream of practicing medicine at Duke! 

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