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Choosing Your Courses

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This summer you will register for four 1.0 credit classes for your fall schedule. You may also register for an additional 0.5 credit class if you wish. FOCUS students will automatically have 4.5 credits, 2.5 for FOCUS plus two more one credit classes.


You must complete WRITING 101 and a seminar in your first year, so at least one of these classes should be in your fall schedule. Half of all incoming students are assigned to take WRITING 101 in the fall, the other half in spring. You will see a message in DukeHub, under Message Center,  if you are scheduled to take WRITING 101 this fall. If you see this message, you MUST register for WRITING 101. If you are not selected to enroll in Writing 101 in the Fall, you will need to enroll in a seminar class.

WRITING 101: prepares you for university-level writing. These classes are limited to 15 students, which allows engaging class discussions and thoughtful consideration of your writing. The course helps you develop strategies for generating, supporting and sharing your ideas. There are many sections of Writing 101 to choose from. Although they have different topics, they all achieve the same end. You may not get your first or second choice, but that’s okay. Visit for a listing of all sections and their descriptions.

SEMINAR: small, discussion-based course, with an “S” after the course number. You can choose an 89S seminar, which are specifically for first-year students, or any other seminar for which you have the background. A listing of all first-year seminars can be found at, and you can use Advanced Search in DukeHub to look for all seminar courses offered.


Taught by leading faculty, these first-year seminars are designed to excite your intellectual curiosity. They are offered in a wide variety of disciplines within the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. You can find a list of all first-year seminars at


Each semester, several first-year seminars are part the What Now? Network, which creates a community organized around (really!) big questions, where you can build skills to begin answering them and live better in the process. Learn more at

You may take WRITING 101 and a seminar in the same semester, but be careful about taking a writing-intensive seminar, i.e., one with a W-code, along with WRITING 101.

Some considerations to help you choose your Fall courses

FOCUS is an exciting opportunity for first-semester Duke students to be exposed to ideas from the vantage point of different disciplines. The Focus Program will provide 2.5 of your four 1.0 credit classes. You’ll find detailed information on FOCUS later in this section.

Virtually any class you take in your first semester will meet multiple curriculum requirements.  And, while it is a good idea to try classes in departments that strongly interest you, students don’t need to begin a major right away in order to complete it.

Duke offers courses in over 50 departments, including many that may be new to you. Look through the departments listed in Duke’s online course catalogue to discover new fields that interest you and explore course offerings in those departments.

Classes at or below the 200-level are generally suitable for first-year students, and so are many classes numbered from 200 to 399. If you have questions about a particular class, contact the Academic Advising Center.

Starting your language study in your first semester is not necessary, and many students delay starting their language requirement. However, if you plan to study abroad you may want to begin your foreign language early to become as proficient as you can before you study in that country.

Students planning on medical school or other health professions will need to complete a number of required prehealth classes at Duke. You are encouraged to familiarize yourself with these requirements by visiting Duke’s prehealth website at Prehealth students typically enroll in the chemistry class appropriate for their background in their first semester. They also frequently enroll in a math class, but taking math at Duke may not be necessary depending on whether you have AP credit. Although starting early on prehealth requirements is recommended, if you are unsure about your prehealth interests, delaying for a semester will not prevent you from completing the necessary coursework within four years.

Generally, a mix of larger and smaller classes is a good idea. Similarly, some diversity in subject areas is recommended, i.e., choose classes that come from two or more areas of knowledge.

Be sure you have enough time to get from one class to the next. Review the graphic with estimated travel times between different parts of campus in the “Registration” section of this Blue Book

You may prefer to have your classes concentrated on a few days each week or to spread them out more evenly. Avoid early morning classes if attendance will be an issue.