Find the answers to some frequently asked questions below. In case your question remains unanswered, please contact the Admissions Office or any of our wonderful Admissions Liaisons -- current students who love hearing from prospective applicants and helping them learn more about DukeMed!


Does the Duke curriculum include a standard anatomy lab?

Yes. Duke has anatomy built in during the first semester of first year with all of the standard dissections and anatomical exploration. Here is the link to more detail on the first year curriculum.

How do students feel about the preclinical years being accelerated into one? - how stressful is it, how well do you feel you learn the necessary material? Also, how do students feel about the timeline for step exams at Duke and their preparedness?

Most students who choose Duke are excited about the possibility of consolidating preclinical learning into one year in order to maximize time spent in the clinics and on research. While there is a lot of information in the first year, there is a pattern to learning the information and to the schedule of pass/fail exams, so people tend to find their footing and how they best learn the material and still have time to enjoy lives outside of medical school as well as extracurriculars during their first year. In terms of step exams, you will hear different things at different schools, and we have no counterfactual to compare to, but in terms of how the timing works now (this could with pass/fail Step 1) students appreciate the flexibility to take Step 1 when it is convenient for their schedule during the third year. Anecdotally, having had clinical experience also seems helpful prior to taking Step 1, even though it is the less clinical of the exams, as the real-life experience still helps to anchor and solidify concepts. Step 2CS and 2CK are also taken flexibly during MS3 or MS4 year, and the clinical experience before these exams is certainly helpful.

Is it hard to be at duke without a car? Do most people have cars?

Most people do opt to have cars here. There are definitely folks who live in houses that give them the option to take the bus or bike (Hailey and Tamar both posted housing videos and take the bus and bike respectively) and then there's the option to live in a place like Trinity (apartment complex) where it is easy to walk to campus. However, the most common option, especially once you get to second year, when you will be needing to get to the medical campus at inconvenient times and/or to clinics that may be further away, is to have a car. Having a car also makes it easier to run errands like groceries or Target runs. In short, it is definitely possible to not have a car first year, it's possible but little done to not have one second year, third year is very variable, and then fourth year comes with the same scheduling complications of needing to be at the hospital early etc.

What kind of selectives are available to second year students?

Great question, for those that are less familiar with the second year clinical rotations, selectives are 2 week elective blocks to experiment with specialties/subspecialties you are interested in in a low pressure (P/F) environment. There are too many possibilities to name (likely anything you are interested in is a possibility) but some of the most popular are emergency medicine, pediatric cardiology, cardio-thoracic surgery, GI (peds or adult), dermatology (peds or adult), and anesthesia.

Does the financial aid office offer loan guidance/counseling?

Yes! They give structured informational sessions, including a dedicated session on loan repayment in our fourth year capstone course as well as individual counseling. Please feel free to get in touch with them here.

If I went to Duke for undergrad and have an active netID and email do I get to keep them or will I be given new ones?

You will keep the same one.

What is the average amount that Duke students pay for rent in Durham? What is the general range?

There is some great content on our Life in Durham page regarding apartments and rents. Rents are variable. An estimated range would be $1300 for a high-end one bedroom apartment close to the medical school to as low as $400 a month if you share a multi-bedroom rented house.

What are some examples of things that people do during their third year? Is it only research? What is it like to do a dual degree with the third year? What are the options? Is it possible to get funding for year three? If so, how does this affect financial aid?

We have a collection of brief third year testimonials here (including several dual degree candidates). The short answer is that a scholarly research project is a requirement of third year, however people come at this in many different ways, there are folks who are doing a dual degree at the Divinity school and are doing research related to spirituality and medicine as well as folks doing basic science bench work. Other things people have done/are doing in their third year(s) besides clinical or basic science research (which many students also participate in): work with big data and device design at DIHI, get an MPH at UNC, work on emerging zoonotic diseases in Vietnam, work with our REACH Equity center on health disparities, and get an MBA. There are scholarships (both internal and external) available at Duke for the third year. The effect any scholarship has on financial aid is person-dependent, however no scholarship is meant to be “punitive” to a financial aid package. Dual degrees generally do incur additional tuition however there are deals that can be reached especially if it is a dual degree within Duke. There are also certain dual degree programs such as the Clinical Research Training Program in which there are scholarships available for full masters tuition.

For people who also went to Duke for undergrad, how is it different/similar to Duke med? What were your experiences like coming to Duke med after doing Duke undergrad?

My experiences at Duke undergrad vs. Duke med have been very different - for one the type of community you form in med school is entirely different since you’re living off campus. For example I’ve had the opportunity to connect with many more Durham community members outside of Duke since coming to med school. Even though the med school campus is just a few minutes from main campus, I hardly spend time on the undergrad campus so it is a much different world/different experience being in the med school and the hospital. I can’t think of any obvious similarities between Duke undergrad and Duke med off the top of my head, but a perk is that I can keep in touch with old mentors and friends who have stayed in the Durham area.

When do students typically take Step 1 and Step 2 CK? Is there protected study time for steps during year three? How prepared do Duke students feel for Step? How much extra studying do most people do for the exam?

You learn the material well during first year, although students definitely take time for dedicated studying for Step 1. The pass fail for Step 1 change may change the schedule for when people take these exams, but right now almost everyone takes Step 1 during 3rd year (there is protected time and you work out what schedule you would like with your mentor, for instance, the writer has not taken it and will take it over the summer as they are taking 2 third years, others take it in the fall after 2nd year, others in Jan/Feb etc). Step 2 also gets sprinkled in over 3rd and 4th year. I took 2CS right after clinical year when I thought I would be most prepared for it and then plan to take CK during my fourth year when most people also take it between clinical rotations.

What locations and sites do second year students rotate through?

Duke University Medical Center (“Big” Duke) including the in-hospital clinics, Duke North, Duke Cancer Center, and the Duke Medical Pavilion; Duke Regional (the community hospital); the Durham Veteran’s Administration Hospital; community clinics in the triangle area and around the state (family medicine, pediatrics); Lincoln community health center; and the Durham Health Department (Ob/Gyn).

Are there any resource materials we should obtain prior to the start of the school? Are we provided a laptop and/or iPad?

No, don’t buy anything in advance (besides maybe some pens or something). You will figure out the resources you want to use during the first year as you go through the curriculum. Older students share useful tips and resources with first years at the beginning of the semester. In terms of technology in prior years a laptop and iPad have been included with the technology fee which also includes the incredible support of the Med Ed IT team for any issue that you have with your laptop, iPad, or other equipment down the road.

How many hours a week/day do students average throughout second year? How is student support and well-being during second year?

It totally depends on the rotation. For some outpatient rotations you may work about an 8-5pm schedule; for some inpatient rotations you will have to arrive earlier (5 or 6 am) and may not leave until later in the evening. Sometimes things will be slow and you will get an unexpected free afternoon! Some rotations include weekend shifts (medicine, neurology, pediatrics) others do not (ob/gyn, family medicine). There continue to be structured group didactics during second year including our clinical skills course which is largely focused on emotional resilience and support. The class councils put on events for wellness, de-stressing and class bonding, and there is a lot of resource sharing and communication to support colleagues through rotations. All medical appointments including for counseling are excused during second year as well.

Can anyone speak about getting married during year three?

Yes, a couple of folks with this experience have volunteered to talk about it. Please feel free to reach out to Safa Kaleem or Faye Oakes!

Duke always has such a great match list! Do Duke students usually get one of their top choices for residency programs?

Duke generally places well in the match and students are pleased with their residency options! For more information on the 2020 Match see the Match Day announcement.

Is there anywhere in the curriculum where students learn how to read medical imaging scans and/or use ultrasound?

Yes this is incorporated at multiple points of the curriculum. During first year scans and imaging are used during clinical correlations so that you gain familiarity with different imaging modalities and readouts. Then, during 2nd year there is a 4 week long radiology rotation including ultrasound where you gain even more familiarity with all different types of imaging tests that can be ordered as well as how they are performed. If you are really interested in ultrasound specifically there is also a lot of interesting research on 3D ultrasound going on in the Duke ED that has been part of previous Duke student research projects.

What do people like to do in their free time?

People have a variety of extracurricular interests. Apart from engaging in school/medicine-related interest groups and volunteer efforts, Duke Med students enjoy being outdoors (hiking/biking/running), playing sports, cooking/baking, playing trivia with med and non-med peers, exploring the Durham nightlife, traveling, and TV/movies.

How accessible is research as a first year student?

Research is definitely accessible if you look for it. We have had several emails circulating from departments/labs with research opportunities for first-year students. I know a handful of students who are engaged with some form of research as MS1s, but the majority of students just focus on the schoolwork. MS1 coursework can be very time-intensive, and our entire third year is dedicated to completing a research project! There are definitely research opportunities in MS1, but it is by no means necessary to become a competitive residency applicant.

What are some of the best parts of the Duke Med curriculum that are unique to Duke?

The most obvious Duke-unique curriculum component is the structure of the four years: 1st year is preclinical, 2nd is clinical, 3rd is research/dual degree, and fourth year is away rotations and residency application season. More specifically, the preclinical year is systems-based with normal body in the first semester and pathophysiology in the second semester, which provides a second-pass through the material to refresh your memory prior to starting second year. We complete the entire anatomy course in the fall semester of MS1, and MS2 clerkships begin in August. MS2 clerkships include most of the typical rotations as well as two selectives in fields you are interested in. Perhaps most unique to Duke, most students take the Step 1 USMLE exam after second year (post-clerkships) before beginning research/dual degree. MS3 year is dedicated entirely to a research project (which some students choose to extend to an additional MS3+ year) or a dual degree (most of which require two years).

What is a sample weekly schedule for a first year student? Are there any clinical/volunteering opportunities in first year or is there not time? What are the structure and frequency of MS1 exams?

Sample First Year Schedule

This is a sample schedule for MS1 first semester, during which we have an exam every other Monday, anatomy labs 2-3x weekly, and mandatory Clinical Skills Foundation class and physiology team applications.

This is a sample schedule for MS1 second semester, during which there is a little more flexibility in the schedule since anatomy labs are completed. We still have mandatory Clinical Skills Foundation class, Cultural Determinants of Health and Health Disparities (started in the fall) seminars, and team-based exercises related to course content.

There are clinical opportunities built into the curriculum, including Interprofessional Clinical Experience (an ED shift with other health professions students), ACE clinic (several clinical shifts through the CSF course to practice history-taking and physical exam skills), and CSF standardized patient practice. Volunteer clinical opportunities are available outside of the mandatory coursework, and there is definitely time in the MS1 year to be involved! There are many clinics that students are welcome to volunteer in, including Fremont Clinic, Holton Clinic, Benson Clinic, and other community health centers.

What is the community like at Duke? What is the level of competition between students during clinicals?

We have a really supportive group of students. In every class I have seen our GroupMe/email/Google Drive used for sharing of resources and helping folks out (both within and between classes). I think the preclinical year with so much time together studying the same material and sharing resources builds a really strong foundation for the second year. People still tend to be very collaborative in terms of sharing tips and tricks, and for the rotations where you have a student partner most people have positive experiences in terms of communication and learning how to work on a team.