Frequently Asked Questions
How will I be able to pay if I am admitted?
Students are given full funding for 5 years,including tuition, fees and a living stipend, as long as they are making good progress towards their degree. But they are also expected to apply for other fellowships within and outside Duke, especially for their field research and write-up years. We encourage applicants to apply also for an NSF Graduate Fellowship, which pays most expenses for three years. If you receive an NSF, it will give you more overall flexibility in choosing a graduate school, as having your own funding increases your likelihood of acceptance. Students who are successful in winning outside fellowships such as the NSF, Wenner-Grenn or SSRC that pay their entire costs for a full year (internal Duke grants do not qualify) will receive a $1,000 bonus from the department.
What should I include in my personal statement?
This may be the single most important part of your application. There is no single formula for writing a strong statement, but it should not be a simple autobiography and focus instead on your interest in Cultural Anthropology. We are looking for evidence that you know how to think critically about questions of society and culture, and are able to make use of social theory to make sense of a particular research topic or theme. You do not need to specify a single narrow topic (and many students change their topic in graduate school), but you should use the statement to delineate your prime research interests in terms of geographical area and/or subject. It is often also a good idea to explain why you think our department, in particular, would be a good fit for you. Please include three keywords indicating your area of interest. Click here for some sample personal statements from recent successful applicants.
What is the department’s record in placing its graduates?
We have an excellent record of placing our graduates in tenure-track jobs, including many at top universities. Of our graduates in the last five years 58% are in tenure track university positions, 25% are in visiting or adjunct university positions, and 17% are in either non-university positions or not working (usually fulfilling family obligations). We have graduates now professors at Harvard, U.C. Berkeley, University of Washington, University of Chicago, Wesleyan, and many other leading institutions.
Some of our PhDs choose non-academic careers, including taking museum directorships or working in government or for Non-Governmental Organizations.
Click here for a fuller list of our placements..
What should my GPA be?
On average, our new students have an overall college GPA of 3.7 or above, but a lower average does not necessarily disqualify you. We look at your entire application, and pay strong attention to your personal statement, writing sample, faculty recommendations, and areas of interest.
What about the GRE?
We pay more attention to the Verbal and Writing parts of the GREs, since Cultural Anthropology does not involve much quantitative work. Most successful candidates have Verbal GREs of at least 600 and are in the top 80 percent in the Writing section; but a lower score does not necessarily disqualify you.
When should I take the GRE?
GRE testing must take place within the 5 years prior to your application to our department. An official report of the scores, sent directly from Educational Testing Service, must be provided, institution code 5156. There are no exceptions as this is a Duke Graduate School Rule. If you need to retake the GREs, please do so early enough that your scores will reach us by December.
What kind of writing sample should I send?
You should submit a sample of relatively recent writing, 10 to 20 pages in length. It can be a paper for a course, or a part of a senior thesis or other longer essay.
What is Durham like?
Durham is a dynamic, creative, and hard-working city known for its history of political activism, cultural life, and great mix of people. It has terrific housing opportunities for graduate students at reasonable rates and the area has much to offer with its famous food scene, easy access to beach and mountains, excellent state park system, and the add-ons of nearby Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Duke students may take courses for credit at UNC-Chapel Hill.
How selective is the process of being admitted?
It is a very competitive process. Typically, we get anywhere from 120 to 150 applicants a year, and are able to admit five students with full funding. All those admitted are invited for a campus visit (usually in March), at our expense, to learn more about the department, university, and the area.
What are the language requirements for the Ph.D.?
All candidates for graduate degrees in Cultural Anthropology are required to demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language. These tests will be administered by a qualified individual within or outside the Department, as appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. International students from non-English speaking countries do not have to fulfill this requirement, since they already know two languages.
Does the graduate program involve an examination system?
No. We have instituted a portfolio system where the students works in close collaboration with her or his committee members to put together a portfolio of research papers, book reviews, reading lists, syllabi, a dissertation and proposal, and other materials in the course of the first three years at Duke prior to passing into candidacy. A portfolio workshop is held at the end of the student's third year to review the her or his work and discuss final plans for the dissertation. For more on this system, see the "Graduate Curriculum Guidelines" under the Graduate page.