Why pick the Robertson Scholarship over Harvard and Stanford?

What are the specific reasons for taking one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships, the Robertson, over attending Harvard and Stanford?

Great question.

The Robertson program is a unique experience for around 15 Duke students each year. Scholars from the U.S. are chosen from the Duke/UNC application pool of around 60,000 students and the seven or so international scholars (from countries including NZ, Australia, England, Ethiopia and India) are invited following an extremely personal interview process. Clearly, this selection process differs significantly from regular university admissions, and it embodies what the Robertson program aims to achieve - a personalized, engaging and challenging college experience.

My experience as a Robertson has been very different to a regular Duke student ever since our pre-Duke orientation in North Carolina. I have had access to annual summer funding, exclusive dinner and speaker events, grants to attend conferences, five full-time staff members working solely for the current students, dual-citizenship and the University of North Carolina including one semester of residency, a diverse and tight-knit peer group and access to alumni across the world. The program offers the comfort of friendship and support, the challenge of new ideas from different events and members and the resources to do whatever you want. All on top of paying for my ~$70,000USD p.a. tuition.

I am also a huge fan of Duke University. Beyond a beautiful campus is an incredible work-life balance lived by interesting students from all around the world. Especially as an international student, you will be able to take advantage everybody’s different background. For example, in the 16 months since I arrived at Duke I’ve hung out with 15 of my Duke friends back in their respective countries (largely Europe and South America).

Duke’s sporting prowess offers both entertainment and a culture of camaraderie and school spirit. I can watch some of the worlds top age-group athletes compete in national competitions and then catch a meal with them in the same day. One of the nations biggest sporting events, the annual Duke vs UNC Basketball game, is a highlight of the year. Club sport also thrives from an $8 million budget (allegedly 10x as high as the next highest endowment). Last year I travelled to both the Bahamas (rugby) and Amsterdam (hockey) on highly subsidized “dream trips” - an experience unique to Duke Club Sport.

Duke is also one of those rare places where a strong liberal arts program meets hard engineering and life science. Interdisciplinary programs such as Bass Connections seek to capitalize on this intersection to be at the forefront of research, policy and innovation. I am constantly learning things from faculty, peers and programs that I would never have thought existed. Duke is certainly a place to open your mind and expand your understanding of many different aspects of the world.

I could go on all day about the awesome things here at Duke so feel free to reach out to me with specific questions. Good luck with your application!


The Robertson offers resources. They clear the way for you to do what you need to do as grow in experience and understanding.

I think the biggest indicator of that is the Robertson’s summer program: they pay for three summers of activity. The first is spent getting to know the people you’re with, the second and third are spent doing whatever you like, per their approval (which is, as a rule, very generous). Your summer is based in your written proposal, born of what you want to do. For some, this means beefing up their pre-professional credentials (consulting internships, Google internships), and there is no doubt that the Robertson will help you do that. But other cases, which I think embody what is good about the Robertson, involve more personal activities that are central to you as a unique person (writing a novel about growing up as a foster child with no siblings, writing a philosophy about how and why you experience art the way you do, fighting for a social cause with immediate personal impact). Here is where you’ll find a reason to choose the Robertson that has nothing to do with it being “prestigious.”

Best of luck as you choose. You’ve done a lot to get here, and remember: it’s not as impactful it appears.

1 Like

If I were to apply and be accepted into UNC Chapel Hill (and not Duke - or got rejected), would I still be able to enrol in Duke instead of UNC Chapel Hill if accepted into the Robertson program?
Thank you!

Hi @anonymous5,

As a Robertson you are a student of both schools and may take any class at either school. However, you will live at (for the most part), must meet graduation requirements and will receive a degree from your home institution. In your case, that’d be UNC.

TL;DR: You can enrol in classes but not in the school itself.