Trinity College of Arts & Sciences at Duke University Program II

Is Program II right for you?

One thing that Program II students share in common is that their educational goals cannot be  satisfactorily fulfilled within Program I.  In selecting Program II, you accept the challenge of designing your own individualized program of study and the responsibility for fulfilling its requirements.  In return, you enjoy the benefits of focusing your undergraduate studies on what most excites you intellectually.

Program II FAQS

1. What is distinctive about Program II?

Program II offers students an opportunity to create a curriculum tailored to their individual academic needs. It provides a unique way to explore a particular subject or combination of subjects from the perspective of various disciplines. As an interdisciplinary program of study, Program II combines diverse elements into a cohesive whole.

2. How many students are in the program?

In recent years, about 40 students have taken part in Program II. Since1970, when the first three Trinity College seniors graduated in Program II, more than 500 students have graduated with bachelor degrees in Program II.

3. Can I apply to Program II if I'm a Pratt Engineering student?

No.  Program II is a Trinity College program.  If you're in Pratt, you would need to transfer to Trinity to be able to apply. 

4. Who evaluates Program II applications?

The Program II committee  is a standing committee of the Arts & Sciences Council.  It is comprised of  three faculty members, one current Program II senior and Dean Grunwald, DUS of Program II. The committee reads and evaluates applications twice each semester.

5. What is the Program II committee looking for in successful applications?

When they review your proposal, the committee will be looking for evidence that it cannot be accomplished within Program I, that it is well-focused and coherent, and that it has a unifying theme.  Furthermore, it should have the strong support of your chosen advisor and the endorsement of the director of undergraduate studies of his/her academic department or program.

6. I’ve heard that it will be hard to get my Program II proposal approved.  Is that true?

It is true that not all applications are approved by the Program II committee the first time they are submitted.  But rarely is a proposal rejected outright, and if it is, it’s usually because the committee feels that the student could accomplish his/her goals within Program I.  More commonly, the committee invites students to reapply after revising their proposals to meet the expectations for a successful application as outlined above.  Persistence and flexibility on your part will likely lead to eventual, if not always immediate, approval of your Program II.

If you want to enhance the chances that your Program II proposal will be approved the first time you submit it, you should follow the application guidelines carefully, set out clearly in your essay what your program of study is about, and explain in detail how all of your proposed core courses contribute to the central topic of your program.  It is especially important that your program of study be coherent and that you be able to explain how its component parts fit together to make a unified whole. 

Dean Grunwald would be glad to review your application with you before you submit it and may be able to offer some suggestions for strengthening it.

7. If my program is accepted, can I make substitutions to my core courses?

Program II proposals are approved with the understanding that you will regard your core courses--generally 14-16 but no more than 18 courses--as specific graduation requirements.  If it becomes necessary for you to make a course change because, for instance, one of your core courses is no longer offered at Duke, you must propose a substitute course in writing to your advisor, who will need to approve the substitution and notify the Program II office of the change before the end of drop/add in the semester in which you would be taking the substitute course.  You are generally expected to substitute a course that covers some of the same material as the course being replaced.  If your advisor has approved substitutes for two core courses, any additional requests to change a core course will require approval by the Program II committee.

8. What if my program is not approved?

If your Program II is initially turned down, it doesn't mean you cannot or should not apply again. In fact, the committee regularly encourages resubmissions and suggests ways in which initially unsuccessful proposals might be modified before the next application deadline. Don’t be discouraged by an initial rejection, but use the committee's constructive criticism to strengthen your application.

Please bear in mind that the committee also often approves proposals pending minor revisions.  In this case, you will be expected to make one or more  modest changes in the proposal before its final acceptance.

9. Can I earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Program II?

A Program II curriculum may lead to either the AB or BS degree.  If you wish to pursue the BS degree, your Program II must be sponsored by a department offering a major within that degree, and you'll have to meet that department's BS requirements.  Remember that the sponsoring deparment is determined by the affiliation of your proposed Program II advisor.

10. Can I combine Program II with a major, minor, or certificate in Program I?

No. Program II is not a major but an individualized degree program distinct from Program I.  If you apply and are admitted to Program II, you are no longer held responsible for completing the requirements of Program I, nor may you pursue a major or minor, as these are features of Program I. You can, however, elect to complete an undergraduate certificate program with elective courses if, in the Program II Committee's judgment, the certificate is unrelated to your core area, i.e., the theme of your program.  Note: because Program II cannot be combined with a major or minor, it follows that Pratt students are also ineligible to pursue Program II.

11. Can I include courses taken elsewhere in my Program II?

Yes.  In fact, it’s quite common for Program II students to include courses taken at other area universities (UNC, NC State, NCCU) through the Inter-Institutional agreement.  You may also count courses taken at other U.S. colleges and universities among your core courses. Likewise, study abroad course work can complement courses taken at Duke.  For all work for which you seek academic credit, you must be registered at an approved institution, whether in the U.S. or abroad. As a Program II student, you are subject to the rules at Duke governing approval of and limitations on transfer credit, unless an exception is authorized at the time of your admission to Program II.

12. Can some of my core courses be ones I have already taken at Duke?

Your core courses provide curriculum depth to your Program II.   While some of the courses you have already completed by the time you apply to Program II may be included as core courses, the Program II committee expects that the majority of your core courses will be proposed as future courses.  Once your program has been approved, each specific core course becomes a graduation requirement for you. Changes to the core list are possible only with approval of your advisor and the Program II director; the Program II committee must approve changes in excess of two.

13.  Is there a limit on the number of courses I can include in my program from a single department?

The Program II committee has specified no limit on the number of course you can include in your core list from any one department.  However, one of its most important determinations when reviewing applications, is whether the student can study what he or she wants to study in Program I.  If the committee believes the student can work effectively within Program I, the application to Program II will likely be turned down.  Majors in Program I consist of at least 10 courses.  If your proposed Program II core includes, say 7 or 8 or more courses from a particular department, the committee is likely to question your need for Program II.

14. How will a Bachelor's Degree in Program II be regarded by graduate schools or employers?

When you apply for admission to graduate schools or for employment after you graduate from Duke, those who will evaluate your application will be looking for many qualities, not the least of which are initiative, creativity, and thoughtfulness.  These are qualities possessed by all Program II students.  Indeed, the Program II application process itself requires considerable initiative, creativity, and the thoughtful assembly of the program’s component parts, as well as arguments to support the program’s suitability as a focus of your studies.  Having designed your Program II  to meet your academic interests, your commitment to your course of study will be obvious and strong.  This in turn can inspire you to work hard and distinguish yourself academically.   Graduate schools and employers are delighted to see evidence of these attitudes and practices in candidates.

The following e-mail from a recent Duke Program II alumnus reflects his delight at finding his degree to be so well-appreciated by the graduate schools to which he applied:

"I just wanted to drop you a quick line to give you an update you on what I've been doing since completing my Program II at Duke.

I'm very excited as I've just completed a round of very successful graduate school applications and interviews in which I spent a lot of time talking about my Program II and how it has prepared me for graduate studies.  The faculty that I spoke with at Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, and MIT were all very interested and impressed.  The interdisciplinary nature is perfect for the programs that I applied to and I am happy to say that I’ve gotten offers from Duke, Stanford, and Wharton so far and am in the 1st spot on the waitlist at Harvard and MIT!

I plan to do research into the process of innovation and entrepreneurship during my doctoral studies and subsequent academic career.

Thanks so much for the Program II experience!"

For more information about Program II and/or to set up an appointment with Dean Murphey-Brown,

phone: (919) 684-6217

or you can contact Dean Murphey-Brown with specific questions at: