For Merit Scholars

Duke's merit scholarships are awarded to incoming first-year students by the Office of University Scholars and Fellows. If you are receiving a merit scholarship, the sections below can help you make the most of your award.

Note: Currently enrolled students are not eligible for merit scholarship consideration with the exception of the Robertson and Nakayama Scholarships.

All merit scholarships cover the following costs:

  • Tuition
  • Exact housing charges
  • Standard meal plan 
  • Mandatory fees (includes student activity, student service, student health, recreation, dining hall, post office box charges, and registration fees)

The following costs are not covered by merit scholarships:

  • Residential program fees
  • Quad/1st year housing fees
  • Parking Permits
  • Course fees
  • Books and Supplies
  • Summer School
  • Health Insurance (except for international students; see specifics on Health Insurance in the section below)
  • All other non-mandatory expenses 

Note: Trinity Scholars from North and South Carolina, and David M. Rubenstein Scholars may receive funding to cover the full cost of attendance at Duke and may be an exception to the exclusions above.


Housing and Meal Expenses for Merit Scholarship Recipients

Your scholarship can cover the cost of a standard dining plan. 

Merit scholarships can also cover your exact on-campus housing charges during the fall and spring semesters. We assume that whether you're here at Duke or off campus, you will still have expenses for housing and meals. We'll base your off-campus aid on the cost of a standard room charge and the cost of meal plan D. Your charges from Duke will change, but your aid will still include consideration for your housing cost.

Students should note that financial aid is not released to students until after the first week of class each term. If you qualify for a financial aid refund (i.e. your aid exceeds Duke's charges) and you will be using it to assist with your off-campus housing costs, please note that you will need to make arrangements on your own to cover your August and January rent costs if they are billed at the beginning of the month. Financial aid refunds cannot be released early and will not be available in time to make these payments, so students who choose to live off campus must plan accordingly.

If you live off campus or choose a less expensive meal plan, your scholarship may exceed your charges for the semester. If this is the case, the Bursar’s Office will provide a refund of the difference to you to pay for off-campus housing and/or additional meals.  Refunds are issued by direct deposit to your bank account, by the Bursar's office. Should you have any questions about your refund, you can contact the Bursar's Office directly.


Health Insurance

Merit scholarships do not cover the cost of enrolling in Duke's health insurance plan, with the exception of international students. International students receiving merit scholarships can have their Duke health insurance costs covered by Duke merit scholarship programs (except for the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, which does not cover health insurance for any student). 

All students at Duke are required to have health insurance coverage and must either show proof of existing insurance or participate in the Duke plan. If you have any questions regarding your health insurance policy, contact the Duke Student Health Insurance Manager at insurance@studentaffairs.duke.edu or 919-684-1481.

Students receiving need-based aid may be eligible to have their Duke health insurance costs covered by financial aid if they do not have access to other adequate insurance. Merit scholarship recipients must apply separately for need-based financial aid each year if they wish to determine if their health insurance cost can be covered. To do this, follow the steps listed on the apply for aid page.

Duke merit-based scholarships can be used to assist with the cost of approved study-away programs through the Global Education Office. To use your scholarship funding, the following must be true:

  • Your program must be approved by Duke’s Global Education Office
  • The program must occur during the Fall and/or Spring term(s)


Your Program Cost

In cases where the total cost of attending a program (including tuition, fees, housing, meals, and books, supplies, visas, vaccinations, airfare, and approved miscellaneous expenses) is less than your scholarship amount, your scholarship will be reduced to reflect the actual cost of your program. Conversely, if you are attending a Duke-In or Duke-approved study-away program with a cost that exceeds the amount of your scholarship at Duke (including all the expenses listed above), you will be responsible for covering the difference.

Below are two examples that demonstrate how program costs may impact your merit scholarship or the amount you may need to pay:

Example 1: Program Exceeds Merit Scholarship
Tuition, fees, room, and meals:$33,290
Books, supplies, personal, and all other expenses:$4,480
Total Cost of Program:$37,770
Merit scholarship per semester:$33,000
Student responsible for:$4,770


Example 2: Program Less Than Merit Scholarship
Tuition, fees, room, and meals:$26,740
Books, supplies, personal, and all other expenses:$2,630
Total Cost of Program:$29,370
Merit scholarship per semester:$33,000
Merit scholarship reduced by:$3,630

To learn more about how scholarships are applied to semester study-away programs and to find out how to receive your funding, visit our page on semester study away.

Merit scholarships do not cover the cost of summer school or summer study abroad programs, with the exception of the AB Duke Summer at Oxford.

To receive summer funding, you must apply for aid on the basis of financial need. To do this, you will need to do the following:


Summer School I (May-June 2024)

The deadline for applying for need-based aid for Summer I 2023 is February 15, 2024. Note: The CSS Profile is not available online after February, so contact your counselor if you are not able to complete the form.


Summer School II (June-July 2024)

The deadline for applying for need-based aid for Summer II 2023 is May 1, 2024. 

Note: Need-based aid is not available for summer Duke-Approved study-away programs.  Only Duke-In summer study-away programs may be considered for need-based summer aid.

As a merit recipient, you may still be eligible to receive additional scholarships from sources other than Duke. The total amount you may receive cannot exceed your total cost to attend Duke each year, and any funds in excess of your cost will reduce your Duke merit scholarship.  

For instance, if your total cost to attend Duke is $75,000 (including tuition, fees, housing, meals, travel, books, and miscellaneous expenses) and your merit scholarship is $71,000, you may receive up to an additional $4,000 in outside scholarships. If you receive $5,000 in outside scholarships, your award would be adjusted to reflect $70,000 from Duke and $5,000 from other sources.



If you will be receiving outside scholarships, you should notify the Office of Financial Aid. Your scholarship will be used to reduce your semester bill and help you avoid any late fees.

If you are receiving an outside scholarship, please report it to us using this form.

As a merit scholar, you may apply for need-based financial aid to assist with summer or semester costs. However, in some cases, the amount of your merit scholarship may exceed any need-based aid eligibility you may have during the academic year. Regardless of financial need, domestic students completing a financial aid application may qualify for federal loans and work study.  

Since merit scholarships cannot be used to assist with summer costs, all scholars seeking assistance during the summer terms should apply for need-based aid. 

To apply for need-based aid, you should follow the instructions listed on this website.  Though the due dates listed may have passed, scholars may still be considered for aid for 2023-24 if the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and any required additional documentation have been received by February 15, 2024. 

Note: Only domestic students (US citizens, US permanent residents, and undocumented students) may apply for need-based aid after they arrive at Duke. International students who did not indicate financial aid interest at the time of admission may not apply for additional assistance.