ASCEND will begin in late June and conclude by early August. It will include both synchronous and asynchronous elements; content videos and modules will be available for consumption at a student’s own pace, but will be supplemented by pre-arranged, real-time discussions with coaches and other students via video conferencing platforms.

ASCEND students can expect to devote approximately 10 hours a week to the program while it is underway but should feel comfortable registering for the program while pursuing other responsibilities such as summer jobs, research, and athletic competitions.


Regardless of intended major or academic background, all incoming Duke students need a fundamental grounding in quantitative concepts and skills in order to succeed at Duke. ASCEND introduces students to the academic rigor and methods of quantitative study in college.

Sample Week

Every module in ASCEND will be different, depending on the content taught and your relationship with your small group and coaches, but you should expect to do the following over the course of each week:

  • Watch short, content-based videos created by Professor Jim Rolf
  • Complete short online quizzes/problem sets to assess your understanding of the videos
  • Communicate with your team and coach as a group
  • Discuss concepts with your peers
  • Communicate with your coach one-on-one (as needed)
  • Work on challenging problems involving math in physics, economics, biology, chemistry, etc. with your peers and coaches
  • Have informal chats with Duke STEM faculty

Although some elements–such as the videos and quizzes–will be regular features and can be completed at your own individual pace, you and your teammates will be responsible for creating your own meeting schedule and team culture and can communicate whenever and as frequently as the group decides.

Risk-free Learning

ASCEND allows students to chart their progress in a risk-free, learning-oriented environment by collecting badges for various accomplishments. There are no grades. A student’s performance on the quizzes and problem sets in ASCEND will have no impact on their academic standing at Duke, and serves purely as a way to evaluate and improve their preparation for the credit-bearing courses they will take in the fall.


ASCEND is not only an academic program, but also a social one. Your coach will have group meetings where you can interact with your peers online before you get to campus. ASCEND participants will have access to their coaches before the semester kicks off and watch videos created by their coaches at any time. The entire ASCEND community will also get together to connect with faculty in Duke’s STEM departments.

The entire ASCEND community–participants, coaches, and affiliated faculty–will be invited to a Celebration Dinner in early September.