International Applicants for the MEM/MF

As a globally-renowned program, the Nicholas School attracts top-quality students from around the world to its professional Master of Environmental Management and Master of Forestry degree programs . We make it a priority to provide a smooth and enjoyable transition for our international students. Here’s some information to help you get started.


International students apply through the same admissions process as U.S. students. Check out the Application Materials & Deadlines for your program.

Fees are the same for international and U.S. students. Please see our Tuition & Fees page for details. When you apply for your visa, you will need to provide proof of funding for tuition and a minimum of 10 months of living expenses. For MEM and MF students in 2014-2015, these expenses include: $53,071.00 tuition and fees and living expenses, plus student health insurance at the appropriate level. Students bringing a spouse must provide proof of an additional  $7,250 support for spouse; additional proof of funding for dependents is  $3,250 support per dependent in addition to the spouse. For degrees other than the MEM and MF, consult the tuition and fees information for your specific school or program. Admitted international students will be provided with a budget as part of the visa process.

See our Financial Support page for a list of scholarship opportunities for international students.  


You will need a visa to live and study in the United States. If you enter with an F or J visa, you are required to register with the Duke Visa Services Office, which handles visa processing for international students across all Duke schools and programs. Information about applying for the visa will be sent to you upon receipt of your tuition deposit.

Required Tests
If your first language is not English, you will be required to take written and spoken English proficiency tests to make sure you are ready to do well at Duke. You will receive more information about the language exams prior to your arrival. For additional information, contact Dr. Maria Parker, English for International Students (EIS) Program Director, at or 919-613-8125.

Required Courses
Depending on your performance on the English proficiency tests, you may be required to take 1-2 classes to improve your English. These classes will help you get the most out of your Nicholas School experience and better equip you for applying for internships and jobs in English-speaking countries. English speaking and writing classes are offered through the Duke Graduate School. If you are required to take two courses you may count one course (3 credits) as general elective credits towards your degree. Students required to take only one course may not count the credits towards their degree.  If you are required to take English courses, you must take one of them during your first fall semester; it is best to take the second one during the spring semester.

Honor Code Orientation
All students are required to attend a student-led orientation to the Nicholas School Honor Code. Chinese translations are also available for the Honor Code and Alcohol Policy.


These tips come from our current and past international students based on their experiences here.

International House
Duke’s International House (IHouse) is a great resource. During the summer, IHouse hosts virtual online sessions to help new students plan their transition. In the week prior to the Nicholas School orientation, IHouse hosts a Resource Fair and Orientation for international students, which includes an especially helpful session on academic integrity and differences in the style of courses in American universities. IHouse also maintains a Wiki site to put international students in touch with each other before and after they arrive in Durham.

International Students’ Listserv
You will be added to the Nicholas School International Students’ Listserv the summer before you arrive. The address is Use this list to post any questions or concerns you may have and current international students will try to help you find answers. It’s best to use your Duke email address to write to the listserv or your message will be delayed.

When to Arrive
Under visa restrictions, international students may arrive no earlier than 30 days prior to the start of their program. Arriving as early as possible within this window will help you get settled in your new home, attend orientations, and visit Duke’s International House and Visa Services Office.

Finding Housing
Duke’s Office of Student Affairs Website is good resources to learn about neighborhoods, housing options, and transportation. International students get priority for on-campus housing until May 10.

If English Is Not Your First Language
Your time at the Nicholas School can be a great opportunity to improve your English and prepare to apply for internships and jobs in English-speaking countries. Here are some tips:

  1. Choosing Courses
    • When picking your first-semester courses, try to avoid taking many classes that have heavy reading and writing requirements (e.g., policy, law) or classes for which grading is based largely on oral presentations. This will give you a chance to adjust to the English language before taking such courses.
  2. Everyday English
    • Speak English at school (even with others from your home country)
    • Live with English-speaking students
    • Take advantage of English language partners and English classes
    • Listen to news programs in English
  3. Taking Notes/Participating in Lectures: If You’re Having Trouble
    • Ask the instructor to write out key vocabulary words
    • Ask permission to tape-record the lectures
    • See if there are lecture notes available on the course web page or from the instructor
    • Ask to borrow notes from an American student
    • Go to office hours of the instructor and/or teaching assistant to clarify your notes
  4. Study Groups/Group Projects
    • Join groups that include American students
    • If you are having trouble organizing a group, ask the instructor to help set up groups
    • Be sure you are clear on what work (e.g., homework problems) can be done in groups and what must be done individually
    • Ask American students to help proofread written work for group projects
  5. Exams
    • Ask instructor if any accommodations for non-native speakers are acceptable (e.g., more time, use of English-native language dictionary, use of “bullet points” instead of complete sentences)
  6. Written reports
    • Take advantage of writing consultants provided by Duke's Writing Studio and, if more extensive help is needed, writing consultants paid for by the student. The Writing Studio offers resources and workshops specific to non-native English speakers.
  7. Oral Presentations


We understand that some students may want or need to work during their time at the Nicholas School, and many of our students seek U.S.-based internships or post-graduation jobs. The Nicholas School's Career and Professional Development Center and  other offices at Duke are here to help you navigate your job search and prepare the necessary documentation.

Applying for a Social Security Card
If you have a job offer from an on-campus employer, you will need to apply for a Social Security number once you arrive in the United States. The International House can provide you with more details about the application process; IHouse also provides transportation to the Social Security office once per week in the early part of the semester.

Working during School
Your Nicholas School coursework will be a full-time job in itself, particularly during the first semester. Be cautious about taking a job that requires you to work more than 8 hours per week (including any assistantship work you may do in the Nicholas School). Although many on-campus jobs prefer to hire work-study students (and international students are not eligible for work-study), international students do often find jobs on campus, including at the library and at the Nasher Art Museum.

Internships (CPT)

If you are on an F student visa, you can take an internship in the United States while you’re a student (e.g., in the summer between academic years) if it qualifies as curricular practical training (CPT). Duke’s Office of Visa Services, International House, and the Nicholas School’s Office of Academic and Enrollment Services can assist you with this process. You will need to complete a CPT Application and prepare a letter explaining how your internship fits into your academic program.

Jobs (OPT)
Optional practical training (OPT) applies to international students on an F student visa who are planning to seek employment for 12 months in the U.S. following graduation. OPT does not guarantee employment in the U.S., but it is necessary documentation for accepting a U.S.-based job offer. Start your application a few months before your graduation date and do your best to anticipate when you are likely to start working in a U.S. job (because your 12 months of permitted work using OPT will start on that date whether you actually have a job then or not). Duke’s Office of Visa Services, International House, and the Nicholas School’s Office of Academic and Enrollment Services can assist you with this process.