The Ivy Coach Daily

February 9, 2024

Duke University Tells It Like It Is: Honesty in Admissions

A bronze statue of James B. Duke sits in front of Duke Chapel.

Previously Published on August 22, 2018:

Some admissions officers tell it like it is. And some tell it like it isn’t. Most, in our experience, fall into the latter category. So, we always make a point on Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog of pointing out the folks who speak the truth about the admissions process even if it doesn’t serve their university’s interest. Of course, lower-level admissions officers aren’t able to truly tell it like it is since holding the party line is part of their job description.

But sometimes, deans of admission at elite universities have moments in which they publicly let it slip that their school is not, say, actually need-blind, or maybe they had every intention of telling this truth (or other such truths). There are indeed some deans of admission at elite universities who have a habit of telling the truth. Charles Deacon of Georgetown University and Christoph Gutentag of Duke University are two prime examples, and we have lauded them for such truth-telling time and again on the pages of our college admissions blog.

The Truthfulness of Duke’s Admissions Website

And just how truthful is Duke’s admissions leader? For years, to appreciate Christoph Guttentag’s truth-telling at Duke, one needed to look no further than Duke’s admissions website. While this particular page we’re about to reference is no longer up, for a long time, Duke presented myths about the school’s admissions process, following up each myth with the cold, hard truth.

For example, back in 2018, the Duke admissions office wrote, “Myth: The Early Decision process is more competitive than Regular Decision. Fact: While some schools make this claim, at Duke we appreciate that we are your unquestioned first choice. There’s an advantage in applying early to Duke— last year we admitted 23.5% of our Early Decision candidates and only 8.7% of our Regular Decision candidates. There are students for whom applying Early Decision can make all the difference.”

Now, most admissions officers don’t suggest that the Early Decision/Early Action round is more competitive than the Regular Decision round. But they often indicate it’s no easier to get in during the Early round than the later round. And that’s simply untrue. It’s always easiest to get in Early. That’s a big part of why the Early choice of a college applicant matters so significantly. At Duke, for the Class of 2027, 4.8% of Regular Decision applicants earned admission compared to 16.5% of Early Decision applicants. The Early advantage, contrary to the claims of Frank Bruni of The New York Times, is a big one!

Oh, and what does Duke have to say about the notion that students who need financial aid would be best served applying Regular Decision to weigh various financial aid packages? We’ve long articulated on Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog that this notion is ridiculous!

As the Duke admissions website stated, “Myth: I’ll have to commit to attend Duke without knowing if my family can afford it. Fact: Duke commits to meeting full demonstrated financial need for every admitted student, and there is no financial aid advantage or disadvantage in applying Early Decision. You can learn a great deal about our financial aid practices and get an estimate of your financial aid award by using the Net Price Calculator on our Financial Aid website. If you are admitted and fill out the required forms by the appropriate deadlines, you will receive your need-based financial aid package at the same time you receive your admissions decision.”

Ivy Coach Salutes Duke’s Admissions Leader for His Candor

Well said, Duke University! The admissions office follows the example of its longtime leader, Dean Guttentag, and we salute the school for its candor. As a final note, for several years, Duke used to ask on its supplement if students had the help of private college counselors. When Dean Guttentag was asked why the question was removed from the application, he stated that students wouldn’t answer the question honestly anyway, so why ask? If that’s not a candid answer, what is?

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