Each year, admissions officers at our nation’s most elite universities boast how they’ve secured the greatest class ever — the highest achieving, the most diverse, the most engaged, you name it. But of course, most years, admissions officers essentially cut and paste how they describe each incoming class, changing only a few details. Maybe first-generation college students represent 18% of the incoming class this year as opposed to only 16% the year before. Maybe there were more Asian American admits this year than any other year in history (as was true at Harvard this past cycle). But, for the Class of 2024, well, there is a key difference: many students made their college decisions during the height of the pandemic and they’re currently navigating their first year of college during a time in which America has more COVID-19 cases than any other nation on earth.
Duke’s Dean of Admissions Gives the Same Old Shpiel
As Duke University’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions recently declared in his convocation speech to start Duke’s latest academic year, “You’re a diverse group, very much like our other classes. You come to us from 58 countries, 47 states, 822 cities and towns; a third of you are the only ones from your hometowns to be here, and over half of you are students of color. And, as Duke students tend to be, you’re an unusually and deeply talented group, in both your academic and your extracurricular accomplishments. So when my colleagues in the Admissions Office read your applications, we were struck by how much you managed to squeeze into a day, or into a week—but honestly, we were more struck by how much things mattered to you. The secret to your admission wasn’t in your grades, or test scores, or your lists of activities. It was in your ability to understand what there is in the world that’s important to you, and then to act on it. You made a difference, in your school, or in your community, or maybe right in your family.”
But the Resilience of the Class of 2024 Does Stand Out
So, yes, Guttentag gave the same old shpiel — that is, until he got to the bit about resilience. As he then said, “I also want to mention your resilience. Now, resilience is one of those words that’s become popular in higher education recently. And it’s one of those qualities we all want to have, but we’re not always thrilled when we have to demonstrate it. We were looking for resilience when we read your applications, and we saw plenty of evidence of it, but to be honest, when we admitted you, we didn’t expect that this many of you would have to be this resilient, this soon.”
Here, here! The Class of 2024 as a whole is nothing if not resilient. Good on Duke’s Christoph Guttentag, an admissions czar with a history of telling it like it is, for pointing this out.
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