The Turner Chapel AME Church in Marietta, Georgia, hosts a teen Bible Study for high school juniors and seniors on the second Sunday of each month. Part of the meeting engages students in conversations regarding college preparation, planning, and admissions. Today, we were fortunate to have many students returning home from their respective college campuses to share their candid insight into their college experiences. One of the students attending today’s session is a Gates Millennium Scholar and an undergraduate at Duke University. Her comments regarding her financial aid package, campus life, and the lack of diversity on Duke’s campus provided important insight for other students to carefully research their institution beyond “getting admitted” to life on campus after admission.

A Forbes interview with Christoph Guttentag, Duke University Dean of Admissions,  provides important insight into the admissions process to highly selective colleges and universities. Following is a summary of some of Mr. Guttentag’s comments regarding the admissions process.

Reviewing the Application:

  • There is a first read of regional admissions officer for a particular state
    • Makes preliminary assessment as to how competitive a candidate is for admission
    • 50% of applicants are considered competitive
  • There are 2 additional reads and assessments in six areas
  • After a 3rd assessment, 5% of applicants are considered strong enough for admission

Admissions Consideration:

  • An admissions officer makes a case for admission
  • Academic credentials are considered
  • Typically, applicants are in top 2-3% of public schools, top 10-25% of private schools
  • admit rate 110-11%
  • Approximately 32,000 applications are received from approximately 10,000 high schools
  • There is a careful review of school profiles
  • Students are considered within the context of their school—how has a student challenged themselves at their school?
  • They look to identify strong academic candidates with impact and engagement (engagement in their coursework and community)
  • How does the student fit to the institution?

There are many other important criteria that goes into the decision making process that students should consider if they are committed to making themselves competitive candidates for admission to selective institutions like Duke. The student who spoke at our meeting today successfully navigated the admissions process to become one of the small percentage of African-American students admitted to Duke.

After listening to the the student share her experiences and watching the interview outlining what Duke looks for in structuring its freshman class I wanted to learn more about who gets into Duke, so I reviewed the Duke University Common Data Set (click here to download).

In 2012, Duke received 30,374 applications for admission and admitted 1,714 students:

  • .6% Native American (11)
  • 5.6% Hispanic (97)
  • 9.1% International (157)
  • 9.9% Black (171)
  • 21.4% Asian (368)
  • 47.7% White (819)

Both the student and Duke admissions officer affirmed that students must research the institutions to which they will be applying. They must look beyond the national ranking to what the institution values. I could not help but wonder, of the 171 Black students admitted to Duke, how many of them were athletes? This may provide further insight into what they value.