Getting To Know: Duke University (NC)
It’s always hard to review schools like Duke University. They have every possible resource that an undergrad could want over the course of a college education. So, it gets really silly to have a report card for them, just to give then all A’s. Their students have similar academic and post-college employment profiles. I have collected several pictures for a Duke University Pinterest page and will drop a couple of the nicest “grab and go” dining space I have ever seen. There’s an amazing selection of dining options at Duke. I’m sure that I would gain more than 15 pounds if I lived on this campus.
I called Duke the “Princeton of the South” in a post that I circulated before.
The academic center on West Campus looked and felt a lot like Princeton. After coming home from my North Carolina college tour, I took an East Campus tour and saw that the East Campus looked and felt a lot like Princeton, too. I shared that post with a high school classmate who went to Duke. He told me that Duke students and alumni call Princeton the “Duke of the North.” They’ve earned every right to advance a friendly rivalry. Duke last faced Princeton in December, 2018 and won by 49 points. Princeton did beat Duke to recruit Bill Bradley in 1961. But Duke owns the rivalry 19 games to one.
I’m sure that many who read this will know someone who was accepted at one school and denied at the other.
It’s also quite possible that you will meet Princeton students who turned down Duke as well as Duke students who spurned Princeton. However, Princeton had a higher yield rate. Seventy-eight percent of accepted applicants for the Class of 2025 enrolled. For Duke it was 58 percent. Over half of a Duke freshman class will likely be admitted through Early Decision.
But, aside from admissions, architecture and the importance of basketball success, how is Duke similar to Princeton?
- Both schools are similarly structured into two colleges, one for the liberal arts, the other for engineering
- They are very residential. Nearly everyone will live on campus.
- Neither school admits to a specific major
- Opportunities for undergrads to do independent research and work on faculty research are abundant at both schools
- Both schools place emphasis on the liberal arts, but also encourage double majors or a major and multiple minors
- Neither school grants an undergraduate business degree, but both offer certificates to encourage students to acquire professional skills
- Both schools commit to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need
- Both have globally respected graduate public policy schools
- You will likely ride buses to get around both campuses
How are these schools different?
- Duke has about 1,500 more undergrads (6,900 to 5,400)
- Princeton requires a thesis to graduate. Duke does not
- You can earn merit scholarships from Duke. All aid at Princeton is need-based and there are no athletic scholarships
- However, Princeton has no-loan policies. Duke does not. You’re likely to owe less money to Princeton unless you’re a merit scholar or scholarship athlete at Duke
- Fraternities and sororities are important at Duke, engaging 30 percent of the men and over 40 percent of the women. Princeton has a different rush process called Bicker for eating houses, which are far less residential.
- Duke has graduate schools in business and forestry as well as schools of law and medicine. Princeton does not
- Graduate and professional students are in the majority at Duke, but not at Princeton
- The Duke athletic program has finished in the top ten in the Director’s Cup standings across all varsity sports seven times since 1993-94. Princeton has never done that, though the Tigers rank 14th at this time for this academic year.
- You’ll probably never need to camp out to get men’s basketball tickets at Princeton. But that’s a fact of life at Duke.
- Men’s basketball players leaving after one season has also become a fact of life at Duke. That’s unlikely to happen at Princeton. Duke has had 26 “one and dones” (player who left after their first year) since 1999. Five more could join them this year.
- However, Princeton plays a lot more sports (36 vs. 21). The Tigers are also six-time National Champions in men’s lacrosse. Duke has won three titles in the sport.
- Downtown Durham, from what I saw on YouTubes, does not look remotely like downtown Princeton
- However, I also felt that Duke was a better school for anyone who wanted to incubate a new business. The Research Triangle is a far more established technology center than the Route One Corridor.
- North Carolina has warmer winter weather, but also more conservative politics than New Jersey.
I realize that people might look at this comparison and roll their eyes. One school is not necessarily superior to the other. Those who are interested in both schools should visit both to decide if one or both will be a social and financial fit. Those who are lucky to get into both schools have an enviable choice.
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