Issue 38: Duke insider’s secret to getting in, plus a bachelor’s degree in a surprising field

Duke interviewer, Ruturaj, discusses his tips on the admissions essay, what he wished he knew before attending Duke, the common personality types that attend Duke, and his secrets to getting in. Continue to read the final installment of our exclusive insider interview. To catch up from part one, click here.

Exclusive Insider Interview: Admissions interviewer, Duke University

Mercy at SocratesPost: Do you think there’s anything unique about the application process for the program that doesn’t happen at any other school that you’ve heard of?

Ruturaj at Duke: Yes, absolutely. One of the interview questions when you apply is “Write 25 random facts about yourself.” That’s the essay question. And it’s very hard. It’s like, “Oh, that’s so easy,” but no. When I did it and got feedback from current students, they said “Don’t put anything that’s on your resume.” Because, “Oh cool, you’re top of your class,” but that’s not what they want you to do. That’s where it goes back to, “Are you as a fully-rounded candidate?” And, “What are some things about you that we can’t really tell from just interviewing and seeing your profile on paper?” I don’t think any other school does something like that, where they ask you to write 25 random facts about yourself.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Is that a supplement or personal statement? Or is that the only personal statement you have?

Ruturaj at Duke: No, I think there’s three essays, so that’s one of them. The other two might have changed.

Mercy at SocratesPost: When you were writing that, did you feel free to share anything? Was it kind of a struggle for you to figure out where the real boundaries were?

Ruturaj at Duke: Yes, I had so many things I could write just because of my experiences growing up. But I did get feedback from someone at the program who was in the same position that I am now. When I was at school there were admissions fellows who helped out prospective students. It was challenging because I could write random things, but I did realize that the other day: write something that shows something significant about you, like how you added value. It could be you helped raise X, Y, and Z, or you researched for child pediatric cancer – that was one of my facts – or another one was I was in a Man vs. Food eating contest in undergrad. I balanced that with funny comments, funny facts, but also facts that are something that I’m passionate about. Like Habitat for Humanity, I wrote about that a lot. I tried to balance it out. You want to show some of the humor aspect of it, but you also want to show impactful things you did that’s not on your resume.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Sure. That makes sense to focus on the positive.

Ruturaj at Duke: Yeah. I feel like one of the ones that maybe wasn’t meaningful, but was interesting is “I always wake up before my alarm goes off.” And so it’s like a habit, even if I’ve changed the alarm time. Stuff like that was maybe not meaningful, but just shows that you’re sure you don’t let things slip between the cracks or something.

Mercy at SocratesPost: When you’re done with the interview with these students, where does that information go? Is there a report? Or are there specific questions and numbers and rankings and ratings that the admissions team is asking you to fill out? What does that look like?

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Mercy at SocratesPost: Were you at all trained by the admissions office on how to do the evaluation, or did they just give you the resources through email and ask you to go over the PDF and then go do it because they trusted you? Is it a more formalized process where you’re inducted into the job?

Mercy at SocratesPost: What is your best piece of advice for a student who wants to go to this program?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Do you think there’s something that you wish you knew about the program before you started, whether you were surprised happily or negatively?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Was the networking aspect not as important in poli sci?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Okay, and when you were applying yourself, did you get help on your application or were you completely independent?

Mercy at SocratesPost: I know you said that in terms of strengths and weaknesses and work experiences, there’s a pretty big diversity in the program. But do you feel like there was a common personality that tends to go through the program? Like the other people who are just more extroverted, or people who are more aggressive?

Mercy at SocratesPost: What questions do you feel like I should ask that I haven’t asked?

Ruturaj at Duke: That’s a good question. If you were going through this process again, would there be something you would change in the way you tackled either the application or the way you interviewed someone?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Yeah, okay, answer those.

Mercy at SocratesPost: Is there a common industry or field that people tend to go into after graduating from the program?

Mercy at SocratesPost: In what ways do you feel like you’ve changed since graduating from the program when you compare yourself now versus maybe after you graduated from undergrad?

Mercy at SocratesPost: How do you feel like the alumni network has helped or not helped you?

Ruturaj at Duke: Both my undergrad, Penn State and Duke have a pretty big alumni presence everywhere. But Duke has a pretty big alumni in most of the big cities and I think that’s one of the things I really enjoy. Recently, I interviewed for something and it was a Duke undergrad who referred me. So that’s where it goes back to it’s a such a close knit community that everyone is willing to help each other.

And I think from the aspect of meeting people, there are a lot of these clubs. Fuqua has its own but mostly Duke as a whole has a very big presence. For the most part, anyone I’ve reached out to on LinkedIn who went to Duke has been helpful. In my company, for example, there’s a woman that does product marketing who went to Fuqua for her MBA. I told her, “Hey, I went to Fuqua, I did this program. I would love to talk about what you do and how it affects what I do.” So it’s been super helpful just internally within the company, but also just externally in the Bay Area, and literally anywhere around the country, as well as around the world. I have an interest in working in London and when I was there, this girl was willing to help me figure out like, “Hey, I’m interested in working in London at some point in my career. How do you think I should go about it?”

Mercy at SocratesPost: Do you think that your experience in the program has had any negative effects at all, whether it made you more stressed out, it did something to you that had negative effects?

Mercy at SocratesPost: Some people believe that there’s a secret to getting into any program. So what is the secret to getting into Fuqua?

This concludes our exclusive insider interview with Duke admissions insider, Ruturaj! Stay tuned for a brand new exclusive insider interview next week.
Stephan Donche a.k.a. Steph, an artist originally from the South of France, will be designing fresh, humorous college admissions-relate cartoons exclusively for SocratesPost, published only in our weekly issues! “’If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you,” Steph quotes Groucho Marx. Find more of his work and follow him on Instagram here: @life_medium_rare

Dear Socrates Q&A

This week, we selected a question from Mridul, a student in New Delhi, India:

“Does taking harder APs in the early years of high school by self studying make any difference?”

It can. Typically, anyone who signs up and pays can take AP tests, even if you haven’t taken the corresponding AP course at school.

From the College Board website as of June 2019:

“We recommend taking the AP course before taking an AP Exam—but it’s not required. We want to be sure homeschooled students and students in schools that don’t offer AP can take AP Exams.”

As a high schooler, I took an AP exam without taking the course. I got a 5, submitted those scores to Northwestern, and got college credit for it.

Because of this, taking an AP exam in early high school can make a difference in 4 ways.

1. You can graduate from college earlier. 

Depending on the college, you can get college credit toward graduation with AP scores of 3, 4, or 5. Sometimes even a 2. Fulfill those requirements by earning AP credit as a high schooler who scores between 3-5 on the AP exam and save money on college tuition.

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SocratesPost is always on the frontlines scouring the news for relevant updates in the college admissions landscape. We look for anything that can help shape our understanding of the latest trends in admissions and help our readers see the direction in which we’re moving. Questions we explored this week:

  • Fact or fiction? The number of students enrolling in college is falling fast.
  • Virginia Tech accepted almost 2k too many students. What are the cash gifts they’re offering to students who defer enrollment?
  • Why did this NY university launch a Bachelor’s degree in this rare major you’d never expect?

Get answers below.

May 30, 2019 — Fact.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Student released a report on Thursday saying that overall college enrollment in the U.S. has dropped for the 8th consecutive year. Illinois and Florida led the largest declines in both absolute numbers and percentages.

What does this mean? High school grads may be seriously considering alternatives to college: trade schools, apprenticeships, entrepreneurship, etc. as they evaluate the value of college for their own goals. High tuition costs, student loans, and perceived low returns on investment may be responsible.