Originally Posted by slik nik
I know many people (myself included) who turned down Duke for Rice. Many, including myself, did so because they realized Rice was a better fit for them.
For full disclosure, one must note that Rice being half the cost of Duke played no small part in that decision.
I liked Rice, and it was tempting to apply since it was a lot cheaper than other top universities then. Cornell was another school that wavered on and off my list. I applied to neither in the end, as I felt Duke was as good as either and considerably closer to home. I suspect a good many people at Rice turned down Duke for the same reason - 50% of Rice students are from Texas, and they probably appreciate being close to home.
I can say quite a bit about the quality of life at Duke. I'll leave Rice to others, as hopefully the usual suspects will provide more helpful information than I could. I think Duke has a great quality of life, which shows in its extreme alumni dedication. Food
- Dining options are pretty good. Freshmen have a required dining plan at the Marketplace, which consists of breakfast and dinners. It's fairly flexible; you can apply missed breakfast meals toward lunches on West instead, and dinners can also be taken at the Freeman (Jewish) center, which has very tasty food. Dining options on West leave absolutely nothing to be desired, and you have a plethora of options. If you're feeling too lazy to leave your room for food, the Merchants on Points system allows you to order food using your dining points. Housing
- Duke puts freshmen on a separate campus, which I loved. East has its own library, gym, dining hall, music facilities, religious services, etc. East is an extremely supportive atmosphere, and each of the dorms has an individual feel that varies from year to year. Dorms bond over things like bench building and painting. Some of the designs have been absolutely amazing - Pegram had a convincing reproduction of Van Gogh's Starry Night, and Brown did a really cute painting of Snoopy and his red doghouse (taking off on Charlie Brown
). I still wear my freshman dorm tshirt occasionally, and many of the people who met and hung out freshman year are now living together as roommates in NYC; the bonds last a long time. Campus
- Duke's campus is by far one of the nicest I've been to. Some other colleges feel pleasant and cozy (Davidson), others have nice architecture (Rhodes), while others have nice landscaping (UNC), but very few put the elements together in such a spectacular fashion. Trudging up from Science Drive, the chapel never failed to take my breath away, and Georgian East has a cozy and pleasant feel to it. Central is admittedly not as pretty, but it benefits from the gardens, which are of course stunning at any time of year. Coddling
- Duke takes care of you from day one, when FACs help move you in, show you around, and are essentially your parents for the week. All Duke freshmen are required to take one of the Writing 20 options (topics range from genetic engineering to ancient rhetoric) and a freshman seminar, so freshmen are immediately pushed into small classes and rigorous discussion. Despite Rice's smaller size, it actually has larger classes than Duke, and my classes typically ranged from 10-15 students, with a few even having around 5. Many of these professors, especially those teaching FOCUS seminars, are among the very best pedagogues at Duke and highly reputable scholars. I passed one of my freshman year professors in the hall once during my junior year, and she stopped me - she said that she had come across a new book she thought I would like and had emailed me the details. THAT is how intimate bonds between professors and Duke students can be. At least one Duke professor lives in each dorm, and Duke has a great system called FLUNCHES where it pays for faculty to take their students to lunch. On campus fun
- There's a lot to do at Duke. On campus you have theatre performances, movie showings, lectures, Indie music concerts, random events on the Plaza, jazz and wine nights at the Mary Lou, art showings at the Nasher...the list just goes on and on. Fridays you have everything from parties hosted by Selective Living Groups to people playing board games and karaoke in the LGBT center to Disney sing-alongs in the student union...there's pretty much something for everyone. You also have the option, of course, of athletic events, tailgating, and the like. Many Duke students participate in intramural sports - mens sana in corpore sano
, one might say. Off campus fun
- Northgate Mall is very nice, and Duke regularly runs a weekend shuttle there. You also have Brightleaf Square, which is sort of an artsy center in Durham and is pretty nice, especially for dining. 9th street has most of the fundamentals you'd need, including nice coffee shops (Francesca's), bookstores (Regulator), and dining (Elmo's). Duke offers free zipcars that you can borrow, and you can also check out bikes and camping equipment for free. If you're a fan of nature, as I am, then taking advantage of this as well as the Duke Forest is pretty awesome. You also have Chapel Hill a short busride away, and Franklin has its high spots. The Triangle is an absolute hotspot for music, and Cat's Cradle in Carrboro and Duke LDOC bring big names to the area. Honestly, Durham has a lot to offer for being a relatively small city - it's growing by leaps and bounds, and everything from CNN to US News to Forbes has ranked it as one of the top 10-15 best places to live. People
- Duke is diverse; there's no getting around it. You'll run into people of every size, shape (well, most are thin), and color, and they often have very different backgrounds and views. Most of the time people get along swimmingly, and there is quite a lot of interaction between everyone. Duke regularly hosts events like Springternational where people get a taste of other cultures. I've been in Memphis for the past year, and the racial segregation and tensions here have made me deeply uncomfortable - Duke had thoroughly spoiled me and not prepared me for it. I lived on a hall with lacrosse players one year, and they came to my LGBT events in support of me, just as I came to their lacrosse games...that's just kind of how things work at Duke. The students are frighteningly intelligent, which is exhilarating for most people coming from limiting high schools. Duke has a full spectrum of people. If you want people who party Thursday through Saturday nights, you can easily find them. If you want people who never leave the library except to eat (leaving to sleep is unnecessary, since Perkins is now so nice), you can easily find them too. You also have people like me who fall somewhere between the two. Virtually everyone is extremely friendly and willing to talk, and goodness knows how many times a bus driver would strike up a conversation with us. It's one of the relatively few "southern" features about Duke and certainly a good one.