Hi, I really want to apply to Duke as my ED as I know this will give me a considerably better chance. Overall my application is strong, but it does not have that spike that I feel will get me into Duke RD. I am in the international baccalaureate program at my high school and ranked 5th in my class. I have a 3.98 unweighted and 4.75 weighted GPA. My SAT is 1540 but I am planning to super score it to a 1570 hopefully if I do well on my next SAT. I don’t have any hooks but I have a couple of relatively good ECs. I was a 2 time state finalist for DECA. I played soccer since I was 4 and was on Varsity since my freshmen year. I am also on a club team that is ranked 8th in the nation. I am also Vice-President of the class of 2021 for 3 years. I was also the director of a summer camp raising $50,000 for place of religion. I have a couple of other clubs and have volunteered for over 300 hours. My SAT Math 2 is 800 and SAT Biology is 760. I have gotten 4s and 5s on all my ap exams and have taken 23 AP and IB courses. I know I don’t have any extremely strong hooks or any academic spikes so I think the best bet for me would be to ED. However, I have done the financial aid calculator a million times and it estimates parental contribution to be 40k. The only way I would be able to attend Duke is it to be 20-30k. I was wondering if I did ED to Duke, and they would not lower the cost, could I back out of the ED. I have seen some articles about that but I don’t know how feasible it would be. Can someone recommend if I should ED or RD and if I would even have a chance of getting in RD.
Duke, like most other selective ED schools meeting full need, will allow you to back out of your ED commitment for financial reasons, but this is more-so if the estimation that the FA calculator has provided is FAR OFF from the actual financial aid calculator or there are new, extenuating financial circumstances and the revised financial aid package cannot meet your new need etc.
In your situation, although the calculator is not perfect, it’s as best of an estimation of financial need as possible, and if the calculator provides you with a estimated COA that is not affordable for your family, then IMO would recommend you to apply RD so that you can compare other financial aid offers. Also note that Duke counts taking student federal loans as a part of their financial aid offer based on income (https://financialaid.duke.edu/undergraduate-applicants/how-does-it-work#loanlevel )
Applying Single-Choice/Restrictive Early Action would be fine, as you are not bound to attend the school if admitted, and IMO you should always apply non-binding, non-restrictive EA if you have the option (for the earlier decision which can help with re-evaluating your RD college list, and if it is allowed by the other early schools you’re applying to,) especially at schools that heavily consider demonstrated interest.
Try having your parents run the CSS Profile’s EFC estimator (https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/paying-your-share/expected-family-contribution-calculator ) as it is updated yearly (I’ve read on CC that some colleges’ NPCs are outdated, though idk if that’s true for Duke or not) but don’t expect any college to meet the calculated EFC exactly, as every college’s calculation of your need varies (based on the college’s own financial aid budget, the formula they use to calculate EFC etc.)
Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!