Well, your username sort of implies USC over Duke. The question of USC v. Duke can depend greatly on the individual. When my daughters toured Duke, they liked the main campus, but did not like the separation between the main campus and the freshman one (with shuttles in between). They also did not like Durham, or the relative isolation of Duke in that area of N.C. They preferred USC’s campus and the wealth of opportunities in the L.A. metro area. Plus, from USC’s campus, you are literally 20-35 minutes away from beaches, the mecca of the entertainment industry, theme parks and even mountains. You are five minites away from downtown L.A.
While each offers a balance between academics and extracurriculars, great sports, and a fun group of students… it is not really all that comparable. USC offers much more in my opinion. But a lot of that comes down to the type of student that selects each school.
Distance is not really that big of a deal… at least as we evaluated it. My daughters each chose USC… which is only a 4.5 hour non-stop flight from FL.
I would suggest taking a look at the Niche College Rankings… comparing USC and Duke using some of their rankings, metrics and measurements. The Niche Rankings and Grades are mainly based on survey results from past and current students and faculty, and they delve into a number of areas that really highlight the topics that will most impact you once there as an actual student on campus.
For those curious… USC ranks #19 overall on the Niche College Rankings and its grades are: A+ for its Overall Niche Grade… and then by category: Academics A+, Value A+, Diversity A+, Campus A+, Athletics A+, Party Scene A+, Professors A+, Location B+, Dorms A-, Campus Food A-, Student Life A+, Safety B.
But here is likely the best indicator… USC is ranked #1 out of 1579 colleges and universities surveyed in terms of “Best Student Life” overall. And that really relates to @shaneman 's comment above.
Good luck with your decision…