USC vs Duke!

Making the case for SC.

I posted this on a similar post:

Attending USC has been the greatest decision of my life, and of every single one of my SC friend’s lives. The atmosphere on campus is like no other; the campus is like no other; the balance of academics/athletics/and a vibrant social scene is like no other. It is the Disneyland of colleges. It’s ashame you can’t visit right now due to coronavirus but oh my god USC is such the move. Everyone is just so happy to be there. I have friends at UCLA and Hopkins literally hating their lives and wishing to be at SC. I feel bad and even have to tone it down SC is THAT good. You don’t want to turn that down. The connections you make at SC…the Trojan family is unparalleled. IN LA?! College with the most beautiful amazing weather in the world…COME ON. I took SURFING at SC. Oh also SC has literally the most attractive student body ever. You’re one of us. We are family. Make the right move. Fight on baby

Also, this option is 80k!!! cheaper!!! I’d understand spending the extra cash on Hogwarts over SC…but Duke? No disrespect but SC is where it’s at

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@shaneman. . . I had a long back-and-forth conversation on the UCLA board with a USC supporter, so I’ll offer a defense of UCLA here on USC’s.

Virtually no one hates his/her life at UCLA: the air is cleaner; the beach is closer at only five miles away (as the crow flies); the campus is safe®; there are much better places to eat, much better places to shop and watch a movie, all these as well as on campus; and as you would say wrt USC, life is similarly incredibly good in Westwood. Why would they wish to rather be at USC in its box of a school surrounded by four or five big boulevards?

The academics at UCLA are extremely tough though, tougher than USC. But despite it being on the accelerated quarter system and its rigor, there’s a spirit of collaboration among the students, as well as the courses being designed to foster it.

USC does not have “the most attractive student body ever.” When I go to campus there, I don’t see the attractiveness that is seen at your frat parties. Part of this is because they farm in women from other campuses and put USC gear on them; a lot of it is a front. Part of it too is because USC has more grad students than undergrad in its 48,000 enrollment, so the attraction factor is way overstated and it’s not evident in campus visits.

Edit: As far as connections, the only place where this works is for business; it’s not going to work for grad placement in medicine, law, or even business school. USC has great connections for bus & commerce, but UCLA has student run clubs that do quite well also and help with internships and recruitment.

Anyway, since you mentioned UCLA, my ears perked up and I had to answer. Otherwise, all the best; continue on.


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…

OP: If you want to study business, then there is only one option as Duke does not have an undergraduate major in business.

We visited Duke last summer. I have to say Duke’s and USC’s tours were the best we had. However, in the end, my kid did not apply to Duke because of the location. Not only is the separation with the freshman/main campus an issue, but the isolation of Duke from Durham was a problem as well. You would need an Uber, car or bus to get off campus. Durham is really small too. Taking rides from campus to Durhan (and to visit nearby Chapel Hill), it seems if you were not affiliated with Duke (parent, working there, etc), there seemed to be a disdain for Duke. I didn’t like that the school wasn’t supported.

Without question, I would pick Duke. Having lived on the east coast in Connecticut for 20 years, and then in North Carolina for 20 years, and now southern California, I am biased toward the east coast education (and college experience) for a lot of reasons. A family member and countless friends attended Duke and it was the best experience of their lives. If you have unfortunately never visited, you can’t know how amazing the campus is. We like California, but it’s impossible to put into words the differences between east and west coast.

We are also deciding between the two. We have been to USC but have not been to Duke. That said, the communication and information coming out of Duke right now appears very organized and impressive.

Factors we are considering:
Cost - Is the extra cost justified?
Location - Where do you ultimately want to settle after graduation?
Degree - How confident are you with what you are studying? How do the programs at the two schools compare? How easy/difficult is it to take classes outside of your major or in other colleges? How easy/difficult would it be to change majors?
Size - Duke is a much smaller school. USC has 19K undergrads and offers 125+ majors and specialties. Duke has 7K undergrads with 53 majors and 23 certificates. Do both schools offer what you want to study? How big was your HS? What do you want out of the college experience? Is 7K too small? Is 19K too big?
Safety of surrounding community - Where will you live when you move out of the dorms?
Current Climate - With what is happening right now, do you feel comfortable being across the country? Do you feel comfortable if either college were online for Fall semester?

Thanks! I have no bias one way or the other right now, really I’m 50% either way. For Duke, yes the plan is to major in Econ - USC is with Marshall. I know that the rankings are fairly close, but it does seem like Duke has a little more prestige. USC was really generous with their finaid so it’s given me a lot to think about. I also got in Berkeley & UCLA but I think I’m narrowing it down to USC vs Duke…

Any more thoughts - love to hear! It’s difficult to make the best decision when you can’t even visit the campus - so your thoughts are really helpful.

@gamerxx Where do you want to live and work after college? If in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic or Northeast U.S. (basically the entire East Coast), Duke does make more sense from a perceived ranking perspective. Elsewhere, the perception is less strong in Duke’s favor.

that’s one of the things i’m really factoring into consideration. if the classes are online this fall, will duke be worth the extra cost? and that’s really the real question. IS the extra cost justified to attend an ivy-like school? or does it not matter?

and yes i do ultimately want to settle back in california. but i’m thinking in summers i can get some dot-com internships in silicon valley and i think both usc/duke pedigree would help with that…

where are you leaning?

If you are truly 50/50, you can make yourself crazy with a thousand little details on each. They are both great schools! So find the one (or two things) that really matter and use it as the deciding factor. Wanting to be on East Coast or West Coast as @WWWard mentioned or Econ v. business, just pick one or two of the biggest criteria and decide on that. One of mine had Duke as option and chose USC, but for his own reasons that would be different than yours. Only you can decide the priority and importance of each factor. (Of course I would go USC all the way and for less money - no brainer! But my vote doesn’t count, only yours!) Good luck and congrats on great choices! :slight_smile:

My 2 cents and slightly biased as my D20 will be at Duke in the fall.

  • overall, the Duke student body will have higher test scores and GPAs
  • Forbes ranks Duke #8 in the U.S. and QS ranks them #25 in the world. USC is #30 and #129, respectively
  • Duke has always been a Top 10 university; USC is a relative newcomer and wasn't even in the Top 50 until the mid-1990's. To their credit they have come a long way from the days of "University of Spoiled Children".
  • Duke has a much smaller student body: 7,000 undergrads (16,000 total); USC is much larger at 20,000 undergrads (48,000 total). With such a small campus footprint, one does feel packed in like sardines.
  • Duke's Student/Faculty ratio is 6/1; USC's 9/1
  • Duke endowment: $8.5 billion; USC $5.5 billion. Duke has 50% more endowment money than USC that's $275,000 per undergrad versus Duke's $1,200,000 per undergrad.
  • Duke sits on 8,000 lush acres; USC sits on 226 concrete acres. Heck the Duke Gardens (55 acres) are almost 25% of the total size of USC's campus!
  • Duke campus is absolutely gorgeous and cries out world-class institution of higher learning.
  • Duke feels much like an ivy league college but with great school spirit and D1 sports (Duke basketball, need I say more...)
  • Durham NC is an average, suburban southern town within the Research Triangle; USC is very urban and sits in South Central L.A. which is very, very close to one of the worst areas of the city. There is a reason the college gives free Uber rides to students after dark.
  • Duke is well known for their Economics, Public Policy, Biology and Bio Medical Engineering programs. USC is well known for their Performing Arts, Business, Engineering and Journalism programs.
  • USC has a very large and supportive alumni group but Duke's is also very strong.

In summary, these are two great universities but it all comes down to “fit” and what type of college experience you want. USC is going to be much more like a large public university (e.g. UCLA) than it is a Princeton or a Yale. No wrong choice here.

@socaldad2002 I don’t have a horse in this, and don’t know much about Duke but just wanted to correct one thing you said: USC states their student to faculty ratio is 8:1

There’s an inconsistency with USC’s CDS. The 2018-2019 CDS cites the 2016 ratio as 9:1.

@sushiritto ok, well I think what they have on their website currently should be the most up-to-date information rather than what is in 2018-2019 CDS?

As I’m sure you know, USC is all about school spirit. If I have to hear another USC student say to another USC student “Fight On,” then I might have to puke. ?? And I’m no fan of Tommy The Trojan either. ?

USC has traditionally been a football powerhouse, among many other sports, similar to Duke (except football). I’d say the school spirit and sport thing is a push.

First, I have no dog in this hunt. My kid attends UMich. And the UMich admissions stats on their website has a couple of inconsistencies with their CDS. Personally, I always trust the CDS, but we’re quibbling about 9:1 versus 8:1.

And I was just piping in on where the poster took their info from.

Thanks, the particular point I was making was that Duke feels like an ivy but also has the atmosphere of a big time sports school. Arguably for some, the best of both worlds.

all the responses have been really helpful. thank you so much for your thoughts.

@socaldad - i’ve seen your posts in the duke threads. i do wonder what are your thoughts about the possibility of duke being online fall 2020? i have to admit that weighs a little in my parents and my decision, paying more for virtual classes. and from your username (socal), i guess you’re actually pretty familiar with usc, visited, etc? (did your dd apply there?)

@calif2020 Did you receive the email from Duke about taking a gap year? Is that an option for you?

I’m not socaldad, but I’m wondering if the chances of Duke being online in the fall are any different from the chances of any other college.