What's my best option?

I’m a senior in high school and am fairly deep into the college process. I’ve submitted early action applications to some schools already but my biggest issue is deciding whether I should ED to Duke or not. My resume looks good and I think I have a decent chance at getting into Duke if I applied ED (decent chance being around 50%). The one issue is that I’ve never visited the campus, and I’m not sure it’s right for me. I have several friends with similar views and desires for their ideal college as me that have loved Duke and want to go there or currently go there, but I haven’t visited the school for myself. I believe that if I got into Duke I’d likely enjoy my time there, but I have a gut feeling that I’d have more fun at other schools. My top two favorite schools are USC and UCLA, as I love the warm weather, the size of the school, and I think they both are the perfect mix of partying/social life and academics. However, they don’t offer early action or early decision, and since UCLA isn’t taking test scores this year and USC is also strange with admissions for my school, I don’t have a clue as to whether I’d get into my two favorite schools. Duke is also one of the best schools I’m looking at and is one of the best in the country, and I’m worried that if I don’t apply ED there, I’m ruining my only chance at going to that good of a school, that I could potentially love. Everybody says that you shouldn’t ED somewhere if you’re not certain you want to go there, which I understand, but I still think that it might be my best chance. I wonder if USC had early decision if I would be considering the same thing. I just feel like I need to see the campuses but my tours were canceled last spring and it’s unlikely I can get to any campus before November 1st (ED for Duke). Does anybody have any advice for me?

An ED application should be for the one place you know you absolutely would choose above all others provided the aid package meets your standards.

You like the notion of Duke because some people you know like Duke. However it isn’t far and away your first choice institution. There are other places you already know that you like better. So apply RD.

You have a 50% chance of getting into Duke ED? Wow, I’ve not known anyone with such a sure thing without having a strong hook. Where are you getting those numbers?

I don’t see how someone with a 50% chance at Duke ED is going to have less of a chance at those other schools you are eyeing.

However, IMO, ED is what you do if you know that where you want to go. You don’t have to have visited the school. A lot of kids not visiting these days, and visits are not particularly useful at a lot of school. Many of us old timers picked our schools sight unseen. This visit business has gone from a rare perk to a necessity, that I don’t think is that important most of the time.

When you start using ED to try to get into the most selective school you can, yes, you take certain risks. They are right there, you know them and nothing you can do about them.

What’s your idea of fun? Not to be Debbie downer but I don’t think a lot of college students are having “fun” right now and it might be that way for awhile. If you’re lucky enough to be on-campus it’s probably no sports or gatherings.

Yes, some like my son are on-campus, trying to make some friends and doing Ok. He’s glad to be there instead of home but I don’t hear much about fun. Something to consider. I thought the UC schools like UCLA were all/mostly remote. It might be that way next year too.

I’ve always disagreed with the common opinion that an ED school has to be the school you place on a pedestal above all others. In my opinion, it simply needs to be a place you’re 100% comfortable attending. Columbia ED/Chicago EA was a very popular combination for years, for example, because many students felt they’d be comfortable attending either university and wanted to maximize their chances of getting into at least one of them.

That said, I’m hesitant to recommend applying ED to a school you haven’t visited, particularly since Duke is a very different school from UCLA and USC. (I have attended two of these and taught at the third.)

If you feel Duke is a place you might like to attend but are worried you won’t be admitted in the RD round, consider applying Early Action to a couple of similar but less selective schools like Rhodes and U Richmond.

Doubtful that an ED app to Duke will amount to a 50% chance of admission.

If you have to ask strangers over the internet if you should apply ED, my gut says you probably should apply RD instead. Take some time to get to know Duke better. Have you taken a virtual tour of Duke? Clicked around their web site and read carefully? Ran the NPC? Checked out the CDS?

Honestly, if you are in-state for UCS and UCLA, you’ll get the same quality education as you would at Duke, but probably at a lower price.