You’re researching your schools. You’re studying your options. You find a school that you like… that you decide you REALLY like… and you want to apply in their earliest round, where you understand there’s a big advantage. And then slam, you hear something that pulls the rug out from under you, and you wonder if it’s the right thing to do. It casts a pall over your whole application strategy and throws doubt over all your plans.
We’re talking about Duke Early Action, and an untruth that’s gurgling around out there in BSer-Land. We want to set things straight on this today.
When you apply to Duke EA, just like Columbia ED, it’s binding; you are committing in advance to attend the respective school if they admit you. It’s a pretty good deal, frankly; you say you love them no matter what, and if they reciprocate, yay, you celebrate. The best part for you is your admissions season ends right there. No more applications. In fact, you are required to pull any pending apps you may have out at other schools. You’ll know before many of your friends even get interview invites that you’re headed to bschool for sure.
What could be the problem?
The thing is, these two schools’ Early options are only for those who know that they’re the school for them. (Or actually, one or the other – you obviously can’t go Early with both.) You need to be excited about the school before you hit that Submit button. It’s not a trivial commitment.
And that’s absolutely kosher for lots of people – they’ve done their research and they do know that Duke (or Columbia) is the school for them,that they’d be thrilled to get in and they’d gladly say yes.
They feel that way, that is, until they see this little bit of text on the Duke website that says, “due to the binding nature of the Early Action Round you would be required to attend with or without a scholarship award.”
And now all of a sudden they are doubting. They interpret this to mean that they’ll get screwed out of any scholarship funds if they go Duke EA. They think it’s saying that Duke is stingy with their fellowship awards for EA applicants, since Duke knows that they’ve got you on the hook and you’ve already said “yes” to them – the BSers interpret this to mean that Duke won’t be willing to shower them with
love cash. Many adcoms use scholarship monies as a recruiting tool, to get the great candidates to say “yes” and choose them. If you’re already committed to Duke, why would they waste their money on you? Why buy the cow when you can… err, something like that.
We’re big fans of Duke. Fuqua won our informal “best essay questions” applicant poll last season and we think their “25 Things” essay is the best question of all time. (Note: The essay questions currently listed on Duke’s website are, as far as we know, LAST YEAR’S QUESTIONS. We do hope they’ll keep the “25 Things” but they’re probably changing things up this year. Watch their site for the announcement.)
You also know that EssaySnark is committed to helping spread the truth about MBA admissions. This idea that is perpetuating, that Duke won’t offer scholarship since the EA admit is binding, needs to be squashed. Because it’s NOT TRUE. How could a bschool that’s so darn cool in so many ways have such a completely unfair policy?? Especially at the beginning of the admissions season when the award coffers are full and they have most opportunity to be generous. And especially when you’ve already shown your love for them by applying EA – why would they punish the ones who are their biggest fans, who will likely be among the most awesomest students and the best contributors to the school community when they get on campus?
So let’s be clear: If you apply to Duke Early Action, you qualify for consideration for the same merit- and need-based fellowship awards that any other applicant does. You’re put through the same processes of evaluation. You have the potential to get a financial package just like anyone else.
We had strongly suspected this was true and wanted to tell all of you, but we didn’t have any hard data to back it up.
So we sent an email over to the kind folks in Durham, and guess what! We got a very kind email back. They pointed us to their Admissions Director’s blog post from last season (bad ‘Snark, we had missed that!) which addressed exactly this concern:
It is a common misconception that scholarships are not awarded during Early Action. This is absolutely not true – scholarship decisions are made consistently at Duke, regardless of the round in which you apply. Getting a merit scholarship is competitive, though. If a generous scholarship offer from another school would weigh heavily on your decision to come to Fuqua, then you are not yet ready to commit to Early Action.
And, they gave us some proof of how they put their money where their mouth is:
So now do you believe it?
And think about it: Why would they penalize someone for committing to them upfront? It just doesn’t make any sense. EssaySnark is betting that they have that disclaimer on their website because they’d been burned by unrealistic applicants who got some $$ from some other school and Duke wouldn’t match (that’s pure ‘Snark conjecture, Fuqua didn’t tell us that bit). But remember, most schools won’t match for anyone, in any round – they just don’t play that game. And also remember that most people do NOT get scholarship awards; at most schools it’s like 25% of students or something. If you get in you should just be happy you got in! That’s a lottery win in itself. Please don’t expect to be PAID to go to bschool; you’re gonna get some significant ROI on this little investment you’re making in yourself.
What Duke is saying is, if you apply EA and then are willing to be swayed by an offer of scholarship money elsewhere, well, it’s pretty darn obvious that Duke isn’t your #1 choice after all. The fact that you got a scholarship award from another school almost definitely says that you didn’t pull your applications – the Duke EA decision comes at the end of October, and there just aren’t any other schools who would’ve informed you by then about outcomes (maybe Columbia ED, but you can’t apply to Columbia ED and Duke EA simultaneously). So if an applicant has a scholarship offer in hand while also being accepted to Duke EA, that means he’s not playing by the rules. Why on earth would Duke ever want to accommodate such a person?
It looks like maybe they changed that blurb on their website after receiving our inquiry about it, to better explain things, so hopefully that will also help people not misinterpret this.
Key takeaway here: Duke EA is a great option for a great school. Don’t apply unless you mean it – but if you do – and you’re bringing the goods – then they’ll be happy to say “yes” to you and they might even float some dough your way if you’ve impressed them so completely.
Thank you, Fuqua Admissions, for helping us set the record straight, and good luck with your Duke EA apps, Brave Supplicants!