THe CHRONiCle MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2010 | 3
60 hours er week reading alications from January through the first week of March.“Both of those are very careful, word-by- word, and course-by-course, analyses of thedetails of the alication,” Guttentag wrotein an e-mail. “These are close reads.”But reading alications is not an entire-ly qualitative rocess. Both readers assignedto an alication rate an alicant on a five-oint scale in each of six categories: curricu-lum, achievement, letters of recommenda-tion, extracurricular activities and ersonalqualities, essay and standardized testing.This rating system hels admissions offi-cers magnify what would ordinarily be con-sidered minute differences among ali-cants, Guttentag said. A student who scoresa 750 out of a ossible 800 in all three sec-tions of the SAT—critical reading, mathand writing—would likely fall in the 99thercentile for testing. But the cometitivenature of its alicant ool means Dukeadmissions officers make a distinction finerthan the to ercentile in the nation.Indeed, the threshold for achieving afive in each of the six evaluation categoriesis high. Receiving the full five oints in test scores, for examle, would require SATscores that fall in the high 700s across allthree categories, Guttentag said.In “Admissions Confidential,” a bookthat describes the admissions rocess inlace at Duke 10 years ago, author andformer Duke admissions officer RachelToor writes that receiving a five in the ex-tracurricular activities category tyically entails accomlishing something on thenational level. When asked what the average admit-ted student receives in each of the fivecategories, Guttentag did not rovide asecific number.“The tyical Duke matriculant is a smart, very smart, talented, engaged erson,” Gut-tentag said. “Not fives across the board.”
scoring point only goe o fr
The rating system, however, is not thedeciding factor in the admissions rocess.Instead, it serves as a guide to hel admis-sions officers make decisions. After the second rating, the regionaladmissions officer recommends that somealicants be automatically admitted ordenied. These alications are then sent to either Guttentag or a senior associatedirector who usually follows the regionalofficer’s suggestion.Guttentag added that such decisions arenever made based on the ratings alone.“What we find is that as a rule, thehigher somebody’s ratings are, the greatertheir chances of being admitted,” he said.“But the day we have a hard cutoff is theday we are doing something wrong. That isan anathema to me.”The remaining alicants are then dis-cussed in admissions committee rounds. Ad-missions committees are organized by regionand last seven to 10 days, Guttentag said.“The thing that always amazes me about it given the number of alications we get is how well we know each alicant,” said Associate Dean for Undergraduate Educa-tion Donna Lisker, who sat in on the Cali-fornia committee this year. “The files areread and re-read, and since we read state by state, we go into it knowing the school, theguidance counselor and the rincial.”In committee, regional admissions offi-cers advocate for their alicants in front of other admissions officers, including ei-ther Guttentag or a senior associate admis-sions officer. Although Guttentag said most conver-sations in committee fall into a three-tofive-minute range, some are as short as twominutes and others as long as 10 or 15.“You get very territorial,” former Dukeadmissions officer Laura Sellers said. “Ev-eryone talks about ‘my kids’ because youreally identify with students whose alica-tions you’ve read.”Following committee rounds, there isa 10-day eriod during which Guttentag“scults” the incoming class, changingsome of the decisions made in earlier stesof the rocess. Admissions officers re-eval-uate certain alications and then send asubset to Guttentag for reconsideration.Many of these alterations are madebased on a comlex mathematical analysis,accounting for exectations in class sizeand yield, provost peter Lange said.For instance, Guttentag said Duke ini-tially over-admitted alicants into pratt School of Engineering this year but under-admitted alicants into the Trinity Col-lege of Arts and Sciences. Guttentag saidhe consequently changed the admissionsdecisions for 500 to 1,000 alicants.
a trin on the proce
Although this year’s record-low acce-tance rate of 14.8 ercent makes a Dukedegree all the more enviable, it also under-scores the stress a large number of ali-cants laces on the University’s 20-year oldadmissions model. With 6,000 more students alying since2008, Guttentag said Duke has exerienceda larger increase in alications in the last two years than it had in the revious 10.“It’s an incredible workload,” he said. “Overtwo years we have had a 30 ercent increase inalications with no additional staff.”In revious years, the largest regionscomrised 1300 alicants, Guttentag said.This year, tyical regions had between 1400and 1800.Because of the sheer volume of ali-cants that needed two readers this year,Guttentag said he delayed the start of com-mittee rounds by a week.Logistically, the high number of ali-cants also restricted the number of individ-uals who were discussed during committee.In 2006, Guttentag estimated that the to5 ercent and the bottom third of the a-licant ool were sent to him to be eitherautomatically admitted or automatically denied, resectively.This year, admissions officers collectively recommended that more than half of thealicants be denied without review in com-mittee, Guttentag said. He added that admis-sions officers only recommended that 500 to700 alicants be automatically acceted.“I’m not hay with the ressure there was this year with the number of students we could talk about in admissions commit-tee,” he said. “When I arrived 18 years ago,I think we talked about every alicant.”This year’s larger ool also made thedecisions at every oint in the admissionsrocess less certain, but also allowed admis-sions officers to revisit their decisions mul-tile times, Guttentag said.“So is there something to fix? I think we’ve made excellent decisions this year,”he said. “But it was through a rocess that was designed for a much smaller numberof alicants. It was a different model.”This summer, in a meeting where deansof undergraduate admissions at selectiveuniversities convene, Guttentag said hehoes to discuss the decades-old admis-sions model in light of today’s highly com-etitive alicant ool.
Economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was at Duke this weekend as part of a two-day series of events honoring the work of Craufurd Goodwin, James B. Duke professor of economics. Sen,Thomas W. Lamont University professor and professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University, gave the keynote address of the celebration, speaking on “The Uses and Abuses of Adam Smith” in the Goodson Chapel Friday afternoon. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 for his work in wel- fare economics. Born in present-day Bangladesh, Sen is known for his work on the economic principles of poverty, famine and gender inequality. Sen sat down with
The Chronicle’s Naureen Khan
before his lecture to talk about his economic theories.
Do you know Craufurd Goodwin?
I know him by reutation only, I didn’t know him ersonally, but he’s a famous guy and this is a fa-mous lace and a good center, and he lays a major art inconstructing what it is now so it seemed a good thing to do.
Talk a little bit about how your background—grow-ing u in Dhaka and in Bangladesh—has influenced your views on develoment and how they iqued your interest in those kinds of issues.
How does the ancestral background or the early back-ground of your life affect your work? I wish I knew it and Icould analyze it well. I see other eole write on it—sayingthis clearly affected him. I am always interested and resect-ful of other eole’s views about what haened, but I’m not sure I ut great confidence in self-analyzing, saying that ar-ticular exerience led to that articular kind of work. But ob- viously, I had a hay childhood…. It was a good way of grow-ing u. It’s a roblematic country. There’s overty, there wasa famine when I was young, there were riots that took lacethat came from nowhere and disaeared into nowhere. It affected a lot of eole’s lives, a lot of eole died and ob- viously these things did influence me, but I’m not going toontificate on how each of them had an imact on my work.
You won the Nobel prize in 1998 and there’s beenthe criticism that that articular rize is given to eole who are not in touch with the real world—with you beingthe excetion. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I don’t take the view that technical work is necessar-ily irrelevant to the world. I don’t think that’s quite the case.Secondly, I don’t think I am an excetion in the sense that if you look at the Nobel citation, most of the aer they referto… is quite technical. Since the first aer is called “TheNecessary and Sufficient Conditions of Binary Consistency of Majority Decision,” I wouldn’t try to sell it as a human-istic work…. I wouldn’t sell it as non-technical work. Andthirdly, it is very imortant to have the motivation to workon roblems which are relevant. I don’t know whether I’vesucceeded in doing it, but I’ve certainly tried. I think themain roblem arises from the technicality of it.
How has the global economic downturn affected views on develoment and social welfare?
It deends on what your views were before the crisis. Idon’t think many eole have been changed at all by the cri-sis. But I do welcome the fact that some eole are re-exam-ining issues and their dee confidence that the market is self-correcting and indeed, basically you can’t do any wrong....My talk is on Adam Smith today because Adam Smithdoes discuss exactly that question, and I do in fact talk about Adam Smith and the economic effects of the resent cri-sis with Adam Smith’s 18th century thoughts. It was never
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naTe Glencer/The chronicle
Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen spoke on the abuses of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand theory in Goodson Chapel Friday afternoon.
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