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Admissions enlists undergrads

Each year the Office of Undergraduate Admissions asks students to return to their hometown high schools during breaks and tell prospective students about their experiences at Duke.

The recruiters' mission is threefold: to encourage seniors to apply and help them with the application process, to get juniors interested in Duke and to improve college counselors' opinions of the University, said Ed Venit, assistant director of undergraduate admissions.

This program is especially useful in getting information out about Duke to areas where the admissions office does not visit, including parts of the United States and foreign countries, said Venit. Duke students have recruited in Canada, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.

Thirty to 40 students participate in the program annually. The recruiters stay at their high school anywhere from 30 minutes to an entire day, some addressing prospective students in small groups with others representing Duke in college fairs or panels.

"Meeting with students is more useful than talking to admissions officers, who all pretty much say the same things," said sophomore Kelly Eagen, who participated in the program as a freshman. "Since I knew all of them, students were comfortable asking me questions."

Questions directed at the recruiters range from admissions inquiries, like "How important are the essays?" and "What is the typical number of [Advanced Placement] courses Duke students have taken?" to social questions like "Is Greek life big?" and "How does K-ville work?"

"The students were more interested in grades and academics," said sophomore Catherine Jo, who recruited last year. "They used me as a resource to find out if they could get in."

Student recruiters are particularly helpful in addressing issues that college representatives do not usually talk about, like what dorms are like and how many people share a bathroom, said John Whitehead, college counselor at The Linsly School in Wheeling, West Virginia. "They all have trepidation about what college will be like and returning students electrify them and keep them motivated."

Duke students are informed of the program via e-mail and campus mail sent out by the admissions office. Interested students can then pick up a packet containing instructions on recruiting, an application, an information sheet on financial aid and a brochure. The recruiters are responsible for setting up appointments with the school's college counselor on their own, although the admissions office will send a letter letting the counselor know that the recruiter will be visiting. The program does not incur any cost as materials are already mass-produced for recruitment.

Freshman and sophomores are mostly targeted for the program, said Venit, since typically they are more in touch with their high school than upperclass students, but all are encouraged to participate. In past years, packets were prepared for students to bring home fall break, but this year the admissions office is distributing the materials for Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

Georgetown and Yale universities conduct a similar programs to Duke's, whereas Harvard and Stanford train a select group of students to accompany admissions officers on recruitment trips. "Schools already have our stuff. We send it out to basically every high school in the country," said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions at Harvard.

Regardless of how students are incorporated in the admissions process, they seem to play a crucial role. If high school students are interested in a school, they will often solicit advice from former acquaintances who now attend the college, said Wade Boggs, college counselor at the Westminster School, which sends around 10 students to Duke a year.

"We feel that students are some of our best recruiters because of their honesty and enthusiasm for Duke," said Venit.

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