1. "Leaving aside Duke for obvious reasons, how would you rank or group the ACC schools on an academic basis, including newcomers Pitt and Syracuse?"
2. "Just as an exercise, using Duke as the example we are most familiar with, what measures or data would you use to judge the excellence of a university?"
I nearly added a final paragraph at the end of my previous post on this thread (and now I wish I had) that I would not take any such data and infer something about intelligence or potential. Different people mature (intellectually) at different rates, and to different degrees. Duke is a one of the most selective schools in the nation - let's not pretend it isn't out of false humility - but their selection process is based heavily on what a student has done to that point. It does not necessarily mean that they will continue to grow at the same rate or achieve the same things. In fact, I observed not a few classmates who seemed to have peaked in HS (or more often, prep school) - as far as their effort and intellectual engagement went. They seemed to be there for basketball, a degree, and networking. As a senior I would sometimes go down dorm halls and see job rejection letters posted on some doors and think of the irony.
I think too it has been observed on graduate / professional school threads (perhaps here, perhaps collegeconfidential.com) that top students at state universities often out-hustle their private school counterparts when it comes to work ethic. Good example: one of my good friends is a department DUS at Duke and he was a Big Ten undergrad - and not a "public ivy" big ten like Michigan, either. He went on to Harvard for his PhD. Nothing wrong with state school. In fact, in my 40s I went to community college for music classes - I learned a lot, and met some great people. [and yes, I love the TV show Community as well].
Duke is very selective. But what matters is what you do with your education.
Now, I don't pretend to know why mudge was interested in any kind of academic rating of ACC schools. Perhaps curiosity. Perhaps, like me, he has a kid in the throes of college search and wanted to know something about general reputation as a starting point. As I said, the only ranking that matters is your own. So if you really want to be an engineer and being in ATL is key for you, well, Ga Tech has to be your #1 school. For me, it was being in NC. I just love the state. I applied to Duke and UNC, and would have applied to Wake if I hadn't gotten in Duke ED before the deadline for Wake's app. [For grad school, I got in NCSU, but ended up sticking with my professional career path].
As I mentioned earlier, the top students at a given school are probably going to be the top anywhere. My friend mentioned above is a case in point. But to get a vibe for the school, you probably want to know something more about the median student. If you are in for the intellectual adventure, it may not be enough that there are top students at your School X who are as sharp as the top anywhere. If most people around you are partying like Delta House starting on Wednesday and going through Sunday, you may not be happy. You may want to be at a more intellectual school. If you hate big time sports, you might not like Duke and might prefer UChicago. (talk about self-selection in the admission and yield rates).
So, mods, if you think this whole thread is fodder for those who think we're a bunch of self-absorbed narcissists who are in danger of injuring our rotator cuff patting ourselves on the back, that's OK, feel free to close and/or delete the thread. I'd also recommend staying away from Duke info sessions as you'll probably hear a lot of stuff about Duke's selectivity there too. They don't do it arrogantly, just as matter of fact and so that applicants know the reality of the situation. If you want arrogance, how about reports that Harvard students chanting at a H-Y game (hoops maybe?) "We are the 6%!"
Attitude and demeanor are hard to convey in a blog posting - sometimes things are read differently than they would come out if spoken out loud. I have tried to stick to factual information published in college guides and other research. I agree that Mudge's words at times did seem to come awfully close to equating college ranking with intelligence and perhaps even potential. For the record, I don't feel that way myself. I'll let him/her speak for him/herself. (that too came out awkward).
And that's as good a place as any to wind things up.
As suburban children we floated at night in swimming pools the temperature of blood. -- Douglas Coupland