Christoph Guttentag, dean of admissions at Duke University, led off the session on “Crafting a Freshman Class.” His specific topic was on athletics and admissions, but he had a larger meaning beyond athletics. Every school, every team, defines “success” in its own way, and its recruiting is geared toward that.

The same is true of a university overall. The admissions criteria of a school should reflect its values, he said. Every admissions office faces a balancing act: assessing an individual student’s qualifications and what that student brings to the institution. Admissions decisions are essentially the “equitable distribution of unhappiness,” he said.

Ultimately, schools make their admissions decisions to further their own goals. “It’s about us. It’s not about you,” Guttentag said. “We don’t do a good enough job of being honest with parents and students. (The admissions process) is not merit-based, it’s interest-based, our interest. It’s how we define what we want to do.”