For the second year in a row, a record number of high school seniors have applied early decision to Duke.
The number of applicants increased by 14 percent, from 2,007 last year to 2,282 this year, said Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag.
Guttentag said the increase follows the general trend the University has experienced in early decision applications.
“In the last three years, we’ve seen a steady and dramatic increase,” Guttentag said. “I think we’ve done a better job of making sure students understand what a Duke education is about and why it is appealing.”
Provost Peter Lange said the combination of academic excellence and unique opportunities like DukeEngage partially accounts for the increase.
Of this year’s applicants to the Class of 2015, 1,923 applied to the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and 359 applied to the Pratt School of Engineering—a 14 and 12 percent increase over last year, respectively.
The largest increases by geographic location among states with more than 100 applicants were seen in California, New York and Texas. Among states with at least 50 applicants, South Carolina, Michigan and Georgia experienced the greatest increases. Additionally, 191 international students applied early decision, marking an 11 percent increase from last year.
“It’s my 28th year working in college admissions and I’ve never seen interest this high,” Guttentag said, adding that the increase in competitiveness in the past few years makes early decision an attractive option for seniors.
Other top universities have experienced sharp increases in early decision applicants. Northwestern University reported a 22 percent increase in applicants and the University of Pennsylvania reported a 17 percent increase.
Although many institutions have recently eliminated their early admittance programs, the practice continues to be a stronghold for Duke, Guttentag said, adding that the University is not considering phasing out early decision.
“There is a cohort of students for whom Duke is a clear first choice,” he said. “We like having some proportion of the class that is able to say that they knew Duke was their first choice.”
Lange said Duke especially emphasized the advantages of applying early decision this year, which may help to explain the rise in applications.
In light of the economic downturn, Guttentag said there has been a “deliberate effort” to assure applicants and their families that financial aid is available.
“We are serious in our desire to make Duke affordable,” Guttentag said. He added that the University’s need-blind admissions policy demonstrates a commitment to offering all admitted students the opportunity to attend.
Director of Financial Aid Alison Rabil said she does not know how many applicants applied for financial aid.
University recruitment has likewise been affected by the tightening budget. Duke Admissions reduced its recruiting expenses by 10 percent this year and has not made any major changes in its methods, Guttentag said.
“We didn’t make any special efforts to attract students, which makes the increase [in early decision applications] interesting,” he said, adding that the most visible change in recruitment was the distribution of a poster featuring a photo mosaic of the Duke Chapel.
Guttentag said he does not think the 2010 national championship win by the men’s basketball team was the underlying factor for the increase. He added that the University is in an “enviable” position because of the strong track record of the basketball team and Duke Athletics as a whole.
“If we had lost the game on the last shot, it is hard for me to imagine a student choosing not to apply to Duke,” Guttentag said. “Then again, we didn’t lose the game. So, who knows?”
Guttentag, however, stressed that applicants are attracted to more than Duke basketball, highlighting the “classy” reputation of Duke’s Cameron Crazies.
“It’s the spirit that Duke students show toward teams, plural,” he said. ”It’s the atmosphere that supports teams that embodies a sense of spirit.”