Despite a 6 percent jump in the number of applications for undergraduate admission this year, the yield on offers for the Class of 2016 dipped slightly compared to last year.
Approximately 42 percent of applicants admitted to the University accepted their offer of admission, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag said. This is a two percent decrease from the yield for Class of 2015. The University, which experienced a record 31,600 applications for the Class of 2016, currently expects to enroll a class of 1,733 freshmen.
“The stability of the yield is representative of the fact that despite the University’s interaction with institutions of a tougher competitive group, we’ve maintained our position,” Guttentag said. He added that although the stability is understandable, he hopes that the yield will increase for the upcoming admissions cycles.
Yield has fluctuated between 41 and 45 percent for the past twenty years, Guttentag noted. He added that several factors may contribute to the slight discrepancies in yield, such as the differing economic and regional distributions of applicants from year to year and the lure of competing universities.
“What we’re seeing is two offsetting factors—we clearly are working harder to enroll students, enhancing outreach efforts to admitted students and revising Blue Devil Days to make them better, while dealing with tougher competition for our admitted students,” he said.
As the admissions office tries to finalize the upcoming freshmen class, Duke will take roughly 170 students—approximately 10 percent of the Class of 2016—from the wait list, which will be consistent with wait list admissions from the past few years, Guttentag noted.
Typically, he added, the wait list gives admissions more flexibility in a year with a record number of applications.
“We went through the wait list this year without specific goals to fill in any gaps,” Guttentag said. “We were able to admit applicants who were as every bit as appealing, interesting and diverse as those admitted in March but didn’t yet have room for.”
Guttentag noted that he expects the yield for those accepted off the wait list to be around 65 to 70 percent, a slight decrease from last year, when 75 percent of students decided to enroll for the Fall.
Although the class size is currently at approximately 1,733, Guttentag said he expects the number to decrease slightly because of a phenomenon known as summer melt. Many students choose to decline admission temporarily to take a gap year for academic or cultural reasons and occasionally for health concerns, adding that a small fraction of those who turn down an acceptance during the summer ultimately enroll in a different university.
Daniel Woldorff, an incoming freshman from North Carolina, was one of many students who decided to “melt” by taking a gap year after having been accepted off the wait list during his senior year.
“I was burnt out from academics, which eventually led me to plan a trip to travel to Costa Rica and Nicaragua,” he said.
Duke’s yield numbers have traditionally been lower than those at other universities. Harvard University—which reinstated its early admission program last Fall—had a yield of 81 percent for the incoming freshmen class, a four percent increase from last year, according to The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper. The University of Pennsylvania—like Duke—is also experiencing stagnant yield numbers. The yield for their Class of 2016 was approximately 63 percent for the fifth consecutive year, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
The Class of 2016 also boasts the greatest number of students of color—815 of the 1,733 enrolled freshmen identified themselves as such on their applications. These students will be joined by 164 international students.
Guttentag noted the increase in applicants from California and North Carolina, the latter experiencing a 12 percent rise in applicants this year. The incoming class will include 175 students from California and 174 from North Carolina.
“Duke has worked hard to increase its visibility within North Carolina, and we’re happy to see that so many students and families have been receptive,” Guttentag said.
Lily Zerihun, also an incoming freshman from North Carolina, cited the proximity of the University to her home as one of the reasons she wanted to enroll.
“I wanted to stay closer to home for my undergraduate degree, which is partly by my parents’ influence,” she said. “It was pretty hard to shake the Duke pride you get from growing up in North Carolina.”