Duke's early decision Class of 2018 will go down in the books as a record breaker.

After receiving a record high 3,180 applications, the University admitted 797 students Thursday night—comprising an all-time high of 47 percent of the total class, expected to have 1,705 members. Students of color make up 37 percent of the early decision admits—8 percent up from last year and another record.

"We'd prefer not to admit as much as half of the class [in early decision]," Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag said. "But if it turns out that there are more strong applicants who want to be at Duke more than any other school—why not take advantage of that?"

He added that the academic credentials among applicants were the strongest they had ever been.

The early decision process is binding, meaning that the students who were admitted are committed to attending Duke. The acceptance rate was 25 percent—which is 5 percent lower than last year—with about 20 percent of applicants deferred to regular decision and 55 percent rejected.

Last year, 44 percent of the total class was admitted early—753 students—and 29 percent were students of color.

Duke's approach to early decision admissions has changed over the past decade, with more and more of each incoming class being admitted early in recent years. In a 2002 interview with The Chronicle, Guttentag said that the University preferred to limit the amount of early admits per class to 30 percent.

"In limiting the size of the entering groups, we are in the minority among selective colleges," he said at the time.

The portion of the class admitted early climbed gradually throughout the early 2000s, however, and grew more significantly from 2010 to the present. The size and quality of the early applicant pool have now increased to a point where it is logical for Duke to admit more students early, Guttentag said.

"At that point 10 years ago, I think that admitting 30 percent of the class made sense in terms of the difference in quality between early decision and regular decision," he noted. "But as the applicant pool has increased and gotten stronger, it's provided us with an opportunity we didn't have 10 years ago."

The early applicant pool this year was more diverse than it has been in the past, in terms of both race and geography, Guttentag added.

Guttentag noted that the high percentage of students admitted early will make the regular decision admissions process more competitive.

"Regular decision is almost certainly going to be more selective than it was last year," he said. "But our experience last year was that even in a very selective regular decision process, we're able to admit the students who are the most compelling."