Last Thursday, Khalouk Shahbander was at a gas station in Scottsdale, Ariz. filling up his car when his watch beeped, signaling it was 4 p.m.

He got out his phone, fumbled to type in his password and nervously watched the screen as the login proceeded to fail. On the second attempt, it opened straight to the letter.

"I freaked out, had a mini-heart attack, read the letter and celebrated," he wrote in a Facebook message to The Chronicle. "I spilled gas everywhere as I got ready to speed home."

Shahbander revved the engine for a whole minute before he realized the car was still in park. He finally put it in drive, hit 70 mph, and ran several stop signs on his way home to tell his parents that he got into Duke.

During his junior year, Shahbander had emailed 57 Duke professors with the hopes of attaining an internship. Despite the 57 rejection emails he received, the professors' responses ultimately led him to apply to the University.

"Every single professor was so genuine, easy to approach and interested in helping me carve my future path in research," he said.

Following his recent acceptance to Duke, Shahbander will join
2,640 students who were accepted through regular admission to the Class of 2018, marking a record low acceptance rate of 9 percent. As Duke and its peer institutions continue to accept smaller and smaller pools, admitted students are reveling in the joy of nabbing one of the University's coveted spots.

Meghana Rao, another recently admitted student from Florence, S.C., applied to Duke thinking she would not get in.

“It was almost painful to write the supplement because I fell in love with the school so much, and the thought that I could get rejected was absolutely heartbreaking,” she wrote in a Facebook message. “But when I saw the magical 'Congratulations' light up my screen, I sat back, stunned. It's crazy how one letter can suddenly validate all the work I've done these past four years of high school. I've never been so happy.”

This year’s regular decision admission rate dropped by almost 1 percent from the Class of 2017, which accepted 2,897 students, a rate of 9.9 percent. The overall acceptance rate for the incoming class is 10.8 percent, as 47 percent of a smaller pool of applicants were admitted in December through the early decision process.

"It feels good because it means we're able to find and choose the most interesting and talented and thoughtful and diverse students for Duke," Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag told The Chronicle last week. "At the same time, the idea of turning away 91 percent of applicants feels a little odd."

Despite Duke's record-low admit rate, the percentages at some other top institutions and Ivy League schools were already below 10 percent and are getting even lower. Columbia, Harvard and Yale universities had acceptance rates this year of 6.94 percent, 5.9 percent and 6.26 percent, respectively. Stanford University accepted 5.07 percent, the lowest of all top-10 universities that have already reported this year's acceptance rates.

Shivaan Tandon, a recently admitted student from India, said that among the several top schools he applied to, Duke was his dream school.

I didn't check my Duke decision for a day,” he wrote in an email. "I got rejected by two Ivies that day and even Tufts and Carnegie Mellon. I totally gave up on Duke.”

He added that after getting in he could not control his excitement and changed all his profile pictures to the Duke logo on social media.

Recent admit Amelia Cheatham, of Orlando, Fla., said the spirit and sense of community at Duke are unparalleled at other institutions.

“I can't wait to get to know such an interesting mix of people and engage in all the campus camaraderie,” she said in a Facebook message.

Admitted students have been invited to attend Blue Devil Days, which will be held April 6-7, April 17-18 and April 21-22.

"Getting accepted to Duke was both incredible and surreal,” said recent admit Sarah Bales from Los Angeles over Facebook. “I cannot wait to attend Blue Devil Days and have the privilege of meeting the dedicated and compelling people who make up the Duke community."