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Early admissions pool decreases

A year after breaking several admissions records, undergraduate early decision numbers declined about 10 percent this year, and preliminary regular decision applicant figures appear constant.

Duke admitted 472 of 1,435 applicants, an admissions ratio of just under 33 percent, up from a record low of 32 percent in 2001, officials said. Regular decision applications, due Jan. 1, will not be completely counted until the end of the month, but they should come close to last year's 15,892.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag cited as justification a several-month delay in sending out this year's application and viewbook, as well as the University's decision to limit its early decision admissions to a smaller proportion of the class.

"I think that part of the reason we haven't seen as dramatic a rise in early decision is that we have decreased the number of students we've admitted early decision," Guttentag said. "We've publicly talked about leaving plenty of spaces for regular decision applicants. We're telling people you don't just have to apply early decision at Duke."

Those first 470 members of the class of 2007 will comprise just under 30 percent of the total class, Guttentag said, noting that many of Duke's peers admit over 45 percent of their classes early.

"In those schools there is an implicit message that if you want to get in, you have to apply early," he said. "That's not how we approach it. Implicitly and explicitly, it's fine to apply regular decision."

Duke is standing by its early decision process, despite pressure from peers to abandon the system. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill abandoned the practice last spring in favor of a non-binding early action program, and Yale and Stanford universities both announced this fall that they would follow suit beginning next year.

A majority of the nation's most selective colleges boasted increased early admissions numbers. Every Ivy League school except Brown University saw jumps in applicants, with Harvard University--which has an early action program already--and Yale leading the way at 24 and 23 percent increases, respectively. Stanford's applicant pool jumped 3 percent.

Minority applications were also down this semester, with fewer Latino (55 compared to 69 last year) and black (76 from 90) applicants. Guttentag pointed to the status of the economy as a major factor in the decline.

He noted, however, that 44 percent of applicants indicated they would be applying for financial aid, up from 39 percent last year and the highest percentage in at least five years.

Guttentag and William Chafe, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences and vice provost for undergraduate education, began touring inner-city magnet schools and private boarding schools this semester to try to draw the two extremes of the socioeconomic spectrum.

"Part of our job in admissions, and Dean Chafe is a great supporter of this, is to tell students, families and counselors that Duke is a significantly more diverse place culturally, geographically and economically than it was 10 years ago," Guttentag said. "It's a message that takes a long time to sink in and is a long-range effort."

With the high selectivity this year, the early decision members of the Class of 2007 are the University's strongest in recent years, with an average SAT score of over 1,400.

For regular decision, admissions officers have already counted about 10,000 applications, almost the same amount as this time last year. Another 5,000 to 6,000 are still expected to be tallied. Duke hopes to enroll a class of 1,625 to 1,630 students next fall, slightly fewer than the class of 2006's 1,640.

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