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Duke nets 1,246 early applicants

Don't put all your eggs in one basket, the saying goes.

But 1,246 high school seniors did just that earlier this month when they applied early decision to Duke for admission to the Class of 2012.

"From what I have been able to tell so far, it looks like a really good pool," said Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag.

The number of early applicants is up approximately 7 percent from last year, he said.

The increase is relatively small, however, in comparison to other top-tier colleges, where early application numbers have spiked following the decisions of Harvard and Princeton universities to eliminate their early admissions programs last fall.

Georgetown University received 5,925 applications, 30 percent more than last year. At Yale University, the 4,820 early applications represent a 36-percent increase, and at the University of Chicago, the number of applicants is up more than 40 percent, according to statistics released by each respective school.

Early admission programs, in which students submit materials by Nov. 1 and receive decisions in mid-December, fell under close scrutiny by the higher education community last fall after Harvard eliminated early applications for the class of 2012.

Harvard administrators cited the tendency of early admissions to "advantage the advantaged" as the reason for their decision.

"Students from more sophisticated backgrounds and affluent high schools often apply early to increase their chances of admission, while students from... high schools with fewer resources miss out," Derek Bok, then-interim president at Harvard, said in a statement in September 2006.

After the Harvard decision, Princeton and the University of Virginia followed suit and eliminated their early application programs. Other schools, including Duke, chose to continue admitting students early.

"Whether we still want to consider changing our early decision program remains an open question, but for right now we're doing pretty well," Provost Peter Lange said.

At Duke, unlike Harvard, students who apply early commit to attending if they are accepted. The University typically admits about 25 to 30 percent of each class during the early application process.

Guttentag said Duke has no plans to change admissions policies in the foreseeable future. He added that the current policy strikes a good balance, allowing the University to be responsive to students for whom Duke is an unequivocal first choice and to still acknowledge that most high school seniors are not ready to commit to a college in November.

"[Eliminating early decision] is going to make life a lot more frenzied for the subset of kids who really know where they want to go but can't make the choice until later in the year," Lange said.

For admissions officers, Guttentag said the combination of early and regular pools for admissions works well.

"From our perspective we have something that serves our needs," he said. "We think it's fair to the University and to our applicants."

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