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Duke accepts record number of early applicants

Anxiously sitting at their computers, 645 high school seniors learned of their admittance to the Class of 2015 Tuesday evening.

After receiving a record number of early decision applicants this Fall, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions was the most selective it has ever been and accepted the most students it has ever admitted in the early process. The admit rate was 29 percent—one percentage point lower than last year’s early decision rate.

“We went into the process thinking that with a larger pool it was likely that we were going to admit more students, but we didn’t really know,” said Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag in an interview Tuesday. “Having more applicants allowed us to admit more students and at the same time become slightly more selective.”

In addition to the students accepted, Guttentag said 695 were deferred and 887 were either denied or never completed their application. Guttentag’s office received 2,287 applicants for early decision in early November but about 60 students who initially applied for early admission chose to have their applications reviewed in the regular process, Guttentag said.

Whereas more students were deferred than were denied last year, Guttentag said admissions counselors tried to strike a balance between lessening “the real blow” of being denied and keeping students “focused on their other options” in this year’s process.

“As difficult as it is to deny someone early, it does help them focus on the other colleges that they are going to be applying to,” he said. “It’s not so much a function of the pool being different as much as it is our approach to clarifying the situation for roughly a third of our applicants.”

The admitted students—which will comprise 38 percent of the 1,705 members of the Class of 2015 Guttentag’s office hopes to accept—are slightly more diverse than last year’s admit pool. Of the admitted students, 46 are African-American, 31 are Latino, 112 are Asian and seven are Native American.

“The early decision students tend to come... from economically more advantaged families,” Guttentag said. “What we are starting to see is that students are increasingly understanding that financial aid makes a Duke education possible for students from a wide range of backgrounds.”

More of the admitted students will enroll in the Pratt School of Engineering than in years past, Guttentag noted. There is a 21 percent increase in Pratt students compared to last year, compared with a 5 percent increase in Trinity students.

“I think Pratt has been underrepresented in early decision for a while, so it’s nice to see a strong engineering pool in ED,” he said.

The students come from slightly different parts of the country—and world. In order of popularity, the admitted students come from New York, California, North Carolina, outside of the United States, Florida and Texas. Last year, North Carolinians represented the largest number of admits in the early pool, with Florida and students from outside the country tying for fifth place.

Although Guttentag partially attributed the change in state representation to natural fluctuation, he added that Duke has seen a “very significant growth” in Californian applicants.

“Unfortunately, the whole [University of California] system has been under a lot of economic stress, and I think more students in general are looking outside of the state, and I think we are the beneficiaries of that,” he said.

As the admissions staff begins to read regular decision applications, Guttentag anticipates that the number of students who will apply through the regular process will increase from last year’s 24,682 regular decision applicants.

“Typically when applications increase in early decision we see an increase in regular decision,” he said. “I would be surprised if we didn’t see more than [last year].”

Guttentag spoke highly of the newest members of the incoming freshman class.

“As individuals, they’re terrific,” he said. “ They’re interesting, they’re talented and I am very excited to have them come to Duke in the Fall.”


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