This past summer, The Chronicle solicited responses to a survey for members of the Class of 2021. Gautam Hathi, Trinity ‘17 and former digital content editor, and seniors Blake Kaplan and Zach Marion, directors of online operations, created the survey to include questions about the class’s demographics, beliefs, lifestyles and plans for their time at Duke. 

In The Chronicle survey, first-years were asked a wide array of questions designed to offer an in-depth look at the lives of the Class of 2021. 

The survey provided a detailed window into the academic backgrounds of the Class of 2021 in high school, asking about their standardized test scores in addition to the number of colleges they applied to. The lifestyle section delved into the personal lives of first-years and examined their political beliefs, social media preferences and alcohol or drug usage. Finally, Duke’s newest class offered insights into how they would like to spend their next four years, with questions ranging from potential majors to whether they plan to tent for basketball games.

Kaplan posted the survey on the class’s Facebook page and GroupMe group in June and collected responses with Qualtrics through August. The Chronicle offered monetary rewards for three random participants. Overall, 281 members—about 16 percent—of the Class of 2021 took the survey, but not everyone who participated answered each question. 

Professor of Statistical Science Jerry Reiter noted that the reason some students opted out of taking the survey could prove to be more problematic than the low response rate. Reasons like lack of access to the survey or low enthusiasm for Duke could make the results unrepresentative of an undergraduate class, he said. 

However, other reasons may not necessarily have that impact. Since the survey contained over 30 questions, some students might have chosen not to participate due to time constraints. Had those students participated, the survey results probably would not change dramatically. 

The Chronicle will release survey results in their entirety online Monday and incrementally in print on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But before publication, we have presented some different demographic areas where the survey reflects the Class of 2021 profile—which was released by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions—and areas where it does not. By comparing the survey results to the breakdown of the Class of 2021 profile, you may draw your own conclusions about where the data is skewed. 


The Chronicle’s survey over-represented the proportion of students that attended public high schools. About 73 percent of survey participants said they went to public school. However, according to the admissions office report, only about 66 percent of the Class of 2021 attended public school. 

One area, however, where The Chronicle’s survey was mostly representative of a typical undergraduate class was the proportion of participants who applied early decision. About 49 percent of the Class of 2021 were early decision applicants, according to the admissions office report. In The Chronicle’s survey, a little more than half said they had applied early decision.

Duke’s official Class of 2021 profile indicated that just under 20 percent of enrolled students are in the Pratt School of Engineering. Likewise, 18 percent of survey respondents are in Pratt. 

Race and ethnicity

The Chronicle’s survey participants were generally representative of a typical year in terms of race and ethnicity with two notable exceptions. The Class of 2021 is 47 percent white, compared to only 42 percent of our survey participants. Additionally, Asian students made up 31 percent of those who took the survey, yet Duke's Class of 2021 profile lists only 25 percent of the class as being Asian.

One potential reason for these discrepancies was that The Chronicle’s survey included “other” as an option—five percent of survey respondents chose “other.” The admissions office results, however, did not list “other” as an option.

In terms of other minority representation, The Chronicle survey was mostly on par with Duke’s official metrics, differing by only a few percentage points. Both black or African American and Hispanic or Latinx-identifying students were slightly underrepresented in the survey. The proportion of Native American students in a typical class was similar in the survey and the Admissions Office profile—about one percent.

International students were also underrepresented in the survey. Only ten percent of survey participants indicated being international, yet 14 percent of the Class of 2021 hails from outside the United States. 

Socioeconomic diversity

The Chronicle’s survey asked participants to estimate their immediate family’s total annual income in ranges. Though the University does not release information about annual family income of students, the New York Times released data about Duke’s socioeconomic diversity last spring. 

Although the Times used different metrics to classify the data it reported, the Chronicle performed a cursory comparison between its data and those from the Times. The survey responses were largely an overrepresentation of students above the 90th percentile but mostly matched the income ratios for those below the 90th percentile as reported by the Times.

Geographic distribution

The Chronicle’s survey included a similar ratio of students as the Class of 2021 profile in 24 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

States that were overrepresented in the survey included Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia.

However, there were 14 states from which no student took the survey that boasted at least one Class of 2021 member. These states include Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.

Also, both North Dakota and Wyoming had no Class of 2021 students or survey respondents.