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The Class of 2025’s paths to Duke based on family background, type of high school, among other factors

Editor's note: This story is part of a series about the Class of 2025 based on a survey conducted by The Chronicle. You can read more about our methodology and limitations here, or see all of our survey coverage here.

The Chronicle’s first-year survey asked the Class of 2025 to describe their paths to Duke, including legacy or first-generation status, type of high school attended, median household income and whether or not students receive financial aid.

Of the 380 respondents, 60% applied to Duke Early Decision, and 40% applied Regular Decision. A total of four percent of students were accepted off the waitlist. Only three of the respondents were recruited varsity athletes.

With the larger-than-average number of students from the Class of 2024 that opted to defer their enrollment, approximately 11% of students in the Class of 2025 took a gap year, with two percent accepted from the Class of 2023.

About 22% of surveyed first-years have parents or siblings who attended Duke, while approximately 9.5% are first-generation college students.

Compared to the national median family income of $79,900 in 2021, the estimated median household income of Duke first-years falls within the range of $125,000-$250,000. Slightly less than half of respondents are on financial aid (44.4%). 

Around 67% of students attended public high schools, while 32% attended private high schools and 1.6% indicated attending some “other” school. Approximately 11% of respondents are international students.

About 29% of first-years reported hiring a private college admissions counselor during the admissions process. 

Respondents applied to a median of nine schools and were accepted by a median of three schools. Nearly 70% of students said that Duke was their first-choice school.

Comparing early and regular decision students

Greater racial, gender and sexual-orientation diversity in regular decision students

While 45.6% of early decision applicants identify as non-Hispanic white, only 30.9% of regular decision applicants identify as such. The disparity in diversity is mostly due to the higher percentages of Asian students who applied regular decision—33.6% versus 26.3%—as well as Black or African American students who applied regular decision—12.5% compared to 3.5%. 

Students who identify as Black or African American were the only group to have less than half of respondents apply early decision. In summer 2020, Provost Sally Kornbluth said that only 39% of Black applicants admitted to the Class of 2024 matriculated to the University compared to 68% of white applicants. A similar percentage of multiracial students applied regular as compared to early—17.8% versus 18%. 

Among early decision applicants, 98.7% identify as either a cisgender man or cisgender woman and 1.3% identify as genderqueer and nonbinary. In contrast, 93.4% of regular decision applicants identify as either a cisgender man or cisgender woman, 4% identify as genderqueer, nonbinary or some other gender and 0.7% identify as agender. 

While 78.9% of early decision students identify as heterosexual, only 63.8% of regular decision students identify as such.



Note: The “Native American or Alaska Native” category contains one student. The “A race/ethnicity not listed here” category contains seven students.

Urban students least likely to apply early decision

In contrast to last year’s data, first-years from both rural and suburban communities were equally likely to have applied early decision, followed by urban students. While 62.5% of rural and 62.4% of suburban students applied early decision, only 51.3% of urban students did. In every community, more students applied early than regular.

Students on opposite ends of the income ladder more likely to apply early decision

Students from the below $40,000 and above $500,000 income brackets were equally more likely to apply early decision than regular decision—72.7% and 72.2%, respectively. Students from the $250,000-$500,000 income bracket were next likely to apply early with 65.3% applying early decision, followed by $125,000-$250,000 at 56.8%. Students in the other income brackets were more likely to apply regular decision than early decision.

More Trinity students express that Duke was their first choice

Trinity students were more likely than Pratt students to report that Duke was their first choice—71.9% versus 64.3%, respectively. A greater proportion of Trinity first-years also applied early decision to Duke than Pratt first-years—61.3% compared to 57.1%. This year’s survey also included Duke Kunshan University (DKU) first-years living in Durham; 44.4% of DKU students said Duke was their first choice and applied early decision.

When asked their primary reason for choosing Duke, more Trinity College of Arts and Sciences students than Pratt School of Engineering first-years wanted to take advantage of Duke’s pre-professional opportunities and alumni network—5.2% in Trinity compared to 2.4% in Pratt. However, more Pratt students than Trinity students cited student life and campus culture as their main reason for attending—26.2% in Pratt versus 22% in Trinity.

Comparing legacy and non-legacy first-years

White, non-Hispanic students more likely to be legacy students

First-years who identify as non-Hispanic white are more likely to have legacy status compared to other racial groups. While 29.8% of white respondents are legacy students, a significant increase from last year, 19.8% of Asian students, 13.4% of multiracial students, 12.5% of Hispanic or Latinx students and 11.1% of Black or African American students reported having legacy status. 

Legacy students were more likely to apply early decision than regular decision to Duke—81.7% versus 54.4%, respectively.

Suburban, high-income students most likely to be legacies

First-years from suburban communities are most likely to be legacies, with 24.35% reporting legacy status, as opposed to students from rural and urban communities who almost evenly reported legacy status, with 15.6% of rural students and 14.5% of urban students being legacies.

In general, the likelihood of being a legacy student increases as incomes increase. Students from the below $40,000 income bracket were the least likely to report legacy status, at 4.55%. The $250,000-$500,000 income bracket has the greatest proportion of legacy students at 42.6%.



Note: The “Native American or Alaska Native” category contains one student and was excluded from analysis. The “A race/ethnicity not listed here” category contains seven students. The eleven students who did not report family incomes were excluded from analysis.

Comparing income, race and academic background among students

Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx/e, first-generation students more likely to come from low-income backgrounds

Black or African American and Hispanic or Latinx/e first-years were most likely to be from lower-income brackets compared to students of other races. While 20.7% of white and 36.8% of Asian students were in income brackets between below $40,000 to $125,000, around 59.3% of Black or African American and 68.8% of Hispanic or Latinx first-years were in the lower three income brackets. 

No Black or African American first-years or students who chose “A race/ethnicity not listed here” reported household incomes in the highest bracket of above $500,000, while 14.2% of Asian and 20% of white students did. 

Among first-generation college students, about 68.6% indicate being in the below $40,000 or $40,000-$80,000 income brackets, whereas only 10.8% of non-first-generation students reported being in those same income brackets. No first-generation student reported a family income of above $500,000. Additionally, 5.7% of first-generation students fell into the $250,000-$500,000 income bracket, compared to 28.8% of non-first-generation students.

While 29.6% of the Black or African American and 43.8% of the Hispanic or Latinx respondents are first-generation students, 4.6% of white, 5.5% of Asian and 11.9% of multiracial students reported being the first to go to college.



Note: The “Native American or Alaska Native” category was excluded from analysis because it contained only one student. The “A race/ethnicity not listed here” category contains seven students. The eleven students who did not report family incomes were excluded from analysis.

Hispanic or Latix/e, Black or African American students most likely to receive financial aid

Just under 78% of Black or African American and 87.5% of Hispanic or Latinx/e said they receive financial aid at Duke, compared to 37.3% of white and 35.1% of Asian students. About 49% of multiracial students receive financial aid. 

Just under 30% of students who identified as Black or African American said financial aid “most influenced” their decision to attend the University, along with 18.8% of students who identified as Hispanic or Latinx/e, 10.5% of students who identified as multiracial, 8% of students who identified as white and 5.4% of students who identified as Asian.

High-income, Early Decision students more likely to have attended private high schools

Students with family incomes above $500,000 were most likely to have attended both parochial and non-denominational private secondary schools as compared to other income brackets. However, they were equally as likely to attend public secondary schools, with 50.9% attending private schools and 49.1% attending public schools. 

In contrast, first-years in the below $40,000 income bracket were most likely to attend public charter or non-charter secondary schools at 81.8%. Just over 70% of students in the $40,000-$80,000, $80,000-$125,000 and $125,000-$250,000 attended public schools.

Consistent with last year’s analysis, a greater proportion of Early Decision applicants attended private schools than regular decision applicants—35.5% versus 26.3%, respectively—which could be connected to the higher household income among Early Decision applicants previously noted.

Furthermore, a slightly higher proportion of Pratt students than Trinity students attended public schools—70.2% of Pratt as compared to 66.9% of Trinity. While the percentage of students who attended private parochial schools was about even among both Pratt and Trinity students—8.3% and 8.7% respectively—more Trinity students attended non-denominational private schools. DKU students were most likely to have attended a private secondary school, at 55.5%. 

White, Asian, high-income students more likely to have hired a private admissions counselor

While 14.8% Black or African American and 6.3% of Hispanic or Latinx respondents hired a private admissions counselor, around 36% of white and 30.3% of Asian students did. Students who selected “a race/ethnicity not listed here” were the most likely to hire a private admissions counselor at 42.9%, though it should be noted that only seven students reported being in this category. 

In general, the likelihood of hiring a private admissions counselor increases as median household income increases, with 56.1% of students in the highest income bracket of above $500,000 hiring private admissions counselors. However, 9.1% of students in the below $40,000 income bracket hired a private admissions counselor, a proportion higher than the 2.7% of students in the $40,000-$80,000 income bracket. 



Note: The “Native American or Alaska Native” category was excluded from analysis because it contained only one student. The “A race/ethnicity not listed here” category contains seven students. The eleven students who did not report family incomes were excluded from analysis.

White, Asian students most likely to have taken a gap year

While only 14.6% of white students opted to take a gap year, they make up over half of the students that did so. Asian students make up a quarter of those who took gap years.


Alison Korn

Alison Korn is a Pratt sophomore and enterprise editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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