Chronicle to release survey data on Class of 2026: Inside the methodology and limitations

Editor's note: This story is part of a series about the Class of 2026 based on a survey conducted by The Chronicle. You can see all of our survey coverage here.

The Chronicle is releasing survey data about the Class of 2026 this week.

For the sixth consecutive year, we surveyed the first-year class about their lifestyles, demographics, plans at Duke and more. Questions ranged from high school test scores and religious beliefs to their approximate family income and campus resource usage.

The results of this survey will be released throughout the coming week in a series of stories and will give a deeper look at Duke’s newest undergraduate students.

Survey administration

The survey was initially administered from Oct. 19 to Nov. 4, with the final deadline being extended to Nov. 11. A total of 312 first-years made it to the end of the survey, with 363 students answering at least one question. Three prizes were randomly awarded to participants who filled out the entire survey. 

There are 1,738 first years according to the Class of 2026 profile, meaning that 21% of the first-year class started the survey and about 18% completed it. 

In total, this year’s survey asked 97 questions, compared to 71 questions last year. Participants saw different questions based on their responses.

One reason for the increase in questions was a newly added section about QuadEx and Experiential Orientation. Last year, there was only one question about QuadEx. The new section had 11 questions. The other six sections of the survey had questions changed or added.

Professor of Statistical Science Jerry Reiter previously told The Chronicle about the potential limitations of the survey. He said that students’ reasons for opting out of the survey — including lack of access to the survey or low enthusiasm for Duke — could make the results less representative of the class.

Reiter also noted that students may have not chosen to complete the questionnaire due to time constraints. Reiter wrote in an email that this could result in the nonrespondents being systematically different than the respondents, which could skew the results of the survey. 

The Chronicle noted that most respondents who didn’t complete the survey dropped off between sections, particularly after sections with more questions.

Below, we compare our survey data with the official Class of 2026 profile from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and other data from the University Registrar. This shows how our survey responses may differ from the overall class. Our data and methodology can be found here.

Gender, race and ethnicity

Official Duke data says 54% of first-years are women and 46% are men. Our survey found that 63% of respondents were women, 36% were men, 0.8% were nonbinary or genderqueer and 0.2% were agender. Our survey included more gender options, but female students are still overrepresented compared to admissions data.

The Chronicle’s survey gathered race and ethnicity data differently than Duke’s admissions office by including a “race/ethnicity not listed here” category and separating Native American or Alaskan Native students from Native Hawaiian students. Duke also groups Pacific Islanders with Asian students, but we grouped Pacific Islanders with Native Hawaiian students.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag confirmed in an email to The Chronicle in 2021 that the University’s official racial diversity data did not include an “other” category. The ability for students to identify as more than one race/ethnicity in the official diversity data was newly implemented for the class of 2025. 

According to the official admissions profile, 16% of first-year students identify as Hispanic/Latinx; 1.2% identify as Native American, Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian; 13% identify as Black; 32% identified as Asian or Pacific Islander and 63% identified as white. About 5% of first-years did not specify a race or ethnicity.

Our survey also allowed students to select multiple identities. 

In our survey, 51.2% of students identified as white, 12.7% identified as Hispanic/Latinx, 8.8% identified as Black, 0.8% identified as Native American or Alaska Native, 39.7% identified as Asian, 0.8% identified as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 1.7% identified as other. 

Students that identify as Asian are overrepresented in our survey results compared to admissions data, and all other ethnic groups are underrepresented.

If students who identified as multiracial or chose two or more identities (15.6%) are categorized separately, then 38% of respondents identified as white, 33.9% identified as Asian, 6.6% identified as Black, 5.5% identified as Hispanic/Latinx only, 0.2% identified as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 0.2% identified as other.

Under half of Hispanic/Latinx students (43.6%) identified as only that, while the rest identified as white, Black and/or Asian in addition to being Hispanic/Latinx.

Disaggregated ethnicity

Keeping in mind activist demands to disaggregate ethnicity data, we piloted a question allowing students to elaborate on their identities if they wished.

About 13% of respondents gave additional details about their ethnic background.  Students that elaborated on their ethnicity otherwise identified as white, Hispanic/Latinx, Black, Asian and “other.”

The Office of the University Registrar publishes ethnicity data for all active Duke students regardless of whether they are enrolled in classes. This data is drawn from Student Information Services and Systems, or DukeHub, according to registrar database analyst Anna Kourouniotis.

Students were allowed to select multiple ethnicities, and not everyone reported their ethnicity. Therefore, these percentages do not represent the entire student body. Further explanation of how we used this data can be found here.

Among Asian students, 16.91% indicated Chinese ethnicity, 10.96% indicated Indian, 5.07% indicated Korean, 1.29% indicated Japanese, 1.22% indicated Vietnamese, 1.2% indicated Filipino, 0.86% indicated Pakistani, and 3.03% indicated “other.”

In our survey, 19% of students that identified as Asian gave more details about their ethnicity. About 7% of Asian students identified as Chinese or Chinese-American, 7% identified as Indian or Indian-American, and 1.4% identified as South Asian. Individual students identified as Nepali, Filipino, Pakistani, Southeast Asian and Taiwanese.

Fewer than 10 students that identified as Black gave specific details about their ethnicity, and this is also true for students that identified as Hispanic/Latinx and students that identified as white. However, most white students that specified their ethnicity indicated that they were part of the Jewish diaspora.

No students that identified as Native American/Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander went into further detail about their ethnicities.

Disability and immunity

For the first time, we introduced survey items about whether students identified as disabled or immunocompromised. These questions were introduced in an attempt to draw conclusions about health status and use of campus resources or adherence to COVID-19 policies. 

Out of 360 responses, 9 students said they identified as disabled, or about 2.5%. However, 19% of undergraduate students are registered with the Student Disability Access Office, according to director Leigh Bhe. About 11% of first-year college students had “some form of disability” in 2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics’ Beginning Postsecondary Students survey

A specific definition was not given for “disabled” and specific health conditions were not listed, which may have impacted how students responded.

In contrast, “immunocompromised” was defined as having low immune system defenses, affecting the ability to fight off infections and diseases. 

Out of 361 responses, 13 students said they were immunocompromised, or about 3.6%. About 3% of Americans are considered immunocompromised.

Geographic and socioeconomic diversity

The official Class of 2026 profile states that 87% of students are from the United States and 14% are international students. Similarly, our survey consisted of 87.5% domestic students and 12.5% international students. 

About 11% of the Class of 2026 is from North Carolina compared to 15% of respondents who shared their home state. 

The New York Times published data about Duke’s socioeconomic diversity based on tax records in 2016. Although there are differences between The Chronicle’s and the Times’ analyses in the metrics used to report the data, our survey data is generally consistent with the Times’ data. 

The Times’ data shows that the median family income of Duke students is $186,700. Our data shows that out of 341 respondents, 65% had an annual family income over $125,000. 

Another 17% of respondents had annual family incomes between $80,000 and $125,000, while 11% had incomes between $40,000 and $80,000 and 7% had incomes under $40,000. 

The median family income in the United States as of 2021 was $70,784, according to the Census Bureau

According to Duke data, 50% of the Class of 2026 receive financial aid while 147 of 350 respondents (42%) said they receive financial aid. Our survey results underrepresent the proportion of students on financial aid.


The Chronicle’s survey overrepresents how many students went to both public and private schools. Additionally, our data is not fully comparable because our survey did not ask who went to school outside of the United States. However, when asked to report high school GPA, three respondents shared that they attended schools in other countries that did not calculate GPA.

Our survey also overrepresents the proportion of students that applied early decision. Out of 340 respondents, 53% applied early decision. In comparison, 49% of the Class of 2026 was admitted ED.

The Chronicle’s survey also overrepresents the number of FOCUS students. Out of 333 respondents, 34% are FOCUS participants, while an estimated 20-25% of first-years partake in the program each year, according to the FOCUS website.

The middle 50% of SAT scores for respondents is approximately 1510 to 1560 and the middle 50% of ACT scores is 34 to 35. Official data places the middle 50% range for SAT and ACT scores at 1510 to 1570 and 34 to 36, respectively. 

Our survey also found that 11.6% of respondents were first generation college students compared to 10% of the Class of 2026.

Nadia Bey profile
Nadia Bey | Digital Strategy Director

Nadia Bey, Trinity '23, was managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume and digital strategy director for Volume 118.


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