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Admissions yield steady as application numbers skyrocket

Duke’s admissions yield for the Class of 2015 has stayed fairly constant compared to earlier classes, which administrators consider a positive trend.

The University, which experienced a record 29,526 applications for the Class of 2015, expects to welcome a class of more than 1,720 freshmen.

Approximately 44.3 percent of the 3,739 high school seniors admitted for the class accepted a spot at Duke, a 2 percent increase from the Class of 2014.

“We anticipated that it would be a little lower,” said Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag. “We try to get right on the money but we can never be entirely sure.”

Guttentag said although the class size is currently at about 1,749, he expects the number to decrease to a number between 1,720 and 1,725 because of a phenomenon called summer melt. Typically during the summer, about 20 students decide not to attend the University because they defer enrollment for a year or two, enlist in the military or some other type of national service, decide to stay closer to home or enroll in a different university after getting admitted off of a waitlist.

More high school seniors are also coming to Duke after being offered a spot on the waitlist. Guttentag said so far, 140 students of the 185 accepted from the waitlist—about 75 percent—will come to East Campus in the Fall. This number is up from the approximately 100 students who came from the waitlist in the Class of 2014.

Guttentag said the waitlist is a key part of Duke’s admissions strategy every year, noting that the University deliberately “under-admits” during the regular decision cycle.

“It allows us to have a little more control over the nature of the class,” Guttentag said. “We admit students in late March and early April and make certain assumptions about how many students will enroll. Admitting from the waitlist allows us to shape the class more like we want to, like if there’s too few [admitted] from [the] Pratt [school of engineering during regular decision].”

This year’s increase in waitlist yield is partially attributed to changes that allow high school seniors to notify Duke whether they are attending via the Internet instead of replying with a paper response card, Guttentag said, meaning that the admissions office could also end the year’s process a bit earlier since they did not have to wait for the mail.

Duke has both attracted more applicants and accepted fewer of them over the past several years and yield has consistently crept upwards—a fact Guttentag said is a strong sign for the University. Last year’s yield was 42 percent, seemingly a small increase from the Class of 2013’s 41.5 percent until, Guttentag said, one considers that the Class of 2014 attracted 11.6 percent more applications than the previous year. This year, Duke had 10.5 percent more applications than last year.

“We’ve actually been doing pretty good,” Guttentag said. “Holding yield steady or increasing while the applicant pool is getting bigger and stronger is very good.”

Yield has fluctuated between 41 and 45 percent for the past twenty years, Guttentag said, adding that admissions usually admits a certain number of students with a prediction of what that year’s yield will be like.

“We make certain assumptions about what’s going to happen,” he said. “Yield doesn’t change dramatically from year to year. If yield goes up, then you admit fewer students, and if you think yield is going to increase and you don’t want to overenroll, you admit fewer students. And if it turns out that you’re wrong, well, you just admit students from the waiting list.”

The Class of 2014 was the largest freshman class the University has ever seen—1,750 students. Even though Duke’s yield is lower than that of peer institutions, Guttentag said the admissions staff was careful to create a smaller class this year, partially due to the limited space available on East Campus.

Duke’s yield numbers have been traditionally lower than other universities. Harvard University’s yield increased to 77 percent this year, according to The Crimson, and the University of Pennsylvania’s yield remained at 63 percent for the fourth consecutive year, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

“A class change of 1,705 to a class of 1,750 has all kinds of implications on facilities or class size,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, about the changes between the Classes of 2013 and 2014. “This year’s yield was intentional and planned. We have very good models for estimating what yield is. But, at the end of the day, you’re still dependent on the decisions of a couple thousand high school seniors.”

Guttentag said one prominent fact about the upcoming class of freshmen is that, for the first time, California is the most represented state. He attributed this to an increased awareness of the University on the West Coast coupled with the California public education system’s budget cuts.

“There are Californians who are looking for alternatives to the [University of California] system,” Guttentag said. “We are the beneficiaries of that, which is good for us and, of course, unfortunate for the California university system.”

Nali Gillespie, an incoming freshman from California, said Duke was cheaper for her to attend than University of California, Irvine and University of California, Berkeley. She added that Duke will cost only half as much as her twin sister’s California public university.

Tiffany Chien, also an incoming freshman from California, said she was turned off by the University of California’s budget problems. She said assistant director of undergraduate admissions Samuel Carpenter visited her high school, which led to heightened interest in Duke as a top choice school among her peers.

Chien also cited Blue Devil Days as one of the reasons she wanted to “become part of the Duke family.”

“Funny thing is that I wanted to stay in California for the longest time, but visiting Duke and speaking with current students really convinced me that leaving my home state... would lead to a life-changing experience that I just couldn’t pass up,” Chien said.


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