The University accepted 106 more early decision applicants for the Class of 2017 than it did for the previous class.
The 753 admittees to the binding early decision program will account for 44 percent of the incoming freshman class, as compared to the 38 percent of the current freshman class that was accepted early. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag attributed the increase to a particularly impressive early decision applicant pool.
“What we discovered as we were reading the applications… is that there were just more compelling candidates, and we thought if the interest was there and the appealing qualities were there, why not offer these students who clearly had Duke as their first choice a place in the class?” Guttentag said.
Duke received 29,201 regular decision applications, which combined with early decision for a total of 31,741 applications, an increase of 0.4 percent from last year. The admittance rate for the roughly 950 spots remaining for regular decision applicants will likely be between 10 and 11 percent, Guttentag said. This would keep the regular decision acceptance rate constant with last year’s rate.
Several of Duke’s peer institutions filled large proportions of their classes with early decision admittees. The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University’s student newspaper, reported that 43 percent of Northwestern’s Class of 2017 will be filled by early decision students. Similarly, the University of Pennsylvania’s student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that “just under half” of the Class of 2017 will be comprised of early decision applicants.
“I’m not an expert, but UPenn made a conscious decision to increase its ED acceptance,” said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education. “And they did that as I understand specifically because it was good for yield and because it was yielding students who really wanted to be at UPenn.”
It took UPenn several years to be able to fully ramp up its early decision acceptance rate, Nowicki said, to allow time for the applicant pool’s quality to increase. He noted that Duke was able to increase the number of early decision acceptances quickly because the applicant pool was already strong.
“It’s a statement about the perceived quality of Duke,” Nowicki said. “When [students] apply ED at Duke the students we let in are letting go opportunities to get into Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, and they could get in there. That’s saying something really good about Duke.”
Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy and economics with research expertise in college admissions policies, noted that it is in universities’ interest to admit more early decision applicants, as it increases the yield rate, making the university look more desirable and often increasing its rank in lists such as the U.S. News and World Report. Vigdor advised, however, against assuming the University’s motives based on one year of data.
Different universities are “trendy” in different years, Vigdor said, noting that applicant pools can vary from year to year, and Duke should not be concerned unless it sees a steady decline in applications or yield rate over the course of several years.
“There’s a whole cottage industry of people who try to read a lot of information into very small amounts of data, to look into little blippy things from one year to the next and say, ‘Oh my God, the sky is falling,’ or, ‘This university is the greatest thing since sliced bread,’” Vigdor said, noting that these postulations seldom hold weight.