Duke Receives Record Number of Applicants

Pool includes highest numbers yet of students of color and those from low and moderate economic backgrounds

Admissions decisions will go out in late March or early April for the Class of 2021. Photo by Duke Photography
Admissions decisions will go out in late March or early April for the Class of 2021. Photo by Duke Photography

Duke University received a record 34,300 applications this year, an increase of nearly seven percent from a year ago.

Nearly 31,000 applied by Duke’s Regular Decision deadline of Jan. 3; the rest had previously applied under Duke’s binding Early Decision process -- in which applicants who apply by a November deadline promise to attend if accepted.

Almost 55 percent of all applicants were students of color – an increase of nearly 3 percent over last year and a reflection of the work Duke is doing to pursue students of all backgrounds and socioeconomic situations, said Christoph Guttentag, Duke’s dean of undergraduate admissions.

“In two of the last three years, students of color have made up 50 percent of the incoming first-year class,” Guttentag said. “This is a place with a significant representation of people of color, and a welcoming place for the wide range of backgrounds and experiences we find among talented students.”

Of particular note, Duke saw a 22 percent increase in Latino applicants this year.

Guttentag said some of that increase is due to Duke’s partnership with QuestBridge, a nonprofit organization that connects high-ability, low-income students with selective universities. He also credits the fledgling Washington Duke Scholars program, which in its first year provided financial, cultural and academic support for 30 first-generation students and those from under-resourced high schools.

“We’ve been increasing the visibility of our programs for low-income and first-generation students, and people are paying attention,” Guttentag said, adding that 68 percent of applicants indicated an intention to apply for financial aid, the most in 20 years.

There was also a 12 percent increase in applications from international students this year, he said.

Duke's admissions policy is "need blind" for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, meaning that applicants are accepted regardless of their ability to pay for college. Duke also meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students.

Admissions decisions will go out in late March or early April. The first-year class is expected to be slightly more than 1,700 students.