Little Admissions Impact from Lacrosse

August 1, 2006
Admissions paperwork

Les Todd

Officials at Duke expect 2006 to be among the most selective years on record for undergraduate admissions, despite the extensive media coverage of the men's lacrosse program. According to Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions, Duke admitted only 21 percent of applicants, its lowest percentage ever. The number of applications this year was almost 19,400, exceeding last year's total--itself a record--by 1,300. The entering class also will be Duke's most ethnically diverse, with the proportion of students of color increasing to 40 percent from last year's record of 37 percent.

In a memo to provost Peter Lange, Guttentag said that as measured by strength of curriculum, grades, test scores, recommendations and interviews, extracurricular activities, and essays the new class will equal last year's as Duke's strongest ever in terms of overall quality.

Noting that the recent controversy involving the men's lacrosse team "unfolded just as applicants were deciding where to attend college next year," Guttentag said he expected that the percentage of students accepting an offer of admission would drop, and it did: from 43 percent last year to 40 to 41 percent. But, he added, that level falls within the usual range of between 40 percent and 44 percent for Duke's admissions "yield."

"Under the circumstances, it is a confirmation of Duke's enduring reputation that our yield this year remains within that range," Guttentag wrote. According to the latest statistics, the university is seeing a roughly 5 percent decrease in the percentage of both white and African-American students accepting offers of admission, but no decrease among Latino and Asian students. Among the top 300 applicants, the percentage enrolling at Duke is about the same as last year's. Enrollment increases among international students are expected.

As a result of the slight decrease in yield, Guttentag says he anticipates enrolling about 125 more students than expected from the waiting list to fill the 1,665 places in the class that will enter this fall.

Saying he has not received much feedback from admitted students about the lacrosse situation, Guttentag speculates that the intense news coverage "probably caused some students to have second thoughts about coming here." He says the admissions office will participate in research over the summer to learn more about the factors affecting student decisions.