Just 5.8% of applicants to the Blue Devil Class of 2025 were accepted, and only 4.3% of Regular Decision applicants enjoyed positive outcomes. This means that Duke now has a lower acceptance rate than Dartmouth (6.2%), Vanderbilt (6.7%), or Rice (9.3%). Their exclusivity is matched by their sheer popularity—Duke receives more applications than Brown, Princeton, and Yale. While Duke has always been an academically competitive institution, gaining admission didn’t used to be THIS difficult. A quick march through recent admissions history reveals that in 2004, the acceptance rate was 22%, nearly four times higher than today’s figure. Given that the process of becoming a Blue Devil becomes increasingly challenging with each passing year, this blog is designed to provide you with:

1) An understanding of how highly-selective the Duke admissions process truly is.

2) Data that will help you better assess how you measure up to the competition.

3) How the Duke admissions committee operates and what they look for in a successful candidate.

To accomplish these goals, we will touch on the following topics:

  • Duke’s Class of 2025 acceptance rate
  • Duke’s Class of 2025 ED acceptance rate
  • SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted Duke applicants
  • Admissions trends from the Class of 2025
  • The demographics of current Duke undergraduates
  • Duke’s yield rate
  • How Duke’s admissions officers evaluate candidates
  • Tips for applying to Duke
  • How to assess whether applying to Duke is even worth the $85 application fee (for you)

Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.

Duke University’s Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025

Duke’s acceptance rate in the 2019-20 admissions cycle was 8.2%. In the 2020-21 cycle, the received a whopping 49,555 applications and accepted only 5.8%, the lowest clip in school history.

Duke University’s Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2025

Just 840 of the 5,036 Early Decision applicants in the 2020-21 admission cycle were successful. This equates to a 16.7% acceptance rate which is roughly four times that of the regular round. The previous year (Class of 2024), the ED acceptance rate was 20.7%.

Duke Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank

Of those who ultimately joined Duke’s Class of 2024, the middle 50% range on the SAT was 1500-1570; the ACT range was 34-35.  Classroom performance of Duke students was equally strong as an incredible 95% of enrolled freshmen had earned a place in the top 10% of their graduating class; 98% were in the top quartile.

Admissions Trends & Notes – (Class of 2024)

  • There were 49,555 applications for the Class of 2025, up from 39,783 last year.
  • The Regular Decision acceptance rate fell from 6% last year to 4.3% in 2020-21.
  • There were 840 students admitted ED in 2020 compared with 887 last year. Both figures represent roughly 50% of the expected freshman class.
  • Duke received 5,036 Early Decision applications — a 16% increase over last year and the most early decision applicants in the university’s history.
  • The Class of 2025 saw a 43% increase among international applicants.

Who Actually Gets Into Duke?

Let’s look at the demographics of Duke undergraduates:

Geographically, the greatest number of Class of undergraduates hail from the following states (in order):

  • North Carolina
  • California
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Virginia

13% of current students are N.C. residents and, as with all selective colleges, those from lower-populated, more remote areas of the country (e.g. Montana, South Dakota, Idaho) enjoy a boost to their admissions prospects.

Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown of the students admitted into the Class of 2024 was as follows:

  • Asian American: 30%
  • Hispanic: 10%
  • African American: 11%
  • Caucasian: 41%
  • Native American: 2%

The breakdown by gender of all students offered a place in the Class of 2024 reveals more men than women, a rarity in today’s postsecondary landscape (outside of engineering-heavy schools).

  • Male: 51%
  • Female: 49%

The breakdown by type of high school is as follows:

  • Public: 64%
  • Private: 24%
  • Outside of U.S.: 8%
  • Other: 4%

Most People Who Get Accepted Choose to Attend

Duke’s yield rate — the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted — was 49% last year, down from 54% the previous year. For comparison, schools like Stanford, Harvard were over 80%, and the University of Chicago, MIT, and Yale all sported 70%+ yield rates. Duke finished just behind schools like Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Dartmouth in this category.

How Duke Rates Applicants

There are eight factors that Duke ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, class rank, GPA, standardized test scores, application essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. While no factors are rated as “important,” Duke does “consider”: interviews, first-generation status, legacy status, geographical residence, state residency, religious affiliation, racial/ethnic status, volunteer experience, work experience, and the level an applicant’s interest.

In seeking to put together a “collaborative community of intellectual explorers,” the university is looking for individuals with a broad array of talents inside and outside of the classroom. Christopher Guttentag, the dean of admissions, stated that applicants who stand out from the pack have both “talent and the inclination to use it.” Duke believes in reading an applicants’ extracurricular activities and essays prior to sizing up their grades, recommendations, and test scores. The most valuable component of a students’ extracurriculars is evidence that they made a genuine difference—where they do so can be in any arena, from volunteering to athletics to academic competitions. It definitely helps if you are recruited as an athlete to join one of Duke’s 27 Division I sports teams. Approximately 5% of incoming students are designated as “recruited athletes.”

Tips for Applying to Duke

  • If you plan on joining the almost 49,000+ Blue Devil hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
  • It is important to note that Duke’s temporary test-optional policy will remain intact for the 2021-22 admissions round (Class of 2026).
  • Duke offers optional alumni interviews as part of the admissions process. After submitting your application, you will matched with an alumni interviewer in your area on a first-come, first-served basis. Interviews are generally between 30-60 minutes in duration and no applicant is granted an on-campus, evaluative interview with a Duke admissions officer. Not every student is, in the end, granted an interview, and those that do not get this opportunity are invited to submit an additional recommendation with their application. For advice on what types of questions you should be prepared to answer/ask, visit our blog—College Interview Tips.
  • Duke does consider “demonstrated interest” so it is important to make contact with the admissions office, connect through social media, and (when COVID-19 is no longer an issue) visit campus or meet Duke reps at college fairs near you.
  • Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by Duke. In the 2020-21 cycle, there were three prompts—one mandatory, one technically optional (but, in reality, mandatory), and one that only applies to members of the LGBTQ community.

We begin with a look at the mandatory question:

Please share with us why you consider Duke a good match for you. Is there something in particular about Duke’s academic or other offerings that attracts you? (200 word limit) 

The key to tackling this 200-word essay is to do your homework on the college within Duke University to which you are applying. It is essentially asking you: “Why Duke?” Learn how to write a killer “Why This College?” essay in our previous blog post on the subject.

The next two prompts are optional for all applicants to Duke University. Yet, as we mentioned a moment ago, the first essay should, without question be answered by every single applicant, as it presents you with a way to further humanize/personalize your application.

Optional #1) Duke University seeks a talented, engaged student body that embodies the wide range of human experience; we believe that the diversity of our students makes our community stronger. If you’d like to share a perspective you bring or experiences you’ve had that would help us understand you better, perhaps a community you belong to or your family or cultural background, we encourage you to do so here. Real people are reading your application, and we want to do our best to understand and appreciate the real people applying to Duke. (250 word limit)

Optional #2) Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. If you would like to share with us more about your identity, you can do so here, or use any previous essay prompt you feel is appropriate. (250 word limit)

Should I Apply to Duke?

If you possess anything shy of a 1500+ SAT score, you’ll need to bring some other compelling aspects to the table whether it’s athletic prowess or being a member of an underrepresented group. Even applicants with such credentials are not assured admission as Duke rejects many students with near-perfect credentials each year. All college-bound teens need to make sure that they formulate an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. You’ll definitely want to do this in conjunction with an admissions professional (including your own high school counselor).