Early & Regular Decision
Regular and Early Decision Overview
Detailed instructions for both of these options are found on the Application Instructions page.
Students who have determined that Duke is their clear first choice of colleges may apply through our Early Decision program. In applying Early Decision, students commit to enroll at Duke if they are admitted in December. This option is suited for students who are sure Duke is their first choice, who have established strong and consistent academic records throughout secondary school and who will have completed all the required standardized testing by early November.
Most applicants apply to Duke through Regular Decision, which gives them time well into their last year of secondary school to think about the colleges that interest them most. Regular Decision applicants can apply to as many colleges as they choose and can wait until the spring to make a commitment to the college of their choice.
Is there an advantage to applying through the Early Decision program?
There is an advantage in the admissions process to applying Early Decision. In 2014-2015, we admitted 26% of students who applied Early Decision and 9% of students who applied Regular Decision. There is no financial aid advantage or disadvantage in applying Early Decision and we meet full demonstrated need, but students who wish to compare different schools' financial aid packages should apply Regular Decision.
Early Decision Overview
Students who have determined that Duke is their clear first choice of colleges may apply through our Early Decision program. This option is suited for students who are sure Duke is their first choice, who have established strong and consistent academic records throughout secondary school and who will have completed all the required standardized testing by early November.
In applying Early Decision, students commit to enroll at Duke if they are admitted in December. Students who apply Early Decision to Duke may apply to other schools through any regular, rolling, or nonrestrictive early programs that will not place them into conflicting agreements with either institution. If admitted to Duke, Early Decision candidates agree to withdraw any applications that they have submitted to other schools.
About 10% of Duke applicants choose to apply Early Decision, and there is an advantage in the admissions process to making that choice. In 2015-2016, we admitted 23.5% of students who applied Early Decision and 8.7% of students who applied Regular Decision.
Students not accepted in December may be denied admission or have their decisions deferred to Regular Decision for further consideration. We want to give Early Decision applicants every possible consideration, and sometimes we need to see a student's academic performance across the entire senior fall to make the best decision. However, we also want to provide decisive December news when we can. Deferred candidates will be released from our contractual agreement to enroll if admitted in the spring. In winter and in spring, all deny decisions are final.
Early Decision applications should be submitted by November 1. Candidates will be notified of their admission decision by December 15 and should reply to our offer of admission and withdraw all other college applications by January 6. Admitted students who submit their CSS Profile by November 1 and supporting financial documentation by November 15 will receive their need-based financial aid awards along with their acceptance letters.
A full list of Early Decision deadlines and application forms can be found here.
Early Decision Myths and Facts
Myth: I can't apply Early Decision because my testing isn't complete.
Duke is happy to accept scores for Early Decision applicants from the October 22 ACT and the November 5 SAT tests. You do not need to rush your scores. Just include Duke as a score recipient when you take the test. Our SAT ID number is 5156, and our ACT ID number is 3088. If you are applying from outside the United States, you may apply early without SAT Subject Tests provided that you have registered to take them in December.
Myth: The Early Decision process is more competitive than Regular Decision.
Fact: While some schools make this claim, at Duke we appreciate that we are your unquestioned first choice. There’s an advantage in applying early to Duke—last year we admitted 23.5% of our Early Decision candidates and only 8.7% of our Regular Decision candidates. There are students for whom applying Early Decision can make all the difference.
Myth: The reason schools have higher acceptance rates for Early Decision is because athletes and children of alumni apply then.
Fact: Some schools do encourage athletes and alumni children to apply during Early Decision, but our philosophy is to encourage all students who have Duke as a clear first choice to apply Early Decision and gain that benefit.
Myth: I’m better off waiting until I get my first semester grades so that my application looks stronger.
Fact: Some students do benefit from waiting for that first set of grades, but for most applicants there’s more of an advantage in letting us know Duke is your top choice by applying Early Decision. Even if your application is deferred to our Regular Decision pool, the fact that you applied Early Decision remains part of your application.
Myth: My standardized test scores won't be available by November 1, so I can't meet the application deadline.
Fact: We are happy to receive standardized test scores from late October and early November test dates. Whether you're taking your tests for the first time or whether you're hoping to improve your scores, you can still apply Early Decision. Be sure to submit any scores that you do have by the application deadline; we'll update your file later with new results.
Myth: I’ll have to commit to attend Duke without knowing if my family can afford it.
Fact: Duke commits to meeting full demonstrated financial need for every admitted student, and there is no financial aid advantage or disadvantage in applying Early Decision. You can learn a great deal about our financial aid practices and get an estimate of your financial aid award by using the Net Price Calculator on our Financial Aid website. If you are admitted and fill out the required forms by the appropriate deadlines, you will receive your need-based financial aid package at the same time you receive your admissions decision.
In the rare instances when students ultimately cannot afford to attend Duke, they may be released from the binding Early Decision commitment after discussions among the family, the Financial Aid Office, and the Admissions Office.
Myth: I won’t be in the running for merit scholarships if I apply Early Decision.
Fact: Duke offers a very limited number of merit-based scholarships, and all applicants, including Early Decision applicants, are considered for scholarships in the spring. However, if you wish to compare different schools' financial aid packages or are depending specifically on a merit scholarship (rather than need-based financial aid) to make college affordable, we suggest you apply Regular Decision.
Myth: I can't apply to any other schools early if I apply to Duke in Early Decision.
Fact: Students can apply to any other colleges through regular, rolling or early programs as long as they comply with the requirements of both schools. Students cannot apply simultaneously to more than one binding program, and we ask our applicants to respect not only their binding agreement with us if admitted, but also to honor agreements with restrictive early action schools.
Deadlines are determined by the online submission date or by the postmark.