With 42 percent of the Class of 2006 already accepted through early decision, nearly 15,000 high school students are vying for the remaining spots in a class of about 1,300.

Yale received another record number of applications, although the number of regular-decision applicants only increased by 1 percent this year. The admissions office is considering the applications of an estimated 14,950 students as part of the regular decision pool.

But Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw said although he is happy with the continuing interest in Yale from around the world, he thinks there is too much emphasis put on raw numbers.

“I think that everybody is very focused on application numbers and that becomes the mantra for whether you’re good or bad or somewhere in between,” Shaw said. “And I think that’s wrong. We’re interested in attracting students who know what Yale is about.”

Shaw’s criticism comes in a year when the frenzy surrounding college admissions has come under increased scrutiny around the country. One of the chief arguments in the debate over the early-decision process — spurred by Yale President Richard Levin’s announcement in December that he would like to get rid of the early-decision policy altogether — is that colleges admit higher percentages of their classes early in order to boast of high matriculation percentages.

Shaw’s objection to the focus on numbers raises a similar point about colleges’ obsessive pursuit of favorable statistics in the regular decision pool. If colleges can increase the sheer number of applications they receive — because more applications translates into more students rejected — they end up with a lower “percentage admitted” statistic.

“When is enough enough?” Shaw asked about the volume of applications.

Five years ago Yale received 11,947 regular-decision applications for the Class of 2002 and since then the number of applications has risen substantially.

“We have the daunting task of selecting a class of 1,300 out of this huge number,” Shaw said.

The admissions office has already done a portion of its work, having accepted 549 students through the early-decision process, but there is still substantial work to be done.

A staff of 16 admissions officers, 10 readers hired from the community, and Shaw himself will spend the next months working seven days a week to read through the piles of applications that now obscure their desks.

Shaw said his staff will read applications of candidates who are considered “competitive” as many as four times. A read-through takes an average of 30 minutes, Shaw said. He estimated that each officer reads a minimum of 150 applications a week from his or her assigned area of the world plus applications from other areas.

Yale allowed prospective Elis to submit the common application for the first time this year.

“Part of the reason we went to the common application is to ensure that student who hadn’t looked at Yale because it had a unique application would look at Yale,” Shaw said. “That would be students who live in places that we don’t historically visit.”

Figures for sex, geographical and ethnic breakdowns are not yet available because the admissions office is in the process of tabulating the application data.

Shaw said he is most interested to see if there was any significant change in the number of international applications. Yale expanded its need-blind admissions policy to include foreign students last year, and international applications more than doubled in the early-decision round.

For now, however, the only thing left for the applicants is to wait.

“You can really sense it at school because everybody’s waiting for that letter to come in the mail,” said Bridget Rochester, a senior at Nichols School in Buffalo, N.Y. who applied regular decision to Yale. “It’s a long wait.”