The overall acceptance rate for Yale College hit a record low again this year, with 9.7 percent of applicants from an overall pool of 19,448 students receiving letters of admission to the Class of 2009, the admissions office announced on Thursday.

After witnessing a 1.2 percent decrease in total applications, the College accepted 1,880 students, a trimming down from last year when Yale accepted 1,950 students — about 9.9 percent from an overall pool of 19,675 applicants. Officials hailed this year’s applicant pool as the most competitive in Yale’s history.

This year, the acceptance rate stood at 18 percent for early action candidates and 7.5 percent for regular decision candidates. While Yale admitted 710 of the 3,926 students who applied through its single-choice early action policy, 1,170 students were admitted in the later round of admissions from a group of 15,522 regular applicants.

Yale President Richard Levin said he was pleased with the University’s applicant pool this year.

“It’s again another impressive group of applicants,” Levin said. “It’s an extremely talented group of students.”

Decision letters were mailed at noon on Thursday, and applicants were able to access their decisions online as of 5 p.m. yesterday. This is the third year that Yale has made admissions decisions available through a password-protected Web site, Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said.

About 1,000 students — approximately 4 percent of the total applicant pool — were waitlisted this year, Shaw said, who added that he would rather take people off the waitlist than admit too many students. The University is aiming for a class of 1,310 students.

“We’re just being conservative,” Shaw said. “We’re also anticipating that if we’re a little bit shy, we have a strong waiting list of kids that would love to be here.”

Yale admitted a smaller number of applicants this year than in 2004, in part because Shaw said he expected the overall yield rate to increase slightly this year. While 68 percent of admitted students chose to come to Yale last year, Shaw said he was hoping for a 70 percent yield rate this year — especially with Yale’s new financial aid policy taking effect for the class of 2009.

Under the new policy, students whose families earn under $45,000 pay a zero parent contribution, while students from families earning between $45,000 and $60,000 pay a reduced parent contribution.

Admitted students to the Class of 2009 represent all 50 states and 51 countries around the world. The gender breakdown slightly favors men, with 973 men and 907 women gaining admission, Shaw said. About 42 percent of admitted students are minorities or international students, he said.

Shaw said he was pleased with the quality of the applicant pool, and that the admissions office will be engaged in enhanced recruiting efforts this year.

“It’s amazing how strong it is,” Shaw said. “These are incredible students and this class was powerful. We know we’re going to be competing for a lot of these students, and to the best of our ability we’re going to convince them to come to Yale.”

Over the next few weeks, Yale will reach out to accepted students through phone calls and e-mails, Shaw said. Admitted students are also invited to visit campus during Bulldog Days, which will be held on April 18 and 19 this year.

Admission to Yale will likely remain competitive for years to come, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said.

“This was clearly a tough year to be admitted to Yale College, our most competitive year yet,” Salovey said. “I don’t know what the trend will be, but I know it’s not likely to become less competitive anytime soon.”

Yale’s trends are in line with other top universities that saw decreases in their acceptance rates this year. Harvard University announced this week that its overall admission rate hit an all-time low at 9.1 percent for the Class of 2009. At Harvard, 2,074 students were admitted from a group of 22,796 applicants, its largest applicant group in the university’s history. Officials attributed spike in applications in part to recent changes to financial aid that helped Harvard recruit more low-income applicants.

Stanford University likewise had a record-low admissions rate, accepting 2,412 students, about 12 percent of 20,194 applicants. Brown University admitted 2,463 applicants, about 14.6 percent of its total applicant pool of 16,908 students. Dartmouth College admitted 2,148 students, about 17 percent of its applicant pool of 12,577 students. The admissions statistics for other top universities have not yet been released.