For the first time in recent history, Yale received more early applications than Harvard this fall, with 4,065 students applying under the University’s early action program.

Yale saw a 3.4 percent increase in early applications after witnessing a 3 percent decrease last year, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Thursday.

Yale President Richard Levin said he thinks the increase in early applications is indicative of Yale’s prominent national standing.

“I think it’s just another sign of the increasingly widespread recognition that Yale has the strongest undergraduate program in the country,” Levin said.

This year, 130 more students applied to Yale early than in 2004, when 3,933 high school students applied. In contrast, Harvard received just under 4,000 early action applications this year, a 5 percent decrease from the university’s 4,214 applications last year, Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said. Princeton received 2,230 early decision applications, a 9 percent increase from the 2,039 received last year, Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said.

Brenzel said he is pleased with this year’s numbers, though he said he does not believe the increase is necessarily significant. Yale’s new financial aid policies may have led to the slightly larger crop of applicants this year, he said.

“It seems to me that the numbers have stabilized at a number we are very happy with,” Brenzel said. “We hope that the financial aid changes might have drawn in students this year.”

Last spring, the administration eliminated the parental contribution for students from families earning less than $45,000 and reduced the contribution for students from families earning between $45,000 and $60,000.

This is the third year Yale has offered a non-binding, single-choice early action policy, under which students may only apply to one school early, but are not obliged to attend if they are admitted. Yale saw a 55 percent increase in early applications when it first introduced the program in 2003, the same year Harvard launched its single-choice early action program.

The number of applications may fluctuate slightly as the office finishes processing submissions from those Gulf Coast states that received extended application deadlines due to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Margit Dahl ’75 said.

Brenzel said that he was impressed with the quality of the applicant pool.

“It’s really an extraordinary group of applicants,” he said. “The challenge is going to be how to select a certain number out of these applications.”

Students who applied early to Yale by the Nov. 1 deadline will receive admissions decisions in mid-December.

Last year, Yale had a 9.7 percent acceptance rate, a record low for the University, accepting 17.9 percent of its early applicants and 7.5 percent of its regular decision applicants.