Yale received 3,541 early applications this year, representing a 13 percent decrease from last year, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Thursday.

The decrease in early applications for the Class of 2011 may have resulted from a reaction to last year’s record-low acceptance rate, among other possible factors, administrators said. Last year, 4,084 students applied early to Yale’s class of 2010 under the single-choice early action policy, and an Ivy League-low 17.7 percent were accepted. No other Ivy League colleges have released their early admissions statistics yet, but Stanford University received 4,733 early applications, marking a five percent increase over last year.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey attributed the drop in applications to the decreasing likelihood of getting an acceptance letter from Yale.

“We are not sure what caused the decline in Early Action applications, and it is possibly a one-time event,” he said. “As Yale’s admit rate has dropped significantly in recent years, perhaps some applicants, pessimistic about their chances of getting into Yale, are simply not applying here.”

Brenzel said he is not certain why Yale experienced this decline, since admissions representatives visited more schools and conducted more information sessions this year than ever before. While he said there are a number of possible explanations, he suggested that students were put off by last year’s low acceptance rate for early applicants.

Last year, Harvard’s early acceptance rate was 21.3 percent, Princeton’s was 26.8 percent, Brown’s was 22.9 percent early, and the remaining Ivy League schools also accepted larger percentages of their applicant pools.

Including regular decision applicants, Yale accepted 8.6 percent of its 21,099 total applicants last year, the lowest overall acceptance rate in Ivy League history.

Other possible reasons Brenzel proposed for the drop in applications include the publicity Harvard and Princeton Universities received in September for their decisions to eliminate their early application options next year. In addition, Yale decided not to include hard copies of applications in packets mailed to prospective students this year, which may have been a factor in the number of students who chose to apply.

But Brenzel said he would caution observers of the admissions process not to overanalyze or place too much significance on these statistics.

“If you look at early and regular admissions numbers over time, you’ll see a certain amount of variation,” he said. “Over the last 10 to 15 years, the numbers of applications to the Ivy League schools have been going up pretty much across the board, but there’s a tendency to focus a little over much on year-to-year figures.”

Amy Sack, president of the college admissions consulting firm Admissions Accomplished, said she noticed that an unusually low number of her advisees chose to apply to Yale this year. Usually at least five or six of the 20 students she counsels nationwide apply to Yale, she said, but this year none are applying early, and only one is applying regular decision.

Sack said she thinks there is a growing sentiment among applicants who are not at the top of the pool that it is not even worth applying to the most selective schools anymore.

“I have students who are applying to Penn, Brown and Cornell, but who have decided that Harvard, Yale and sometimes even Princeton are out of their reach now,” she said. “That’s a big change from last year.”

Since Harvard and Princeton announced that they would discontinue their early application policy, there has been widespread speculation about whether Yale would follow suit. Brenzel said it is too early to say how the number of early applicants this fall will affect Yale’s decision. The admissions committees will continue to consider which option will be best for the students, he said, and an announcement about the matter will be made in January.

This is the fourth year Yale and Harvard have 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. Last year, Yale received more early applications than Harvard for the first time in recent history.

Brenzel said the lower figures this year will not result in a shift in the quality of the admitted class, since the standards for admission will remain the same.

“So far, our early applicants look to be just as extraordinary a group as they have been the past few years, and once again, we will unfortunately be able to accept only a small fraction of the students we would want to welcome here to Yale,” he said.

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