The members of the class of 2012 may still be hauling octopus lamps and twin extra-long sheets to their dormrooms today. But they have already managed to make history.

The 1,320 students planning to matriculate this year are part of the most selective and economically diverse class to ever walk through Phelps Gate. The incoming class — which hails from 48 states and 48 countries — were accepted from a record-breaking pool of 22,817 applicants, for an all-time low acceptance rate of 8.6 percent. Yale also increased its financial-aid spending on the freshman class by almost 50 percent, largely the result of a significant aid initiative announced last year.

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The class of 2012 is also one of Yale’s most diverse classes ever, with 33.3 percent of students identifying themselves as American students of color. This figure, which does not include international students, stood at an unprecedented 35.4 percent for the class of 2011.

Changes in the admissions playing field last year, most notably the decisions of Harvard and Princeton universities to drop their early-admissions programs, were expected to test Yale’s ability to retain its admitted students.

But despite pessimistic predictions that this admissions cycle would see a major drop in yield, this year’s yield fell less than two percent to 68.7 this year. Of the 1,952 admits, 1,320 students plan to matriculate this year, Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said this week.

The number of “cross-admits” — students admitted by multiple schools — among Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Stanford was likely higher this year than in past years, Brenzel said. But this phenomenon did not ultimately drive Yale’s yield down dramatically from the previous three years’ average of about 70 percent.

Brenzel said he was particularly pleased that the yield held this year despite increased efforts in the admissions office to admit larger proportions of low-income students and students interested in science and engineering. These groups are subject to fierce competition between colleges and typically have lower yields than the average for the class as a whole.

This year’s freshman class is also a more economically diverse group than before, according to University Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi. In the class of 2012, 12.3 percent of students have qualified for Pell grants, compared to 10.8 percent in the class of 2011 and 9.4 percent in the class of 2010.

The percentage of freshmen who will receive financial aid from Yale increased significantly, from 44.3 percent to 55.9 percent. Yale will give these students an average annual scholarship grant of $32,949, a 17 percent increase over last year’s average of $28,175, Storlazzi said.

Yale’s total expenditures on scholarships for the class of 2012 rose by a whopping 47 percent from the total for the class of 2011 last year, to $24.2 million.

Brenzel attributed these changes to both larger numbers of low-income matriculants — in part the result of aggressive outreach efforts and a new partnership with nonprofit institution Questbridge — and increased eligibility for financial aid.

Last year, the University enacted sweeping changes to its aid policy, dramatically reducing the expected parental contribution from middle- and upper-middle income families and eliminating the need for student loans. The changes boosted Yale’s financial aid budget for this year to $86 million, from $62 million last year.

Among the third of the class who self-identify as Americans of color, 13.8 percent of the class is Asian-American, 9.4 percent are African-American, 9.3 percent are Hispanic and 0.7 percent are Native American. The percentage of Asian-American students dropped from 15.4 percent last year, while the percentage of African-American students increased from 8.7 percent in the class of 2011.

The gender balance of the class — 666 females and 654 males — is nearly even, Brenzel said.

The incoming class’s SAT scores, like national standardized test scores, were identical to last year’s figures. The median SAT verbal score stayed at 750, while the median SAT math and writing scores were both 740. The percent of students who attended public schools decreased slightly from last year to 55.3 percent, and 44.7 percent attended independent, religious and international schools.

Consistent with past years, the majority of the class of 2012 hails from either the Northeast — home to 36.0 percent of the class — or the West, where 16.9 percent of the class resides. Like last year, 10 percent of the class comes from outside the United States.

The few freshmen milling about Old Campus Thursday afternoon expressed little apprehension and lots of excitement for the coming year.

“Bluebooking? I don’t even know what that is,” said Ashish Mitter ’12, who hails from Delhi, India. But Mitter was not fazed by the gaps in his knowledge of Yale lingo: “I’m doing DS, so I don’t need to worry about that yet.”

Other young Elis came prepared to uphold the University’s honor — on the sports field, that is.

“I’m looking forward to getting into the beginning of the season, and especially playing in The Game,” said football player Evan Ellis ’12 as he walked back to Old Campus from practice.

“We’ve got some unfinished business with them,” he said of Yale’s longtime rival in Cambridge, Mass.