The news of this year’s record-high number of early applicants to Yale was followed by the announcement of a record-low early acceptance rate.

Yale admitted 13.4 percent of early action applicants to the class of 2013, a sharp drop from last year’s 18.1 percent early admission rate. A total of 742 early applicants were granted admission from a record pool of 5,557, Dean of Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said. The admissions office significantly increased the number of students rejected rather than deferred in the early round, a shift that garnered unanimous approval from a dozen college counselors interviewed.

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This year, Yale rejected 38.3 percent of early applicants and deferred 47.6 percent to the regular decision round. Last year 16 percent of early applicants were rejected and 65 percent were deferred.

Yale decided to admit fewer students early this year — despite the 13.7 percent increase in early applications — because yield rates for last year’s early pool were higher than expected, Brenzel said.

Brenzel said the early applicant pool was “extremely strong,” which he attributed to the elimination of early application options at Harvard and Princeton universities along with Yale’s new financial aid policy, announced last January.

The decision to reject a higher proportion of applicants harks back to a similar practice employed several years ago, Brenzel said in an interview last month. He said the choice to reject more applicants was a “challenging tradeoff,” but he added that an early rejection can help an applicant in the long run.

“Given the strong qualifications of most of these students, it is difficult to send them this news,” Brenzel said. “On the other hand, most guidance counselors urge us to help the students we cannot admit by giving them a final decision and allowing them to focus on their other applications.”

A dozen college counselors interviewed agreed with this statement, saying they see advantages to rejecting a higher proportion of early applicants if the students will be rejected later during the regular decision process.

Yale’s decision to reject more early applicants who would not have been competitive in the regular round is “merciful,” said Alice Kleeman, the college advisor at Menlo-Atherton High School, a public school near Palo Alto, Calif.

“It’s a wake-up call, while students still have time, to apply to some less selective colleges that might be a better match for them,” she said. “Deferred students have the right to believe that they are credible applicants. If they go on believing they are credible applicants when indeed they are not, that’s not doing them any favors.”

Paul Schweikher, director of college counseling at Phoenix Country Day School agreed, calling Yale’s new approach more humane.

“We struggle with deferred students and worry about ‘stringing along,’ ” he said. “Students can cope more with the yes or no.”

At Yale’s peer institutions, early acceptance rates likewise dropped across the board.

Stanford University accepted 12.8 percent of applicants to its nonbinding early action program this year, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology accepted 10.7 percent of its 5019 early action applicants. Dartmouth College and Cornell University admitted 25.9 percent and 36.7 percent of applicants, respectively.

Columbia and Brown universities and the University of Pennsylvania have not yet released early admissions statistics for the class of 2013.

Of the 5,557 applications to Yale, 43 were withdrawn or incomplete, Brenzel said.