While Yale’s overall acceptance rate hit a record-low this admissions season, for applicants in the regular decision pool, getting into Yale was slightly easier than last year.

The initial acceptance rate in the regular decision pool rose to 5.4 percent from 4.8 percent at this time last year, according to figures released by the University earlier this week. Comparatively, the acceptance rate in the early action round dropped to 13.4 percent from 18.1 percent last year.

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So is the Yale Admissions Office intentionally shifting the proportion of admitted students in favor of those considered in the regular decision pool?

The answer is no, beyond returning to past practice, Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said. In fact, he explained, the greater proportion of students admitted early last year was an anomaly. The increase in the regular acceptance rate therefore reflects a return to admit levels seen prior to last year. Initial regular acceptance rates for applicants to the classes of 2011 and 2010 were 5.7 percent and 5.8 percent respectively.

Even though the higher acceptance rate for applicants in the regular pool is a return to the previous balance between early and regular admit rates, a dozen college counselors interviewed applauded Yale’s decision to admit a greater proportion of students in the regular process this year, saying the move would reduce stress and benefit low-income applicants.

“We were greatly appreciative of the fact that Yale went back toward its initial policies,” said Nancy Beane, college counselor at the private Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Ga. “There are some schools where we say if you don’t apply early, your chances are slim to none, but Yale’s not one of those, and we think that’s positive.”

The regular decision acceptance rate dropped at this time last year because Yale accepted a greater proportion of applicants through its early action program. This move was prompted not only by an especially strong group of early applicants, but also because the admissions office was uncertain about its yield rate given Harvard and Princeton universities’ decisions to eliminate their early admissions programs, Brenzel said.

Yale’s yield — the rate at which admitted students choose to matriculate — is likely to fall in part because it accepted more applicants from its regular admission pool, who are less likely to matriculate than early applicants, Brenzel said. Still, Brenzel said the admissions office is aware of this potential drop and in turn admitted a greater number of students this year.

“Based on the results last year, we were very comfortable returning to prior practice even if yield [for the class of 2013] were to drop by a point or two,” Brenzel said.

Yale’s decision to return to its earlier balance between early and regular admissions is “admirable,” particularly at a time when many other universities are admitting a greater proportion of students who apply early, said Toby Brewster, director of college advising at the private St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H.

Brewster said he has seen an overall increase in the proportion of students admitted early to many schools this year. He said such a shift is partly caused by a worry that fewer students will matriculate given the economic crisis.

“Moving forward we may see more attention to the early applications due to the uncertainty of the economy,” he said.

At the private Kent Denver school in Colorado, where many students send early applications to a range of schools, there has been an increase in the proportion of students admitted early as opposed to regular this year, Director of College Counseling Jane Horn said.

Horn said she was glad Yale did not conform to this trend.

“It’s healthier for the admissions cycle to give those high school seniors more time to identify which schools are a good match for them,” she said.

The decision to admit a greater proportion of students regular not only benefits those students who are unsure about their college plans, but also low-income students, said Ilene Abrams, college advisor at the public Berkeley High School in Berkeley, Calif. She said low-income students are less likely to apply early than more affluent students, often taking standardized tests later and working to complete financial aid forms simultaneously with their applications.

Still, while some students may fret over the slight differences between early and regular decision admit rates this year, such differences are insignificant in comparison to the record-low 7.5 percent admit rate, said Leonard King, director of college counseling at the private Maret School in Washington, D.C.

“Yale now has so many applicants that the percentage of students that are getting rejected that are superior students is phenomenal,” King said.

This year, Yale admitted 1,209 of the 23,088 applicants in its regular decision pool, which includes the 2,644 applicants deferred from the early action round. Yale has admitted a total of 1,951 applicants to the class of 2013 from an overall pool of exactly 26,000, although the number of admitted students will rise if students are taken off the waitlist.