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Campus admission begins at student level

Story by Katelyn Philipp

For over 6,000 prospective students, Cole Hall is where the journey to Drake University begins each year.

Built in 1904, the brick building is home to Drake’s Office of Admission. It serves as the hub of communication between Drake and potential students. The office is kept busy scheduling appointments and tours and, most importantly, admitting students for the upcoming school year.

The admission process starts with the students. Admission counselors are responsible for geographic territories and travel throughout the year to various high schools and college fairs to recruit and meet with
prospective students.

Admission counselor Ali Schlapkohl is invited to many college fairs, so she has to pick which ones to attend.

“The priority is to be in the office, available to meet with students,” Schlapkohl said.

So she weighs the benefits to make sure it’s worth the time and travel.

Laura Linn, director of admission, said there has been an increase in individual meetings between counselors and students.

“They’ll meet up at Starbucks after school if the student couldn’t make it to the high school visit or if the admission counselor couldn’t make it to their school,” Linn said.

Next, interested students schedule a campus visit. The prospective students and his or her family usually start their day at Drake by meeting with their admission counselor.

“I call it a Drake 101,”
Schlapkohl said.

The discussion generally hits on campus and class sizes, a variety of student organizations and relationships with faculty. Schlapkohl also likes to bring up internship opportunities and graduation rates.

After meeting with an admission counselor, students can participate in a variety of activities, including a tour of campus, meeting with a professor or coach and shadowing a class.

“It’s up to the student,”
Linn said.

Linn said one-on-one meetings, either at Drake or in the student’s hometown, are crucial to determining if the student would make a good fit for Drake. The admission counselor takes notes about these meetings and looks back at them when reviewing applications.

Prospective students applying to Drake are required to submit a general application, a high school transcript, an ACT or SAT score, an essay and a high school guidance counselor form,
Schlapkohl said.

Schlapkohl reviews all applications from her territory

“There’s not one kind of student we look for,” Schlapkohl said. “Drake is diverse enough that it is attractive (to) many students.”

“We take a very holistic approach to application review,”  Linn said.

Considered factors include quality of high school curriculum, leadership positions, involvement and writing skills.

“Our goal is to see an applicant as a real person, not as a set of numbers,” Linn said .

That’s why Drake doesn’t have required ACT or SAT scores.

Schlapkohl says GPA is the most important factor she looks at. She also checks on the class load the students took and how that affected their grades. She values a lower GPA due to challenging Advanced Placement classes over a higher GPA paired with easy classes.

Admission counselors also compare students to previous applicants from the same high school or area, Linn said. They look to see if those applicants were accepted, and if they were, how well they performed
at Drake.

In an average of one week, Schlapkohl is able to review and make a recommendation on an application. It then goes to Linn for the final decision.

“Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t,” Linn said.

Overall, Linn said the Office of Admission has a goal of enrolling 850 to 875 first-year students
every fall.

With 6,276 submitted applications for the 2012-2013 school year, this means Drake’s admission process is competitive.

When Linn arrived at Drake seven years ago, she said the office received around 4,000 applications each year. It hit 6,000 in 2011.

Linn said the current average acceptance rate is 62 to 65 percent. The range changes as the number of applications increase each year.

This year, 4,189 applicants were accepted. Of this group, 848 enrolled as first-year students last fall, just shy of Drake’s goal.

The Office of Admission will soon know whether it met its goal for the 2013 enrolling class. The deadline for students to notify colleges of enrollment, formally called the National Candidate Reply Date, is approaching on May 1.

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