BY ASHLEY FLAWS
Drake has had a record number of applicants this year with more than 6,700 prospective students applying as of April 3, a 23.6 percent increase from the number of applicants at the same time in 2017. Drake University communications and admission staff members have been working hand-in-hand on marketing and recruitment tools to reach the prospective student audience and attract them to Drake.
Dave Remund, the executive director of communications at Drake, said that the University hired an outside firm to conduct research on the perception of Drake to an outside audience, including prospective students and their parents. This research was conducted so that the University could be more intentional with how it shapes itself as a brand, according to Remund.
“One of the good things that came from the research is that it in many ways affirmed what we already know about Drake and what we thought people thought of Drake, which is that we have a good academic reputation, we have small class sizes and we help prepare students for meaningful careers,” Remund said.
Another important factor the research discovered was that people perceive Drake as an expensive institution. With this knowledge, Remund said the communications and admission offices have better been able to explain to prospective students about financial aid opportunities at Drake and the return on investment that make a Drake education worth the cost.
Along with the increased knowledge of how to promote their brand to prospective students, Remund said that several other factors could be contributors to Drake’s spike in applications. In the past year, Drake has been doing more digital marketing in an effort to reach more prospective students. Drake has also been encouraging more campus visits for prospective students to be able to engage with the campus themselves.
Furthermore, Remund attributed President Marty Martin’s leadership over the past couple of years for bringing an energy to campus that is attractive to prospective students.
Remund stressed the importance of Drake’s word-of-mouth reputation, as well.
“One thing I know about Drake is that it has a great reputation, and it always has,” Remund said. “I think over the decades, that word-of-mouth and that reputation served us really well, and we maybe didn’t have to work quite so hard to tell our story and to attract students.”
Remund said Drake’s increase of applicants also reflects the general trend that students everywhere are applying to more schools. To attract students to Drake, Anne Kremer, dean of admissions, said that the Office of Admission has had one-on-one visits with prospective students and has traveled around the nation to host group events. The office has also spread the word to high school counselors to get Drake on students’ radars
The Drake Tuition Guarantee is another tool used to attract future students to Drake.
Despite Drake’s increase in applicants this year, Kremer said enrollment for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year can still not be predicted.
“There’s no way to tell what this means for enrollment by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it does say that there’s a nice buzz about Drake and that more students are looking at Drake in their set pool, but it doesn’t mean anything in terms of enrollment at this point,” Kremer said.
Both Kremer and Remund are optimistic about the future.
“There’s certainly a bright future ahead,” Kremer said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for us to capture on some of this momentum. The Drake women’s basketball team has done so fabulous, we’ve got some new marketing materials, we have a brand new website. There’s just been some things that have really helped get Drake’s name out there and put it in a really great light.”
Along with the communications and admissions offices’ efforts toward recruitment, Remund said that it takes everyone on campus to make Drake a welcoming environment to prospective students.
“When we have a prospective student come on campus, (we need) to not try to sell them on the experience but to be friendly and to be the kind of Drake that we know … We’re all in this together. If we want to have a vibrant campus, all of us have the responsibility to help with that,” Remund said.