Des Moines, IA— Students at Drake University may be seeing an unprecedented influx of new students this Fall, according to the Drake Office of Admission. The number of students applying to Drake University this year for intake is at a record high, despite the COVID-19 pandemic putting many businesses and organizations to a halt.
Before the pandemic, any given admissions cycle would see around 6800 applications to Drake. As of April 1, however, over 7500 applications have been sent in to the Drake Office of Admissions. In terms of new students for the Fall of 2021, Drake has seen a 25 percent increase in admitted students over recent admission cycles.
This increase in applications is due to a variety of factors. First, one of the most effective tools used by an Admissions Office is hosting in-person campus visits so prospective students can picture themselves as a student there. With Drake University effectively offering virtual campus visits this cycle, students in far away places can see themselves at Drake without having to catch a flight.
“The exposure of virtual recruitment has allowed students from all over the country and the world to get a sense of our campus without even having to step foot onsite,” said Anne Kremer, the Dean of Admissions at Drake.
With a virtual recruitment system in place, Drake has also received a record number of applications from international students as well.
“With limited international admissions staff, there are just so many countries that we can physically travel to,” said Patrick Bourgeacq, the Assistant Director of Drake International Admissions. “However, with virtual recruitment being implemented this year, we’ve been able to reach far more countries than we could ever hope to in person.”
Kremer and the international admission team made the decision at the beginning of the cycle to take advantage of this new virtual space by testing out new geographic markets. If a country showed promise during a web recruitment fair, it could warrant flying a recruiter out to that country when flight restrictions are lifted. The influx of international interest for Drake doesn’t mean that the department didn’t experience some setbacks at the very beginning of the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, the number of new international students committing to Drake in the two to three months that followed remained fairly constant. However, when U.S. Embassies around the world closed their doors, many international students were unable to get their visas to study in the United States. As a result, the actual international enrollment numbers for the Fall 2020 intake took a significant hit.
The Drake Office of Transfer Students, a department that handles students who are transferring from other institutions, experienced some setbacks as well. Transfer students make up a significant portion of incoming students to Drake, and feature a diverse set of demographics. The transfer department has accepted students from ages 18 all the way to 86 years old. It includes students seeking to further their education after several years of being out of school, as well as Veterans and working adults. The transfer department both at Drake and at a national level sheds a unique light on how COVID-19 has affected the education of students that are often overlooked.
“Undergraduate enrollment [for transfer students] has been down 4.5 percent this year on a national level,” said Rachel Setsodi, the Associate Director of Transfer at Drake said. “People have been slow to make decisions because there have been so many unknowns in regard to jobs, health concerns, and the impact that covid has had on their family— be that financial or medical reasons.”
Setsodi believes that these numbers will increase once the pandemic subsides. Because of the unemployment rate in the United States increasing during the pandemic, many students are using that time to their advantage to earn more skills and further their education. Whether their education comes from a community college or a four-year institution like Drake, Setsodi hopes that education will be a prime motivation post-COVID.
“Going forward, I think this next year is going to be us figuring out what [prospective] students prefer, and also what other colleges are offering students to make sure that they can have an apples to apples comparison on multiple campuses,” Kremer said. “This story is still being written. It’ll be very interesting to see if colleges go back to their old ways of doing a lot of things, or if this will be a time of continued reinvention of the recruitment experience.”