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How to Beat Summer Melt (and Save Your Incoming Class)

It happens every year — as the temperature rises, so do the challenges of retaining accepted students. Students who enrolled or expressed interest in enrolling in a university in the spring, don’t show up to campus in the fall after their high school graduation.

This phenomenon is known as “summer melt” in the higher ed space and affects between 10 and 40% of college-bound students, according to data from Harvard University.  

So, how can you identify these at-risk students and keep them excited and committed throughout the summer?

Before we get into that, let’s first take a look at some of the most common causes of summer melt.


Sizzling summer melt catalysts that make students sweat

Between the endless list of enrollment checklist items, loss of support from high school counselors, and paying that first tuition bill, it’s no wonder some students fail to show up to campus come fall. 

So, we put together a list of common causes of summer melt to help you step into students’ shoes and start thinking about ways you can put them at ease and help them feel more confident about attending your school.

  • Losing their high school support system: After graduation day, high school teachers and counselors are gearing up for their summer vacation. Those students who relied on them to be their biggest college support system are left with limited contact — if any — during the summer months, making them vulnerable to melt. 
  • Loss of contact from their college admissions counselor once they enroll: The worst mistake that college admissions counselors can make is not identifying at-risk students for summer melt, and assuming that every enrolled student will be on campus in the fall. This loss of engagement following enrollment gives students time to change their minds about your institution. 
  • Not having a support system at home: First-generation college students or those in non-traditional families are more susceptible to melt because their parents aren’t as involved in their college search process. Not having someone there to help them navigate financial aid and enrollment checklist items leaves the burden entirely on their shoulders — making it harder for them to make it to campus.
  • Financial obstacles: One of the most common causes of summer melt is students thinking that they can’t afford to attend college. This is likely because they aren’t sure how to navigate financial aid and are unaware of available resources like scholarships, grants, and the FAFSA.

With these obstacles in mind, let’s discuss how you can identify these at-risk students and give them a better chance of attending your university.


Spotting students on the verge of meltdown

Once you understand the different reasons why students don’t make it to campus in the fall, it will be easier to identify this population and make an effort to turn things around. 

According to research by the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), the students most susceptible to summer melt are overwhelmingly:

  • BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color)
  • Low-income 
  • First-generation college students
  • Lower academic achievers
  • From atypical families

So, how can you reach these at-risk students? Is it sending them additional information about financial aid? Is it a regular text check-in asking if they need any support? Keep reading for our anti-melt tactics that can help you ensure they get to campus.


4 Anti-melt tactics to save your incoming class


1. Streamline next steps

If your admitted students are getting hit with enrollment information from residence life, the registrar’s office, financial aid, and more — chances are you’re overwhelming them with an overload of information and instructions coming from too many sources. It can be hard for them to sift through all of those emails and keep track of what they have left to complete. 

Try streamlining this information into an all-encompassing student enrollment checklist somewhere on your website or in a student portal to make it easy for students to access their list (which should be updated in real-time!) and see what they have left to complete.


2. Personalized check-ins

For many of these at-risk students, their college admissions counselor is their most trusted guide for their transition to college. 

It’s important for counselors to continue that relationship over the summer and help facilitate the shift to campus in the fall. This continued communication between the counselor and student through emails, phone calls, and texts will help the student feel supported and excited to get to campus.  

Counselors can check in with students on the status of their housing applications, health and immunization paperwork, and other enrollment items — and offer their support. The more personalized, the better.


3. Get parents involved

An obstacle for many students at-risk for summer melt is not having their family involved in the enrollment process. Make sure to include parents in personalized communication and provide them with tailored information about their student’s financial aid package, health forms, and other information, and how they can support them throughout the process.


4. Connect students with their future peers 

For those students who are nervous about acclimating to college life and making friends, the journey to campus in the fall can be daunting. A great way to ensure they get there is to connect them with their future peers prior to them getting to campus. 

Provide students with information about any existing social media accounts and groups that they can join to interact with their classmates. Having even one familiar face on campus can make all the difference for a student on the verge of melting.


Beat summer melt and keep your cool with the help of Waybetter Marketing


Need some extra support to help guide you through these anti-melt strategies?

Get in touch with us to schedule a brief call — we’d love to tell you more about our services and how we can help you with summer melt or any other enrollment issues you may have.

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