Courtesy of ACT Center for Equity in Learning | Amber O’Connor, Program Coordinator
Summer melt, the phenomenon of students who have applied to and been accepted to college and don’t show up for the first day, continues for up to 44 percent of high school graduates across the nation. Community colleges see a higher rate. Summer melt primarily affects minority, low-income, or first-generation students, as they may not have a network of family or peers who are familiar with the college-going process.
There are many potential causes of summer melt and sometimes it’s a combination of several little things that aren’t completed and trip students up: incomplete financial aid paperwork; not attending college orientation; not submitting immunization records; not submitting final high school transcript, among other things. It is a shame that so many students melt over the summer given all the steps and considerable effort they have put in prior to that point (high school completion, college search, and financial aid paperwork).
So, how can we help students not melt away?
Mentors -knowing someone who has been through the college-going process can help students navigate the process. Often, students don’t know what they don’t know – and are afraid to ask. Having someone–a former high school counselor, teacher, or peer–to help guide them through the steps can increase their chances for showing up on the first day of college.
Summer support -colleges offering a summer bridge program to cover the time between high school graduation and the start of freshman year can be successful. Colleges set aside office hours for students to come into the office and get 1:1 attention in completing necessary steps.
Family meetings -setting aside a regular time for students to connect with their family members and go through the steps can be helpful to preventing summer melt. This time can be used to identify what has been done and what needs to get done to stay on track. Here is a handy source for information about the college-going process that can be used as a resource during family meetings.
Texting services -Georgia State has implemented the first-ever university chatbot service to help get students’ questions answered fast. Students interviewed in this podcast said they were embarrassed to ask adults questions about the process and they felt better when asking the chatbot. Personalized reminder text services, like Better Make Room’s UpNext program, can also help navigate the process.
Remain persistent -sometimes it can be a simple administrative error that trips things up. Students should proactively reach out to the institution they’re planning to attend to check on the status of things like paperwork, financial aid, orientation sessions, and other tasks that must get done before the semester starts. Ask for help in getting a glitch or slow down resolved.
The summer before a student enters their first semester in college is an important one. Any delay in their start time is a delay in making their hopes and dreams come true. There are many resources to help, you just need to ask (or search)!