From Deposit to Day One: 4 Strategies to Minimize Summer Melt

July 08, 2024

s colleges and universities navigate the challenges of the enrollment cliff and FAFSA changes, ensuring that students matriculate successfully is more critical than ever.

One significant hurdle to overcome is summer melt—when students who have committed to attending a college fail to enroll in the fall. To combat melt, schools must adopt proactive strategies that extend from the point of deposit until move-in day and beyond.

Here are our top four recommended actions to minimize melt.

Maintain Consistent and Personalized Communication

After students submit their intention to enroll, they often feel a mix of excitement and anxiety about their upcoming college experience. Consistent and personalized communication can help alleviate their fears, keep them informed, and maintain their connection to the institution.

Tips to Implement:

Welcome Packages: Send out personalized welcome packages that include essential information, campus maps, and a friendly note from a faculty member or advisor.

Check-in Emails: Regularly send check-in emails that address common concerns and provide updates about upcoming events, deadlines, and resources. Personalize by name, extracurricular interest, or intended major.

If Possible, Text: High school students do not rely on email to communicate as much as working professionals do. They are much more likely to text or use a messaging app like Snapchat to communicate. Meet them where they are, as much as possible, to keep them engaged and interested.

Engagement on Social Media: Building on the last point, foster a sense of community and belonging with students before they even step foot on campus and allow them to connect with one another on a peer-to-peer level.

Offer Summer Bridge Programs

Summer bridge programs can help ease the transition from high school to college by providing academic preparation, social integration, and a preview of college life. These programs are particularly beneficial in preventing summer melt and ensuring students feel ready to start their college journey.

Tips to Implement:

Academic Preparation: Design programs that offer refresher courses or introductory classes to help students get a headstart on their coursework. This can be particularly helpful for subjects that are known to be challenging.

Social Integration: Include activities that encourage students to form connections with their peers, such as group projects, team-building exercises, and social events.

Orientation Extension: Use the summer bridge program as an extended orientation, where students can meet faculty, explore campus resources, and become familiar with the academic and social expectations of college life.

Develop Comprehensive Support Services

Support services are crucial for addressing the diverse needs of students, from academic assistance to mental health care. By offering comprehensive support services, right from the start, institutions can ensure that students have the resources they need to succeed and stay enrolled.

Tips to Implement:

Academic Advising: Provide proactive academic advising that helps students plan their course schedules, set academic goals, and navigate any challenges they encounter. Advisors should regularly check in with students to monitor their progress and offer guidance.

Mental Health Resources: Expand access to mental health services, including counseling, stress management workshops, and peer support groups. Promoting mental well-being is essential for keeping students engaged and focused.

Career Services: Offer robust career services that include internships, job shadowing opportunities, and career counseling. Helping students see the connection between their education and future career opportunities can increase their motivation and commitment to their studies.

A Focus on Continuous Engagement

Summer melt represents a significant challenge, with many students losing momentum during the summer months and failing to enroll in the fall. Continuous engagement during this period is essential to keep students committed to their decisions.

Tips to Implement:

Frequent Check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins via phone calls, text messages, or emails to remind students of important deadlines and answer any questions they may have.

Peer Mentoring: Pair incoming students with current students who can provide guidance, share experiences, and offer support throughout the summer.

Early Resource Access: Ensure students have access to essential resources as early as possible for things such as financial aid advisors, academic tutors, and housing information, to address any barriers that might prevent them from enrolling.

The work of enrollment managers does not stop once they have attained the targeted number of deposits. To ensure students matriculate and remain engaged throughout their academic journey, schools should adopt a holistic approach that includes consistent communication, effective summer bridge programs, and comprehensive support services.

By addressing the challenges of summer melt and fostering a supportive environment, schools can help ensure that all of the work that goes into recruiting and yielding a class will be rewarded with actual enrollment.