Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Freezing the summer melt in higher education

We know you’re tired of hearing about it – that irritating and frustrating phenomenon when prospective college students lose their motivation to attend college and “melt” away during the summer after their senior year. Every year, an estimated 10-40% of high school students don’t make it to campus in the fall. 

They’ve applied, been accepted by, and have actually made a deposit to a college or university, but they fail to follow through. What a phenomenon!

What causes them not to act?

Throughout the summer, too many students overlook emails or letters in the mail from universities requiring action on the student’s part – whether it be to complete their application, fill out financial aid information, submit health forms, finish class registration or sign up for orientation. This enrollment drop-off is informally referred to as “summer melt,” and it results in the university removing a student from their records.

For the incoming class of 2021, summer melt interventions are needed immediately. New data shows that 2020 low-income high school enrollment numbers were down 13 times from last year and high-minority high schools saw enrollment numbers drop more than tenfold.

But don’t “sweat” it. There’s something that you can do about it. Here are five ways you can help prevent summer melt and provide support to the low-income students that are affected the most.

#1 – Stay in touch.

Just because a student is accepted and confirms the offer, it doesn’t mean the recruitment process should end. Use social media like Facebook Live, Snapchat or Instagram campaigns to congratulate students, help them through the enrollment process, and allow them to ask any questions. You could also email them about things going on around campus, clubs they might be interested in, or resources available on campus. Also, videos are a great tool to personally welcome students to campus. Effective videos provide students with tips on what to bring when they arrive, show them around campus and much more. Weekly reminders to check their email or send in appropriate health records or financial aid documents can give those students that push to get things done and out of the way. There are available texting programs that make it easy and less time-consuming for counselors to implement this type of communications.

#2 – Simplify the process.

Have you ever looked at the process from the student’s eyes? Assess your enrollment and onboarding process and get a good perspective of what a student has to go through to finalize their enrollment. If you feel overwhelmed or confused, I guarantee your students are too.

#3 – Create a community of support.

This generation of incoming students value peer opinion over most other influencers. Creating an organic support system for incoming students will help remove barriers by allowing incoming students the opportunity to talk to each other and ask questions to others going through the same process. This will help decrease the stress of the entire process—especially for first-generation students.

At home, parents have been advised to meet with the graduating student for 20 minutes each week to discuss plans for college. The education department believes these meetings should continue in the summertime, and should focus on reviewing mail or forms the college has sent to the student.

#4 – Partner with government-funded programs.

Several programs across the country, like Gear Up Iowa, are working to increase the number of minority and low-income students that enter and succeed in their higher education journey. These programs are like “supporting families” that help plan, prepare and pay for postsecondary education.

#5 – Early college awareness groups.

These awareness programs can be really helpful in helping high school graduates with their enrollment. Many high school seniors rely on counselors to help them prepare. But one in five high schools in the country have no counselors. And the ones that do say they spend just 22 minutes with a student over their 4 years of high school. Some lower-income or first-generation students can have major issues navigating the enrollment process, and not having a counselor will cause the process to become overwhelming. 

At Geile/Leon, we understand Summer Melt and what it means to both the admissions and enrollment departments. A university client recently came to us wanting to help solve their summer melt problems. They needed support to help reach those accepted prospects and encourage them to complete the enrollment process. G/L developed a direct digital/social campaign to support the “final push” and create a sense of urgency in all materials. 

Through Geile/Leon’s five-step marketing approach, 25% of those targeted students completed their enrollment process. Assuming each of those students attend the university for four years, this will equate to over $5 million dollars in tuition. If you’re experiencing summer melt frustrations, give us a call. We can help.

References: National College Attainment Network Blog – “Stopping Summer Melt Starts in the Spring”, April 5, 2021
Comevo Blog – “How to Prevent Summer Melt”
Encoura Student Survey – “Enrolling Gen Z: What the Prospective Student Survey™ Tells Us About Pivoting to Serve the Next Generation”