For many college admission offices one of the hardest parts in the admissions cycle is just now beginning. Over the next three months, 20 percent of incoming freshman will succumb to “summer melt” – the failure to enroll in college after high school graduation even though they paid the initial deposit to attend on May 1. Here are five things you need to be aware of when dealing with summer melt.
Lack of financial aid is responsible for half of summer melt. A number of students each year fail to file for the FAFSA in time to meet their individual schools priority deadline and as a result “miss out on some types of aid and receive their aid packages and award letters later in the summer. A substantial number of low-income students are also flagged for the verification process, which can further delay the financial aid timeline.”
Prospective community college students are most at risk. According to Ben Castleman, assistant professor of education and public policy at the University of Virginia and author of — “Summer Melt: Supporting Low-Income Students Through the Transition to College”, 40 percent of high school graduates planning to attend community college fail to enroll.
Low income and first generation students are next at risk for summer melt. According to Castleman, these students are at risk for not enrolling for several related reasons. They are often the first in their families to attend college and their families are unable to help them complete the necessary paperwork needed to enroll including placement tests, dorm arrangements, and health care coverage. In addition, house school counselors that may have assisted them through the application process are no longer available to them to provide assistance after graduation.
Text reminders to incoming freshman increases enrollment. In a program aimed at increasing enrollment rates, Castleman and Lindsay C. Page, at the University of Pittsburgh, developed an automated text messaging program to remind high school students of their upcoming college deadlines. They found that students who received the texts were 70 percent more likely to enroll than the students who did not receive text reminders.
Building bridge programs for at risk incoming freshman may help improve enrollment outcomes. Cohen College Prep, a public high in New Orleans focused on college prep, has instituted a summer bridge program for its recent graduates to help prevent summer melt and build social bonds among students so they can provide support for each other at college in the fall. This is just one of several initiatives the school has instituted to ensure that its graduates not only start college but also that they successfully graduate from college.