Summer is here, and many newly graduated high school seniors are preparing for their postsecondary journey. But the pressure of keeping up with the checklist of items to complete before their first year in college – registering for classes, buying books, taking placement exams, finalizing financial aid – can cause some students to “melt away” before the semester begins, even though they have officially enrolled in a higher education institution.

According to the US Department of Education, as many as 20 percent of college-bound students nationally melt away during the summer before their first semester of college. While many tend to associate summer melt with four-year institutions, research has shown that melt can reach almost 40 percent for students planning to go to community college, and the lower students' income is, the more likely they are to melt.

At a time when community college enrollment is on the decline, community colleges can’t afford the negative effect summer melt can have on their yield. Here are five tips that can help minimize summer melt.

Partner with local school districts.

K-12 administrators can gather information about student intentions much more easily than community college staff, but cannot as easily get students to take advantage of available college support offerings, understand specific college processes and deadlines, and provide staff support for summer outreach.

Work with high schools to find ways to bridge that gap for incoming students. Soliciting help from current community college students for summer outreach, for example, could provide needed resources to the high schools and lead to longer term ways to engage students into and beyond their first year of college.

Engage with high school counselors.

After students are accepted, they must complete a number of tasks to successfully start college. Many of these tasks may be challenging for students who no longer have access to their high school counselor and whose families may lack experience with the college-going process. 

Many school counselors implement a host of initiatives and interventions during the school year to support their students through the college admissions, financial aid, and enrollment process. Communicate with school counselors often about your college’s procedures and ways they can support students through their transition to college. The more informed school counselors are about the steps students need to take before stepping foot on campus, the more they can prepare students during the time they have with them before graduation. 

Target your communications.

Make sure students receive information that they need, not what you think they want. Show them what needs to be done to stay on track: send communications about specific deadlines to students who haven’t submitted forms, highlight events that are happening on campus based on student interests, or even consider sending text messages that provide personalized and automated content to students. This personalized content will be consumed more than content that looks like it was blasted out to everyone in a database.

Don’t forget parents.

Students who talk with their parents about going to college are more likely to enroll than are those whose parents aren’t as involved in the conversation. Communicate important information to students and parents, and encourage parents to help ensure their children are staying on track.

Stay focused on student success beyond the first year.

Research shows that summer melt interventions can increase a student’s ability to complete his or her first year and increase the likelihood that students will enroll and persist into their second year. But don’t let your hard work stop once students matriculate. Technology solutions like Starfish by Hobsons can help students overcome obstacles and foster positive, informed decision-making about programs of study, course sequencing, and college-life balance, as well as help community college staff facilitate a strategic approach to encourage students to reach their academic goals.

Learn more about what community college leaders are saying about challenges facing community colleges. Download report.


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