Is your incoming freshmen class melting away? Increase your yield rate with these four simply tips.
Your students have taken the tests, gotten the grades, and were accepted to your university! So they compare their financial aid plans, put down their deposits, and accept their high school diplomas with pride.
But did you know that one in five of these students won’t actually end up going to your school, even if they put down a deposit? Here’s how to keep those students from melting away from you during the summer.
What Is Summer Melt?
According to the Harvard Center for Education Policy Research, summer melt is when seemingly college-bound students fail to enroll in a university the fall after graduation. This happens to 10 – 40% of college-intending students and they are more commonly from low-income backgrounds. Potentially, this means almost half of your enrolled prospective students could pay the deposit but not end up attending your school.
Shankar Vedantam, NPR correspondent describes the problem as a “leaky pipe.” He says, “There’s this whole group of low-income students who make it to college, they get in, they get financial aid, they’re clearly success stories, but the pipe’s leaky. And something happens in the last mile, the summer right before they go to college, and they don’t show up to college in the fall.”
Bad for Students
This is foremost bad for students. Uversity illustrated in their Summer Melt Webinar that high school graduates earn half that of their college-degree-holding peers. They are also twice as likely to be unemployed/underemployed. This creates a rift for both students and their families who began the road to higher education.
Some students participate in something known as “doubling down.” “Double deposits” occur when student submit deposits for multiple institutions before making a solid decision (or any decision). While many institutions like College Board point out this detrimental risk for students, it’s still a common action. According to Eduventures, “Some larger institutions estimate the number of double-deposited students to be as high as 75 students in an enrolling class.”
Bad for Institutions
Summer melt is highly problematic for the institution as well. It results in diminished enrollment numbers, “which for tuition-dependent institutions can have a sizable impact,” Diverse Education points out. The NACAC claims that some universities recruit students who have doubled down on their deposits, which results in further competition that you probably weren’t planning for. According to Eduventures, a deposit does not guarantee enrollment.
Why Do Students Melt?
Uversity cites a variety of reasons students melt, but most prominently these problems can be boiled down to the following:
The reality of going to college for many low-income students sets in around their high school graduation and continues throughout the summer as they receive notices for payments such as health insurance, deposit, school books and supplies, tuition, housing, travel, and even transcripts or further placement tests.
Lack of Support During This Major Transition
School counselors are often on leave during the summer. This can result in many transitioning students, especially low-income and first-generation incoming college students to lose that higher education momentum they had when they first tossed up their graduation caps.
Lack of On-Campus Connections
These students are about to embark on a major milestone in their lives to a new school, and often times a new state or even country, in which they don’t know many (if any) other students to bond with. This lack of connection with their new school can be daunting and cause students to melt in that liminal summer heat.
How Can You Stop Summer Melt?
1. Design a Battle Plan.
Before you can stop summer melt, you need to figure out which of the above reasons (and any outlier reasons as well) are present among your melting students. From there you can begin to construct your plan of attack.
Part of this plan could be hiring or engaging with a college transition and retention coach, such as Victor Bradford at the University of Missouri where she helps run the College Connection Center and advises college-bound students during their summer before college.
Diverse Education writer Karen Gross also says that preparation for preventing summer melt should begin before the summer even starts, around April and May “at the latest, once students have completed the FAFSA, been accepted to a college, compared financial aid packages and deposited.” Why should preparation begin then? Because that’s exactly when other supporters of these students believe that college is a sealed deal and from there, the melting begins.
2. Engage Students Early to Help Them Feel at Home.
Creating a space where students can feel at home at your institution before they’re even on campus will create a sense of loyalty. Many universities start this process when students are accepted to the university, which helps their yield rate along the way.
Eastern Kentucky University’s admissions office uses Snapchat to post about “Future Colonels” who have been accepted into the school and intend to attend in the fall. This can help build a solid community before students are even on campus.
3. Involve Your Current Students.
Your current students love your campus, right? Why not have them share that love and enthusiasm with accepted high school graduates? The incoming students are part of a new generation called Generation Z, and this new group of kids are the most likely of all the generations to be swayed by their peers.
Use this to your advantage by connecting your incoming students with current students via chat sessions, peer-to-peer programs, Facebook mentors and buddies, and even student ambassador programs.
A great example of connecting your incoming students with your current ones is Drexel University’s recent “Anti-Melt” online event where they engaged admitted Dragons with current Dragons in one-on-one chat sessions. This way incoming students were able to ask current students what typical class schedules could look like, what they could expect as freshman on campus, advice on eating on campus, and so much more!
Get these incoming students as involved as possible over the summer and let them know that they are more than welcome at your campus in the fall. That campus is their new home — help them feel like they belong.
4. Go Mobile!
According to a 2015 report by Common Sense Media, your teenage applicants are spending up to nine hours a day on their phones and other online media sources! They are used to googling any questions they have and going to social media platforms for advice on where to eat, what movies to watch, and even what fashion is in season.
Uversity explored this further in context of incoming students being in contact with their school. 86% of these students visited a school’s website on a mobile browser when reviewing college information. During both their decision-making period, 17% texted with someone from the university and 19% downloaded an app from the school in order to get more information or keep track of campus events.
Taking these statistics and mobile innovations into mind, schools like Eastern Michigan University and University of Denver took to the cellular era for help in decreasing melt among incoming students. What they found was astonishing: EMU and Denver app members were four times less likely to melt than non-app-members. This further illustrated how technology can sway the new generation and solidify their loyalty to their campus in the fall.
Keep Prospective Students Cool with Campus Connections
In order to help your future students start their new lives as a key part of your student body, you need to get them to campus in the fall. How do you do that? Stay in contact with them, support them during this transition with information and help with school, and connect your current students with your incoming students for an ultimately engaged and unified community.
Once students feel at home at school, they’ll never want to leave. Have them dreaming of their university home long after high school graduation by connecting them early on.
What are you doing to stop summer melt?