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10 ways to stop summer melt at your institution

How can you stop summer melt? Here are 10 tips to help you keep students engaged until September…

What is summer melt?

Summer melt is the term used to describe the phenomenon of prospective college students ‘melting away’ over the summer. According to research, an estimated 10-40% of high school students who intend to enroll in college never actually end up taking up their place.

They pay their deposit on the institution they plan to attend, they graduate from high school in spring, and they have every intention of enrolling for college in the Fall. But somewhere along the way they disengage.

stop summer melt

When does summer melt happen?

National College Decision Day is on May 1st. This is the day high school seniors have to get their deposits in and make a final choice on where they’re going to college. However, schools know that just because an admitted student makes a deposit it’s no guarantee they’ll matriculate.

Some students may have even paid deposits at a number of institutions and are still weighing up their options. It’s after this deadline on May 1st that schools really have to dial it up to prevent ‘melt’ from happening.

Why does it happen?

Summer melt happens for a number of reasons.

Often, it’s students from lower socio-economic backgrounds that are more likely to ‘melt’ over the summer vacation. For some, it may happen because the financial implications of going to college hit home, and they choose a more affordable institution – or opt not to go at all.

For others, it may be that the people that supported them in their college application, such as their high school counselors, are no longer accessible to them over the summer. They’re missing support, resources, and people who will nudge them to complete their application.

Reasons students may melt…

  • They no longer have access to high school counselors
  • Lack of guidance or support from parents/family
  • The cost of college is too much
  • Complex forms to complete for their application
  • Lack of access to technology
  • Already earning through summer/part-time job

How can you stop summer melt?

So, how can you stop it? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s about considering your audience and putting yourself in their shoes – what kind of information will they be looking for? What do they need? How can you showcase the kind of experience they can have as a student at your school?

It’s also about utilizing your technology stack to create fast, responsive, and personalized communications that will keep students engaged.

Read on for our ten tips for stopping summer melt at your institution…

1) Identify who’s most at risk

Which students are more likely to be at risk of summer melt? Research shows that students who are low-income, minority, and first-generation college students are more likely to be susceptible to summer melt than others. It’s, therefore, crucial to think about their specific needs and how you can ensure they feel engaged and supported in their journey.

Is it additional information about financial aid? Is it a regular text that checks in on them? Is it a one-on-one call with an enrolled first-generation student who can share their experience of studying at your school? Most importantly: don’t wait for students to reach out to you. You need to proactively put information in their hands to keep them engaged.

2) Embrace a multi-channel approach

According to reports around 75% of students in higher education can be considered non-traditional. They may be older. They may be studying part-time. They may live off-campus. If you want to enable wider participation in higher education you have to open up your communications. That’s why a multi-channel communication strategy is key.

For example, mature students may prefer email whereas younger students may get in touch via Instagram. Some students may be available to take calls during the day while others may prefer to interact with a chatbot in the evening. If you only communicate with them through one of two channels then you may miss whole cross-sections of students.

3) Be available for questions

The questions don’t stop when a student pays their deposit. In fact, there are probably even more questions, right? But ask yourself: do you have the resource in place to answer those questions? A lot of the time the answer is no – and that’s because teams are stretched and time is short. Plus, teams are only available during the core working hours of 9-5pm.

This is where technology can work hard for you. With a chatbot you can hand over a lot of the heavy lifting. A bot can intercept all of those high-volume, repetitive questions. It can answer inquiries that come in over the weekend. It can be there 24/7. A chatbot enables students to engage with you at the time of need, which is key to stopping melt.

4) Support them through the tricky stuff

No one likes filling out forms, especially complex college forms. However, there are ways to make this easier for students. Why not schedule live webinars where you can walk them through each step of the application process and answer any questions – or utilize a chatbot or live chat Q&A sessions so that students can find out what they need?

You can also send text reminders when things are due so there’s less chance of things being forgotten about, along with auto-generated texts once they complete each step. Just being there with a virtual high five will help students feel supported and stay engaged.

5) Use social media

Want to convince students your institution is the one for them? Social media is really important, especially as more than 80% of 18-29-year-olds use social media in North America. Social media is a great way to showcase what it means to be a part of your school community and what students could be a part of if they enroll at your institution.

And don’t be afraid of user-generated content. Students are often better ambassadors of their schools than admissions teams because they’re able to share that authentic, peer-to-peer perspective of what it’s like to be a student. Doing an Instagram live with two or three current students will be much more effective in building trust with prospects.

6) Make sure parents are looped in

College is a family decision. It involves a lot more people than simply the student themselves. However, families are often in the dark about what’s going on because that information isn’t shared with them by insitutions. Those emails you sent about your upcoming on-campus events? Parents might not even be aware they’re happening.

This feels like a missed opportunity, especially when three-quarters of students say that parents are highly influential in the decision-making process, which comes in second only to emails from colleges. Looping in parents increases the visibility of the information and gives you the opportunity to drive engagement with tailored, parent-specific content.

7) Use data to power personalization

We all know that students receive a high volume of communications from prospective schools. But a lot of those communications may be pretty generic. The communications that will cut through and be the most impactful are the ones that are tailored to the individual. You can only do that when you have meaningful data at your fingertips.

Great data enables you to build rich data pictures of prospective students, and that helps with personalization, segmentation, and all that good stuff. If you’ve been clever about collecting data about your admitted students then you’ll already know a lot about them. You can then use that to create an experience that looks and feels personal for them.

8) Add in personal phone calls

There will be a lot of pragmatic reasons why students choose to go – or not go – to a college. It may be to do with the financial implications. The location. How far away it is from family. However, amongst all this it’s also important to think about the emotional connection that you can create with admitted students that will make them feel like they belong.

Texts and emails are great, but if you include them in a multi-channel communication strategy alongside phone calls from current students then that’s even better, especially if you can match them on location, nationality, or area of study. A personal call where a prospective student can talk openly about any concerns they have is powerful.

9) Be fast, not last

Fast, responsive communications will make students feel like they matter to you. On the other hand, slow or impersonal communications may inadvertently say, ‘We’re not that fussed if you study here’, especially if other schools are getting in ahead of you. If you don’t want students to disengage and go elsewhere then there’s a real need for speed.

This is where workflows behind the scenes can help you out. If you set up a system that sends a welcome text and a follow-up email to every student that attends your preview day, that’s an immediate thumbs up. You’re essentially saying: we’re interested in you, we want you to come here, and we’re prepared to go the extra mile to make that happen.

10) Streamline communications

How responsive are you to messages that you receive? Students have more ways than ever to get in touch with you and keeping on top of it can be tricky for busy teams. When large volumes of inquiries are coming via different channels it can be trickier to keep on top of them… and that’s when messages may get missed and students may start to melt.

The good news is that when you use Gecko all the communications that you receive through different channels pull through to one handy inbox. No more having to check multiple different social platforms each day. With Gecko, you can respond to messages from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and chatbot and live chat. Nice!