Avoiding Summer Melt City: How Your Institution Can Beat The Heat

Recruitment & Enrollment | Best Practices in Higher Ed | Admissions Marketing |

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Many higher education institutions said 'goodbye' to the school year with graduation ceremonies and open houses, and 'hello' to the highly anticipated summer months. These coveted months of summer mean vacations, trips to the beach, and long days of lounging by the pool, right? Not exactly. For many administrators in college admissions, “chilling” isn’t really an option during the summer. We can take the Olaf approach with a drink in our hand, continuing to work on our gorgeous tans, but that idea sounds like a one-way ticket to Melt City.

Olaf Summer

Summer Melt is a nightmare for many schools. USA Today stated that anywhere between 10% to 40% of students in the U.S. will melt, or in other words, back out of their original college plans in order to attend a different institution. It happens everywhere, and typically when you least expect it.

There are several factors that cause students to melt. It’s reported that many of these students are noted as being minority students, low-income students, and first-generation students. For the majority of these students, though, financial aid and the process that comes with it is quite a shocker. When hit with this information later in the search process, this creates immediate stress and discomfort for students, potentially causing them to look for an alternative plan.

“Financial aid seems to be the biggest reason why students change their mind,” says Travis Reber, a high school college and career counselor in Indianapolis. “It would truly be beneficial if students and families knew this information earlier on in the process. Not only out-of-pocket costs, but also more detailed information about student loans if a student or parent is utilizing a loan to pay for their education – i.e. amount of loan debt after graduation, monthly payment amounts, etc. The more detailed information colleges can provide earlier in the process, the more students and families can ensure they are making an educated decision on that institution.

Harrison Campbell, Dean of Admissions at Oakland City University in Oakland City, Indiana, also understands the difficulties students face while deciding on a school.

“Over the years I have witnessed several students cancel their decision to attend college solely based on fear,” said Campbell. “Whether it’s the fear of paying for college, leaving the security of home, or making the right college choice, the emotion of fear will grow for many students during the summer months.”

Student Summer College Campus

That anxiety can be fought, he said, by addressing the topic of fear early and often in the recruitment process. In past recruiting cycles, he’s provided resources and support to help students overcome this fear, especially during the melt months. Things like summer events, postcard series, and even utilizing faculty members to connect with students helped his incoming class eliminate that fear and continue their excitement for Oakland City.

We also know that students talk to each other, and in those conversations, “real” talk occurs. Discussions about where to live, eat, and hang out on campus are brought up, and in those discussions, our fear kicks in because we know that real talk can be good AND bad. So, how do we monitor the “real” talk while still keeping it real?

Consider private mobile communities like Schools App. Since students are on their phones now more than ever before, we know that social media platforms and other interactive apps are key to the college search process. Schools App, powered by TargetX, is a university-branded mobile community that connects incoming students with university staff and one another to encourage enrollment and continued engagement. It allows universities to nurture prospective students, target those who are on the fence, and predict a student's likelihood to enroll. It also builds an engaged community before students even arrive on campus to ease the transition to college  keeping students connected to each other and their university.

George Mason University, located in Fairfax, VA, was feeling the pressures of summer melt. They knew they needed a solution that would engage students in a new way, and more specifically, a way that would encourage stronger communication. They chose to implement Schools App and the results paid off.

Student Using Schools App at The Gym

“Students who join Schools App are [now] about four times more likely to enroll at George Mason than those who don’t join,” said Matthew Boyce, Director of Enrollment Management. “This product [also] makes my team more efficient because of things like Schools App keyword alerts. Now, we can actually dive into conversations with students based on something that they’ve said. Just one singular keyword, such as ‘scholarships,’ or the phrase ‘I’m from California,’ can help staff members identify which students to engage with and how. For example, a student having the conversation that ‘she would love to attend our school but doesn’t have enough scholarship dollars’ can be targeted to see if there is a solution.”

Learn how George Mason University beat summer melt and grew their out-of-state freshmen enrollment rates by an impressive 60% using Schools App to better engage this population!

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We all know that summer melt will occur, but with proper planning and helpful tools like Schools App, we can consider the rest of this summer a “chill” one.