Let the Snow Melt … Not Your Students!

Summer melt is the all-too-common term we use in higher ed enrollment to describe when a prospective student applies, gets accepted, makes plans to enroll … and then doesn’t show up! Year-over-year data consistently show that up to 40 percent of admitted students to an institution “melt,” with first-generation and lower-income students especially impacted by the phenomenon.

Prospective students get knocked off course for numerous reasons including lack of support from friends and family, missed deadlines, and lack of finances. From now through the summer months, continued support for your accepted students is invaluable! 

To combat melt, ensure you’ve made connections and built trust with your students. Once you’ve made the connection, provide your students with the support, tools, and knowledge to persist into that first day of class. From now until fall, it may behoove you to touch base with your students monthly to address any hesitations, close any knowledge gaps, and keep them on track with any outstanding steps to enrollment.  

“It takes a village” is a phrase I think is useful in higher education. Make sure everyone on the frontlines talking to students is knowledgeable on the steps to enrollment … or knows the person or resource to point the student to.  

Some of the most common obstacles a student and/or parent faces include: 

  • Calculating the costs of college and budgeting 
  • Understanding financial aid offers 
  • Signing up for and attending orientation 
  • Placement tests 
  • Dealing with paperwork such as housing forms 
  • Registering for classes 
  • Transportation 
  • Access to the internet during the matriculation process 

Aside from making your student-facing teams aware of and knowledgeable on the information their students may ask for or need, how else can we focus our attentions to helping students show up in the fall? Here are five:

No. 1 – Engage Students One Step, Or One Focus at a Time

Try not to overwhelm students with a laundry list of to-do items. Instead keep them focused on bite-sized tasks. Create a communication plan that will lead students through the enrollment checklist one step at a time.  

No. 2 – Connect with Parents

Messaging and events that are geared toward or include parents and other stakeholders will assist in keeping momentum through to fall. 

No. 3 – Peer Mentor Outreach

Utilize your peer mentors to create success stories or even use them to outreach to your incoming class.  

No. 4 – Utilize Social Media

Quick questions you know students will ask, like financial aid, choosing classes, etc. can be highlighted on your social media. Create posts with links to helpful information or, for longer processes try holding live virtual sessions or recording sessions and linking to them through social as well.  

No. 5 – Hold In-Person Events (And Promote Them)

Events allow students to step onto campus, get that new student excitement in their bones, and potential to make connections prior to class start.  

Melt not only affects our enrollment numbers, the scenario holds a special place in my enrollment manager heart. When prospective students spend time researching schools and programs and filling out forms and essays only to get knocked off course before the “big game,” it breaks my heart! Stopping melt is important for all stakeholders, and at the end of the day, we’re all here to help our prospective students reach their goals.

Let’s make sure we help them stay cool to their first class!

By Cat Hollands, Client Trainer, Capture Higher Ed