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summer melt solution

The Summer Melt Solution No One is Talking About

Enrollment managers have worked to protect enrollment numbers from summer melt in many ways. Here’s one science-backed strategy that you may be missing.

Summer melt is not a new problem, and for many enrollment leaders the need to combat it has necessitated countless creative recruitment and engagement programs over the years. With the changes to the NACAC Code of Ethics and Professional Practices as well as other recent trends in college admissions, we’re all expecting summer melt to be a continued and increasing challenge.

Based on our work with hundreds of college partners, we think there is a strategy for tackling summer melt that schools are potentially missing: engaging incoming, deposited students early (before they start) with financial aid incentives. 

The financial aid structure today is generally focused on giving out financial aid and scholarships immediately after a student is accepted into an institution. But what happens to students after they deposit? 

Without continued encouragement and engagement, these students are vulnerable to summer melt. We’ve found that the strongest factors influencing the summer melt trend are: 

  • Lack of support: Students are unaware of their support system at their chosen institution; they don’t have a personal connection to someone at the institution and are no longer connected to counselors from high school. 
  • Overwhelming task lists: Students face cumbersome checklists of things to do over the summer, including many tasks that they have never encountered.
  • Low institutional commitment: many students have alternate options, so without high engagement with your institution, they may end up going elsewhere. 
  • Financial variables:  This is a common difficulty for students and parents, including receiving aid, interpreting bills, and financing extras (books, insurance) or gaps.

Lower-income students are more susceptible to melt: 13% compared to 8% wealthier peers; and community colleges are disproportionately impacted by melt – up to 40% of intents compared to 20% at four-years (Castleman & Page, 2014).

The Solution 

To address these challenges, RaiseMe is introducing a framework that lets you connect with incoming students using financial aid incentives. By engaging with students to proactively address summer melt factors, you can prevent it altogether—helping you achieve your enrollment goals and ensuring every student has the opportunity to get a great education at your institution.

This solution leverages RaiseMe’s unique micro-scholarship model based on the widely accepted psycho-behavioral “nudge theory”. This allows your institution to use both nudge theory and financial incentives to influence students’ behavior, which can ultimately influence their engagement with your institution. Not only will you introduce students to your campus activities and support services, you will motivate them to complete key engagement and preparatory activities. Think of it as gentle nudges for students to help them get to their first day of classes and set them up to be successful.

Nudging helps students learn more about your school, increase their commitment and social support, and work through the cumbersome steps of enrolling—all milestones that help prevent summer melt.

Here are some examples of micro-scholarship activities to address summer melt factors: 

  • Administrative tasks such as form completions, guest/parent portal access 
  • Support programs, pre-orientation programs, and  on or off-campus events 
  • Financial tasks like financial counseling appointments, FAFSA submission, or verification processes
  • Academic advising and engaging with faculty or an advisor 

Want to talk about how your institution can address summer melt? Contact RaiseMe here or reach out directly to your Partner Success Manager.

Mary Walsh is a college partners associate and works with current and prospective partners. Mary went to the University of San Francisco and got her start working in higher education right here at RaiseMe. For fun, Mary loves to write, do yoga and hang out with her friend’s pug.

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