Summertime is synonymous with melting and we can all envision a delicious ice cream cone quickly melting as we hurry to eat it before it becomes a puddle. Unfortunately, there’s another kind of melt that can happen over the summer that needs our collective attention: “summer melt”. It’s a term that education professionals use to describe the instance when students are accepted into college but never arrive in the fall. As educators and student advocates, there are several ways we can help students avoid this pitfall and get off to a strong start at college in the fall.
The same tools we used to communicate with students during the school year can be used to reach out to students during the summer to give tips or advice about starting college. School email accounts are a great communication tool for high schools’ staff to use to push out information and reminders.
Information & Resources
Knowing what is required to start college in the fall is critical. High school staff can reinforce the messages colleges are sending by familiarizing themselves with the process and promoting these activities with outbound seniors during the spring and summer:
- Email Accounts–Remind students to sign up for college email accounts, letting them know it is a great resource for important notices and information. Alert students to check their college acceptance letters for directions regarding how to access their online college account.
- Admitted Student Checklists– Most colleges have a task list for admitted students that clearly identifies tasks that must be completed, along with accompanying deadlines. Students should be directed to check the college website or do an internet search for “admitted student checklist” with the name of their college.
- Orientation– Encourage students/families to attend college orientation programs. They are designed to share important information with incoming students and families. Let families know that even though college websites have extensive information, orientation is one of the best ways for students to get first-hand information on the most important aspects of college. Additionally, students and families have access to staff who can answer questions specific to their circumstances.
Motivate and Excite Students
Starting a new journey and adventure can be exciting and scary at the same time. Helping students get excited will motivate them to complete the never-ending task list of requirements. Promote enthusiasm with students by nudging them to get involved:
- Joining Social Media sites– Encourage students to check out the school’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Schools have various social media platforms to get student connected and highlight upcoming events to kick off the school year. Specific residence halls sometimes have their own social media groups aimed at building relationships early.
- Getting Connected –Share strategies with students to assist them in feeling connected to their college. Strategies such as visiting campus, connecting with roommates, talking to alumni, purchasing college gear, and scouring the college website for interesting programs, projects, and opportunities will create excitement. When familiar high school staff send reminders promoting these activities, students are encouraged to reach out, get connected, and commit mentally, physically, and emotionally to their college.
As educators, we play an important role in students’ journey from high school to college. The relationships that were formed and nurtured over four years of high school can make a significant difference in supporting students during the summer as they gear up for college. By proactively providing support to students between graduation and the start of college, we can work together to help mitigate the summer melt.
Andrea Donegan is a school counselor advocating for students at Dyer Intermediate in her home state of Wisconsin. She is honored to serve as a 2019 School Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.