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How to Reduce Student Summer Melt in Higher Ed


It’s never been more important to have a strategy in place to reduce melt.

The effect of summer melt on enrollment is still unclear. And there is no reliable measure. Even deposits, which are usually a good indicator of how fall enrollment will look, are unreliable as we phase back into some level of normalcy.

But, whatever the number, it won’t be something to ignore. According to NPR, more than 1 million fewer students are in college since before the pandemic began.

With so much uncertainty, having a strategy in place to reduce melt this summer will be more important than ever. Communicating with your students, recognizing their unique circumstances, and making up for those missed opportunities will prove essential for institutions. 


In this time, you can’t over-communicate

It’s really important that the opportunity to connect with a peer is highlighted across communications. Having the opportunity to speak to someone makes a huge difference and can be the difference between choosing to enroll or defer.

And students have even more questions and concerns given their current situation—that matters more than ever.

Regular contact, or at least the opportunity to have regular contact, will help give these students more confidence and at least the semblance of control. And all of us know that when we feel we have control over our decisions, we feel less anxious and more motivated.


Different students will be affected differently

You know well that every student is an individual, and their unique circumstances will also come with unique challenges. Those individual characteristics should be on your radar.

For your first-gen students, the coronavirus may have enhanced that feeling of being “cut off” from the school they’re planning to attend. Make sure you’re communicating with them and offering them mentorship and guidance for preparing to enroll in the fall.

Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, students from ethnic minority groups, and students with disabilities will likely continue to have concerns about starting college this fall—particularly around their health and wellbeing. Making sure they are empowered with relevant information is essential. 

And of course, we can’t possibly exclude the needs of international students. While US international enrollment amongst new students is up by two-thirds from the 2020/21 academic year to 2021/22, overall international student enrollment has not yet stabilized.


Reduce melt by making up for missed opportunities 

You already know that campus tours are important. They have a proven impact on yield and on reducing melt. 

By why? There is, of course, a practical element. Students want to see a campus to ensure it meets their expectations and needs. They may want to see that the dorms are close to the classrooms, there is study space for everyone, or that the sports facilities are up to par. 

But much more importantly, there is the emotional element. This is what’s sometimes called the “sense of belonging” that students gain from these sorts of events.

It’s about seeing the campus and figuring out whether they can imagine themselves living there. But it’s also about meeting their fellow applicants and prospective students, and the current students whose shoes they will fill. The small interactions with a campus tour guide can be essential for developing that sense of belonging. 

Make sure you are replacing these key touchpoints with digital alternatives—virtual events (we have a whole blog on top tips for running those), the opportunity to chat with a current student or staff member, and even student-generated content that paints an authentic picture of campus life.

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