Higher Education
Student Support

Five questions to ask yourself to make sure students make it to the first day of school

Are you getting past the rush of commencement season, only to realize that you haven't had time to create a plan to prevent summer melt? These five questions can help you reframe and prioritize summer melt and make sure the students on your enrollment list are the students on your campus come fall.

Question 1: Am I focusing on yield early enough each year?

Between high school graduations and college commencement at your own institution, it’s a challenge to play the long game and concentrate your efforts on yield for the fall. This is where planning ahead can help. It’s important to start thinking about summer melt well before you hit the hectic commencement season. This will help ensure that you’re prepared with a communications and support plan to keep those just-graduated high school students enrolled — all the way through their first day on campus. Focusing on yield throughout the year can eliminate the scramble each spring to prevent summer melt.

Question 2: Do I fully understand the reasons behind summer melt at my institution?

According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), an estimated 10 to 40 percent of graduating high school seniors intending to enroll in college never complete that commitment, leaving you with empty seats (and a loss of revenue) once the fall term begins. Summer melt disproportionately impacts first-generation students, students of color, and students from low-income backgrounds. If you guessed “finances” as the main reason, you’re right. Understanding and being able to maneuver through the financial aid maze is a huge, often insurmountable barrier for many students — especially those who are going through this on their own, with no friends or family to explain the college process.

To help mitigate this, provide financial aid explainer documents using plain language and step-by-step instructions. Offer online sessions with a financial aid advisor who can explain the process and answer questions — both for the students and their families — building a rapport between the students and your school in the process. And if enrolled students ultimately end up not showing up for school in the fall, ask them why, then log that information in a database to look for trends you can address.

Question 3: How are we nurturing our enrolled students to keep them in the loop?

Once a student has said yes to your school, it’s time to go all-in with nurturing that relationship. Keep in mind that most, if not all, students are anxious and nervous about taking this monumental step in their lives. It’s your job to help put them at ease and let them know they’re making the right decision. In a recent blog post, InsideTrack Enrollment Coach Thalia Garcia-Aguilar provided a wealth of information — and actionable checklists — on keeping the connection going when nurturing students through enrollment.

Remember that for students of all types, the need to fit in and belong is often the key to their higher ed success. To that end, be sure and connect them to campus clubs, intramural sports, social media pages designed for incoming students and anything else that will make them feel like they’re part of the campus — well before classes begin. If you have a strong alumni network, consider having alums meet with prospective students at informal meet-and-greets in their towns. If you know what types of activities the incoming student is interested in, have someone from a related part of your organization — student government, the environmental club, Frisbee golf — reach out directly. The more you can help your enrolled students feel like they’re part of your school community, the better the odds you’ll see them during orientation.  

Question 4: Are we being clear and consistent in our communications to students?

Between their high school graduation (if not before) and their first day of college classes, students are bombarded with all kinds of communications from your school. Great. But have you stopped to really think about all the ways in which different departments communicate with them — via emails, letters, phone calls, texts — and the ways in which those messages come across? Some of these communications will be personalized, from support staff in campus life or housing, for example. Other communications will be more generic, from the university, with information about enrolling for classes and financial aid. And some of them will overlap, providing duplicative or even conflicting information. Put yourself in the shoes of the student — particularly the students most likely to melt. How can you make these communications more compelling, friendly, and clear?

In short, consistency is key. Not only with the messaging, but with the tone and voice. Just-graduated high school students are anxious enough without getting emails and letters that sound like they’re coming from Big Brother. Keep things friendly and conversational, like you’re speaking to your own high schooler or a friend. Communication can be professional and still be friendly. And make sure you have clearly defined ways for the student to reach out if they have questions or need clarity. No one wants to hunt to find contact information, including the name of the person who will help them.

Question 5: Does our team have all the support systems in place we need to succeed?

Perhaps the biggest challenge to focusing on melt is having the bandwidth to add this to your already long list of student support issues. As you take stock in your current enrollment efforts, are there gaps where something’s not getting done — or you wish you could do more? Are there missed opportunities or areas where things could be improved? If you could use some extra support, we’re here to help! InsideTrack Enrollment Coaches have the skills, expertise, and most important, rapport to build relationships with prospective and enrolled students. Working on behalf of your college or university, the coach is there to answer questions, provide information and allay concerns. But that’s just part of the story. InsideTrack coaches work to build the knowledge, skills and beliefs that will help prepare students to show up on the first day of classes, ready to succeed. Along the way, they also help the students maximize your available campus resources, and prepare students on how to deal with challenges that will come up along the way. All designed to make sure students start strong and continue on their path to completion.

Interested in hearing prospective student pain points about the enrollment experience? In our on-demand Coach Roundtable Webinar, five InsideTrack enrollment share their insights — including the frequently asked questions partners ask the most.

Coaching solutions proven to advance all learners

Whether you’re looking to help students persist through completion or to improve career outcomes for job seekers and employees, our holistic coaching solutions can help you achieve meaningful outcomes.