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Summer melt: Why 2024 is different and 13 steps you can take

June 4, 2024, By Lorianna Mapps, Senior Consultant and Principal, Enrollment Marketing Services Jeff Schiffman, Senior Strategic Leader, Enroll360

While summer melt has always been a critical concern for enrollment managers, the summer of 2024 presents unique challenges that make combating melt more important than ever. The difficult rollout of the new FAFSA has led to significant delays in filing, with submission rates lagging 20-30% behind prior years. Many students will not receive their financial aid packages until much later in the cycle. Missing financial aid packages are a major factor driving summer melt, as students are understandably hesitant to matriculate without clarity on how they will finance their education.

Learn more about EAB’s financial aid solution

In response, enrollment managers are anticipating a substantial increase in the need for financial aid counseling and support services to mitigate melt in Summer 2024. Progressive schools are already laying the groundwork for a summer of intense efforts to retain their incoming classes. However, addressing financial aid is just one piece of the puzzle. Effective strategies must also include seamless communication, robust community building, and innovative engagement techniques to ensure students remain committed to enrolling.

Here is a comprehensive list of strategies to address the unique challenges of summer melt in 2024.

13 Strategies to Combat Summer Melt This Year

Addressing Financial Aid Delays

  1. Financial Aid Outreach: Keep students informed about the status of their FAFSA and financial aid packages through regular updates. As you release financial aid packages, reach out to students and their families with an offer to explain the aid package. Transparency will help manage expectations and reduce anxiety.
  2. Dedicated Financial Aid Counselors: Assign specific counselors to work closely with students who have incomplete financial aid packages. Ensure these counselors are accessible and proactive in reaching out to students and their families. Consider designating time just for incoming students to receive financial aid help so they don’t have to complete with the larger current student population to have their questions answered.

Looking for more resources to support FAFSA submission? Check out EAB’s FAFSA Toolkit

Enhancing Communication

  1. Melt Mitigator Role: Build a robust summer communications plan for deposited students that goes beyond the transactional nature of enrolling in college. Appoint a dedicated staff member to oversee summer communications, ensuring consistency and clarity across all departments involved with incoming students. Ensure all communication, regardless of the campus department sending it, feels congruent and flows well. Remember: in the eyes of admitted students and parents, you are one single intuition.
  2. Summer Countdown Campaigns: Implement countdown campaigns that mix logistical reminders with positive, supportive messages to keep students engaged and excited without increasing their anxiety. Use current students as the sender of these messages to build familiarity with student leaders on campus. Ensure communication in the final week before move-in day is purposeful: consider tips for leaving home, addressing homesickness and tips for making the most out of the first few weeks of college.
  3. Listicles and Tips: Send regular emails with practical tips and lists, such as packing guides, study spots, and local attractions, to keep students informed and prepared.

Leveraging Technology

  1. Utilize Student Success Technologies: Implement platforms like Navigate360 that are designed to guide students and connect them with necessary support services. These platforms are often more effective than traditional admissions CRMs for managing the transition from applicant to matriculant.
  2. Identify Students Who Are Susceptible to Melting: Use technology to discover students with unmet need who have not set up a payment plan, students who submitted an enrollment deposit immediately after admission but have not opened an email in the last two months, or out-of-state students who have not submitted a housing application.

Community Building

  1. Local Engagement: Engage students with the local community by sharing social media content from popular local spots. Institutions often drive students to campus-branded social media, but what about that great coffee shop off campus that students frequent? Or the local state park that has a great social media presence? This helps students feel connected to their new environment before they arrive on campus.
  2. Peer Connections: Facilitate early connections between incoming students and current students through social media, virtual events, and organized meetups in the student’s local area.
  3. Virtual Events: Offer a variety of virtual events over the summer, such as fitness classes, gaming nights, and mental health webinars, to keep students engaged and connected.
  4. Open Campus Facilities: Allow incoming students to use campus facilities over the summer, such as libraries and recreational centers, to help them acclimate and feel part of the community.

Parent and Family Communication Strategies

  1. Parent Engagement: Host webinars and create resources specifically for parents, addressing their concerns and providing tips for supporting their children through the transition to college. Adress topics like homesickness, leaving home for the first time, and being an empty-nester head-on.
  2. Parent-to-Parent Tips: Gather and share advice from current parents to incoming families, creating a support network and easing the transition process.
  3. Highlight Cost Savings: Inform families about potential cost-saving measures like AP credits and early graduation options to alleviate financial concerns.

Check out this EAB blog for more on parent involvement in the recruitment process

By combining these strategies, schools can better manage the challenges of summer melt in 2024, ensuring that more students are prepared and committed to begin their college journey in the fall.

Lorianna Mapps

Lorianna Mapps

Senior Consultant and Principal, Enrollment Marketing Services

Read Bio
Jeff Schiffman

Jeff Schiffman

Senior Strategic Leader, Enroll360

Read Bio

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