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Summer Melt Woes: Why Your Prospective Students Are Melting

The Team At Value Based Inc.
Posted by  The Team At Value Based Inc.  on May 28, 2021 8:15:00 AM

Mitigating Summer Melt is a problem not for the fainthearted. According to research, the percentage of prospective students who melt away—do not enroll after completing an application and making a deposit—may be as high as 40% for some higher educational institutions. So what are the solutions? 

Summer Melt SM Stat (9)Research reveals between 6-40% of college-bound students encounter a range of obstacles during the post-high school summer that can lead them to change or abandon their college plans. (For comprehensive resources on Summer Melt—the problem and 7 actionable solutions, click here.) During this period, prospective students can become isolated and overwhelmed.

The bad news is that the numbers are high. The good news is that resolving this issue can roll back the current enrollment slump.

To resolve the Summer Melt challenge, higher education institutions will need to fully understand the four main types of prospective students that melt and the challenges they face that cause them to do so.

Who Is Most Likely To Melt?

1) First-Generation Students

Students from families with parents who have not graduated from college are considered "first-generation" and make up a large portion of the US population. According to a 2019 study by the Department of Education, 59% of children under the age of 18 live in households with parents who do not have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Typically, 40% of the melt at community colleges and 20% at four-year institutions is from first-generation students.

Why? In general, these prospective students share that since they no longer have the high school's support and their parents have not navigated the enrollment processes previously, they feel overwhelmed and at a disadvantage.

>> There are several ways to meet this group of prospective students' support needs. At a minimum, schools should institute additional support systems, simplify processes, and remove as many barriers to entry as possible. (We provide seven specific ways to do so in our free e-book and webinar, here.)


2) Low-Income Students

The chances of a prospective student from a low-income background or income-challenged background are estimated to be twice as high as for prospects who come from other backgrounds. (Many first-generation prospective students also fall into this category.) In the US, 18% of students under the age of 18 come from families living at or below the poverty line. These students face more financial concerns so their college intentions are more likely to be derailed by family and/or financial challenges. Examples are:

-  Difficulty filling out the FAFSA

-  Fees that might be considered nominal to others but are prohibitive to low-income families

-  Families that require them to contribute financially

Even before being disconnected from high school college counselors, the level of support these students may have received is affected by under-resourced high schools. These counselors may be handling up to 900 students at a time with little ability to spend one-on-one time with students who need it most, resulting in less support in SAT preparation, college coaches, essay writing, and more.

>> There are several ways to meet this group of prospective students' support needs. At a minimum, schools should institute additional support systems at early opportunities, solidify relationships with high school counselors, simplify processes, streamline fees, offer transition periods, and remove as many barriers to entry as possible.


3) Generation Z Savvy Consumers

The generation born in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, called Generation Z, are savvy consumers and given a bad rap for not being loyal to a brand. (81% are willing to switch from their favorite brand if they find a similar product at higher quality.) Competitive students, those with friends disbursing to other colleges, or those simply hedging their bets, make deposits at multiple institutions, usually of similar perceived quality. With this mindset, a Generation Z student with credentials to get admitted into multiple quality institutions is likely to keep their options open until the very end.

It is estimated that, per larger institution, an average of 75 prospective students have double-deposited.

>> To mitigate the loss of these brand-savvy students, an institution has to be THE BRAND that stands out amongst the pack—earlier and longer than the competition.


4) Out of Area/Out of State Students

Even without a pandemic wrecking on-campus events and sidelining the normal relationship-building process, moving away from home for the first time—with all its normal unknowns—has always been a daunting prospect for many. COVID-19 has only made things more difficult to navigate and more difficult to build the relationships that offset these natural fears.

Research has shown that if a student has connections with nine or more people after being admitted, they are 93% more likely to attend that institution.

Additionally, prior to COVID, many institutions included parents in relationship-building events and communications, knowing that if parents felt confident in an institution this would likely be communicated to the prospective students. The loss of parental support has impacted many an institution's Summer Melt woes.

>> To allay fears and involve parents, an institution should innovate the ways they build relationships with prospects, utilizing everything from technology to personnel to ensure these prospective students (and their families) feel a strong connection and familiarity with an institution's campus life.


These kinds of numbers make it difficult to predict true incoming enrollment numbers. Our experts at Value Based are former VPs of Enrollment, enrollment team leaders, and higher education consultants who have worked with institutions to understand which types of prospective students they are losing, exactly WHY they are losing them, and steps to take to decrease Summer Melt. These tactics are explored in our free webinar recording and e-book (found here) at a high level.

We'd love to explore how we can help you minimize your melt. Please feel free to call us at 800.597.1873 or email us at infous@valuebased.com. Schedule a call to discuss how to: 1) research and conduct a lost-student analysis; 2) give a prescription for pre-empting melt; 3) train your counselors on how to respond to calls and emails from melting prospective students.


Topics: innovate higher ed, admissions, enrollment, Summer Melt