Note: This article was originally published May 2017. Due to recent demand, we are re-issuing this piece. 

Your admissions team has worked hard to attract applications. You’ve got a healthy acceptance rate so far — but when fall arrives, will those students turn up?

According to Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page, authors of “Summer Melt,” one in five students never shows up on their chosen college’s doorstep. Nationally, about 10 to 20 percent of college-eligible students melt away; and in parts of the Southwest, as many as 44 percent of students melt away.1

A number of factors influence a student’s likelihood of following through with enrollment. Some students may decide upon a more prestigious or selective institution than the one to which they had committed. More frequently, however, students encounter one or more of the following barriers.2

Causes of Summer Melt

  • Low income
  • Lack of resources and support
  • Difficulty interpreting award letters and tuition bills
  • Unanticipated costs (e.g., health insurance) that affect college-going decisions
  • Difficulty completing paperwork
  • Lack of access to professional guidance

To combat summer melt, colleges can and should reach out to accepted students over the summer. Not only will you help your students meet deadlines, but industry experts also consider it a good investment in relationship building.

A 2014 Southern Regional Education Board report included insights into the costs of three types of outreach: proactive advisors, peer mentors and texting. While texting comes in at a fraction of the cost of the other two, the required investments for such a strategy — a customer relationship management system (CRM) and associated training — can be intimidating for schools. Even so, Collegis Education sees long-term benefits to CRMs. CRMs can play a large role in managing relationships throughout the student lifecycle as well as providing your college with data analytics tools that can improve budget planning and data-driven decision making.

The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) reported that 64% of colleges surveyed used at least one CRM in 2014.3

 Outreach Methods and Costs

  • Proactive Advisor Outreach: $200/student

Advisors monitor variables such as which students have followed through with registering for courses. If a student misses a deadline, an advisor may reach out with a personal call to the student.

  • Peer Mentor Model: $80/student

College-aged peer mentors connect with newly accepted students to provide assistance in interpreting registration instructions or other basic college related tasks.

  • CRM generated text messages: $7/student

The college’s CRM is programmed to automatically send a text message to newly accepted students. Texts may contain answers to frequently asked questions or reminders of upcoming deadlines.4

Collegis recommends a mix of outreach tools, including walk-in office hours, website optimization, and a variety of engagement methods (e.g., email, phone, texting, social media and even Facebook Messenger).

Tips for Texting

  • Because texting invites an immediate response, staff should plan on being available to respond to students after school-initiated texts are sent.
  • Customize text message content with institution-specific info when possible; use email as follow-up.5
  • Texting is effective even when automated.6

Tips for General Updates and Reminders

But when should colleges reach out, and with what type of information? We suggest reaching out with basic reminders, such as when tuition is due. Tuition deadlines are usually the same for all students, so this type of reminder could be posted to the school’s Facebook page in addition to being sent as an email or text message.

Some reminders require more fluidity in that they are more progress related, rather than dependent on a specific calendar date. This might include questions about how to submit ACT scores, or how to complete a financial aid form. When students can easily find the answers to these questions on your website, they are less likely to encounter roadblocks.

Tips for Student-Friendly Functionality

Additionally, why not create a user-login feature on your website that allows students to complete and save forms? Another useful tool is an interactive checklist that guides the student through enrollment preparation. Allow the student to check off each task as they go. Program the form with automated email or text reminders. Bonus points for the college if the admissions team can follow individual student progress. We’ve heard from our partner schools that it makes a difference when a staff person follows up with a student who has not logged into the system for a week or so, or has missed a deadline.

Frequently Needed Information and Suggested Platforms

Frequently Needed InformationSuggested Platforms
Tuition DeadlinesWebsite, Facebook, Text
Tax Information/FAFSA QuestionsWebsite, Interactive Checklist
Dormitory Housing RulesWebsite
Campus Housing ApplicationsWebsite, Interactive Checklist, Facebook, Text
Orientation Date, Time and LocationEventbrite or Facebook Events, Text

 

A Little Goes a Long Way

As with most tools, their effectiveness comes down to how they are used. If your school does not yet have a CRM, do your best with the tools you have. If a CRM is available, check to ensure the settings have been optimized to capture the results that will make a difference to your team. Then, set aside time for your admissions staff to upgrade their CRM operating skills. Even a little training may go a long way.

Sources:

[1] Ceja, Alejandra (12 July 2013). “Summer Melt,” U.S. Department of Education, Retrieved from https://blog.ed.gov/2013/07/summer-melt/

 [2] Chewning, Alexandra  (2014 ). “Strategies to Address Summer Melt,” Southern Regional Education Board. Retrieved from http://publications.sreb.org/2014/StrategiesToAddressSummerMelt.pdf

[3] American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (2014). “2014-2015 State of CRM Use in Higher Education Report,” Retrieved from http://www.aacrao.org/docs/default-source/PDF-Files/state-of-crm-use-in-higher-education-report_bw.pdf?sfvrsn=2

[4] Chewning, Alexandra  (2014 ). “Strategies to Address Summer Melt,” Southern Regional Education Board. Retrieved from http://publications.sreb.org/2014/StrategiesToAddressSummerMelt.pdf

 [5] Chewning, Alexandra  (2014 ). “Strategies to Address Summer Melt,” Southern Regional Education Board. Retrieved from http://publications.sreb.org/2014/StrategiesToAddressSummerMelt.pdf

 [6] Ravipati, Sri (7 March 2017). “Using AI Chatbots to Freeze Summer Melt in Higher Ed” Campus Technology. Retrieved from

https://campustechnology.com/Articles/2017/03/07/Using-AI-Chatbots-to-Freeze-Summer-Melt-in-Higher-Ed.aspx