Reducing “Summer Melt”
“Summer Melt” is a term traditionally used by college admissions officers to describe the phenomenon that students pay a deposit to attend a particular college but do not matriculate at that college the following fall. In The Forgotten Summer: The impact of college counseling the summer after high school on whether students enroll in college, Harvard researchers, Benjamin Castleman an Lindsay Page, provide insight into the percentage of students who, after being accepted into college, fail to actually enroll in any college following high school graduation. Their research identified:
- 10-20 percent melt nationally
- 21 percent melt in Boston, MA
- 22 percent melt in Fulton County Georgia
- 33 percent melt in Providence, RI
- 44 percent melt in the Southwest district in Texas
Some of the factors contributing to the failure of students to enroll into college were:
- Difficulty interpreting award letters and tuition bills
- Unanticipated costs (e.g., health insurance)
- Difficulty completing paperwork
- Lack of access to professional guidance
While the research suggests that schools can do more to support college-bound students during the summer immediately following high school graduation, it also suggests that faith-based and community organizations, fraternities, sororities, coaches, and others who are “connected” to students can play a significant role in guiding and supporting students following high school graduation through to college enrollment. The research caused me to reevaluate our role in the Turner Chapel AME Church Education Ministry. Although we have had a full range of college readiness and financial aid planning initiatives for several years, “Summer Melt” has not been one of the issues we have thought to consider. We have a large number of students who we have guided into college who return to participate in our annual college panel, however, we do not know if there are students who slipped through the cracks during the summer immediately following high school?
We can do more and we are committed to doing more.