It happens all across the country—college-bound students fail to enroll in college post-high school graduation, or have been accepted to college and initiate the steps to attend, but don’t complete the process. This phenomenon, called “summer melt,” ranges from 10 to 40 percent of college-intending students, according to a national longitudinal study by Strategic Data Project at Harvard University. These rates are even higher among students from low-and moderate-income families; those with lower academic achievement; and high school grads intending to attend community colleges compared to those enrolling at a four-year college or university.
Causes of Summer Melt
There are many reasons for students’ motivations to “melt.” Here are just a few barriers to college enrollment:
- Students lacking resources such as high school counselors, or knowledgable family members, to help them complete the college acceptance and enrollment processes
- The absence of financial resources or understanding of the (admittedly confusing) financial aid process
- Not registering for classes on time
- Incomplete housing forms, or not securing the necessary housing to attend college
- Not taking the required placement tests, such as the Accuplacer
- Challenges and difficulty navigating online school portals, or a lack of internet access
- Students missing essential information and deadlines to complete forms on time
Benefits of attending college
Those who hold a bachelor’s degree earn on average nearly twice as much as high school graduates, and there are other benefits to going to college apart from an increased earnings potential. Attending college offers students with improved communication and analytical skills, an opportunity for personal growth and improved self esteem, and networking opportunities, among other benefits.
Staying on track
To combat summer melt, there are a number of tasks to complete during the summer after graduation.
- Solidify a college plan
- Enroll in college if you haven’t already done so
- Attend college orientation
- Complete financial aid applications
- Take any required placement exams if you haven’t already done so
- Log on to your college’s portal and set up an account
- Familiarize yourself with tuition bills and when they are due
- Review your student loan information
- Secure housing, whether on-campus or off
- Search and apply for scholarships to help fund your education
- Sign your college’s health insurance waiver if you are already insured, or sign up for school-offered health insurance
- Select your classes
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Students struggling to complete the tasks required to begin college have numerous resources available to them:
- College admissions office: Your prospective college is the best place to start when needing any additional information about college enrollment, completing documents, tuition payments, campus housing options, and more. They can also put you in touch with other departments such as the financial aid office to help answer specific financial funding questions, or academic advisors to inform you of how many credits are needed to earn a degree.
- High school counselors: Your high school’s college planning center can walk you through important deadlines and provide valuable advice on how to prepare for college. Some high school counselors are even available over the summer to help students review financial aid packages, complete required paperwork, or answer questions by phone, text messages, email, or even face-to-face.
- Online resources: From the admissions process, to financial aid, and beyond, Peterson’s blog features nearly 1,700 posts containing the information you need to navigate the college process. Our scholarship search makes it easy for you to filter available scholarship opportunities to help fund your education. Our college and graduate school search connects you to thousands of potential schools, while our test prep helps you prepare for college entrance, career, and licensure exams.
- Peer mentoring programs: Peer mentors provide guidance, insight, and motivation by sharing their own experiences with other students. Mentors often lend emotional support, help students set goals, and identify other resources.
- Teachers: Teachers are a great resource for students looking for college insight. Teachers can answer questions about what majors to pursue and review your college application essay.
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Designing a college plan, identifying and completing tasks while utilizing available resources when needed will help you accomplish your goal of going to college and set you up for success.