Put the Freeze on Summer Melt and Keep Your Enrollees Attending

By Josh Barrer | Published June 22, 2020 | Categories: Social Media , Higher Education

Summer's here, and it's going to be a hot one. And what happens when it's hot? Melting.

person-holding-vanilla-ice-cream-on-cone-1979749.jpgOf course, we're not just talking about popsicles or the ice in your drink (though watch out, those may be melting too), we're talking about the phenomenon known as "summer melt," when students who have been accepted at and enrolled in colleges don't end up attending in the fall. Research suggests that as many as a third of high school graduates who plan to attend college never arrive, and that's in a typical year. 

And this year... well, it's not typical.

 With COVID-19 closing many campuses and forcing students to take their learning online, this year's summer melt could be larger than ever. In fact, in a poll conducted by student portfolio platform Cirkled In, 87% of surveyed admissions officials said they expect melt rates to go up. 

Students entering college this fall are facing some unprecedented challenges. If their campus is open, then they will be putting themselves at potential risk of exposure to the coronavirus. And if their chosen campus isn't open and classes are moving online, they may be facing a college experience significantly different than what they dreamed of and worked for. Plus, typical melt-inducers - like tuition concerns, complicated paperwork, and a lack of support - are still very real. 

So what can you do to ensure your enrollees show up at your school this fall and keep the (metaphorical) ice pop from melting all over your hands? We've got six ideas to help you out.

  • Bring Orientation Home

  • Help Them Connect

  • Provide Mentors

  • Stay in Contact

  • Keep it Simple

  • Don't Forget the Family

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Bring Orientation Home 

During a normal year, on-campus orientation programs are important for slowing melt. But campus visits and large gatherings are likely to be off the table this year. Still, don't give up on this important step. Live streams, group calls, and virtual tours can give your students a sense of your campus and give them a chance to speak to school officials face to face. 

More importantly, by creating and implementing an orientation module on your website, you bring your enrollees a personalized orientation experienced that they can navigate from home. Filled with content tailored for them, it can guide enrollees through all the standard steps of starting college and keep them engaged and feeling special. (Interested in a module like this? Beacon can help build it for you!)

Help Them Connect 

Male student with laptopCOVID-19, and the social distancing enacted to contain it, is isolating. It's true for everyone. And that isolation hits even harder for new college students who are already being pulled from their comfort zones. Help them cope and connect with your school and other new students on your school's social media channels, and use social to inform them about school events that kick off the year, share important info, and even highlight stories of other successful students.

(Note: though it's important to maintain a presence on all of the standard channels, like Instagram and Twitter, studies show that today's teens are not especially fond of or active on Facebook. They prefer channels like Snapchat and Tik Tok.) 

Then, take it a step further: help your prospective students find specific groups on social media tied to their majors, interests, or residence halls (if your campus is reopening). Consider even making groups or accounts dedicated to new enrollees. Not only will the students connect with your school, they'll connect with each other, making them much more excited to attend in the fall.

Provide Mentors 

While social media can help your incoming freshmen connect with each other, you can also slow melt by connecting enrollees to mentors or supportive counselors. Many students who succumb to melt don't have a strong support system to keep them on track. Give them someone who they can reach out to with questions, and who reaches out to them to remind them of important deadlines and to-dos.

More importantly, that mentor should just check in to make sure the student is still in good spirits and excited about attending your school. If the student expresses second thoughts, the mentor can discuss and get them back on track to attending.     

Stay in Contact 

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Emails, social media message, and texts from your school with important reminders, deadlines, and information can help too. Setting up a texting program or a chatbot can help you reach many students at once. Of course, you don't want to overwhelm them with constant messages, but regular notes and check-ins will help them feel more engaged with your school.

Oh, and the cliches are true: the kids today love their phones. (Don't judge, you do too.) So make sure any messaging you send out is optimized for mobile viewing. 

Keep it Simple 

The huge pile of paperwork that new students - especially those who may be applying for or using financial aid - need to fill out is always a stress. And this year, students also have to contend with the stress of a global pandemic and unrest. It's, to put it simply, a lot. You can't blame a student for taking a look at the world today and feeling like a massive pile of forms is too daunting. 

So help them out. Space out tasks and paperwork over the summer so they can tackle things one at a time. Keep the forms simple, and even more importantly, make them mobile-friendly and able to be filled out quickly online. You don't want to send a prospective student out to Kinko's during a pandemic to print out a 20 page PDF. Let them sign paperwork electronically. Makes things easy, and they'll get it done. 

Don't Forget the Family 

Parents and other supportive family members can help slow melt as well. Encourage parents of enrollees to share their contact info, so you can communicate with them directly via email or text. Make them aware of important deadlines and tasks, and more importantly, share with them important messaging that can help keep their kids motivated and on-track. We're all in this together after all. 

Beacon Can Help You Connect!

lady_looking_up_with_laptop.jpgWe can help you make the most of these tips transform your school's website and digital marketing to be up-to-date and mobile optimized. We'll build the best-possible digital experience for your incoming students, current students, and prospective students. Contact us today to find out more.

And remember, this is an unprecedented time, and your prospective (and current) students are facing challenges no one has dealt with before. Be patient, be understanding, and we will help you adapt to whatever come next keep this summer's melt from making too much of mess.

Stay cool. You've got this!

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