SATs … check. College applications … check. Final exams … check. Graduation caps … in the air! With high school graduation upon us, it is important to take a moment to commend the Class of 2016 for their accomplishments. They’ve all spent the past four years learning and working toward their high school diplomas, and many have also successfully navigated the complex system that is the college admissions process to earn those precious acceptance letters!
But while it seems like all of the obstacles are behind these college-bound students, research has shown that several barriers to college entry still exist during the summer months. “Summer melt” describes the phenomenon wherein high school graduates who intended to enroll in universities fail to matriculate in the fall. Two professors, Lindsay C. Page (University of Pittsburgh) and Benjamin L. Castleman (University of Virginia), have conducted extensive studies on this subject and found that across different places in the U.S., between 10 percent and 40 percent of college-intending students “melt” during the summer months and don’t enroll in the fall as planned.
Summer Melt | Harvard Education Press | Ciano Design 2014
Their research on summer melt has indicated that several factors contribute to this distressing statistic, and that this issue disproportionately affects students from low-income backgrounds. From concerns about cost to difficulties interpreting university paperwork and policies to fears about leaving home (or all of the above), too many students are abandoning their college-going plans and getting lost in post-high school, pre-college limbo.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: It’s June, the sun is out, the books have been listed on Ebay ... It’s a time for celebration, so tell me the good news. The good news is that several strategies have been shown to significantly reduce summer melt. Page and Castleman highlight some positive interventions in their book, Summer Melt: Supporting Low-Income Students Through the Transition to College. The solutions they present include implementing school counselor interventions over the summer months and utilizing text messaging to “nudge” students and encourage them to stay on track with their college plans.
Texting is students’ preferred method of communication, so it’s the best way to deliver important information and timely calls to action, such as registering for housing and providing missing financial aid documents. Texting also allows students to receive instant guidance on their college-related questions. It’s so simple, and it works! That’s why AdmitHub has partnered with Georgia State to take text message interventions to the next level via an artificially intelligent chatbot, Pounce, who engages thousands of students in two-way, real-time text conversations. Page and another professor, Hunter Gehlbach of UC Santa Barbara, are conducting a study in conjunction with AdmitHub and Georgia State to determine how effectively Pounce can help address summer melt and increase the number of Georgia State students who are able to reach their goals in higher education.
The ultimate hope is that this type of innovative, on-demand assistance will leave just one easy task on students’ pre-college to-do list -- keep the cell phone turned on and message Oli if you're a high school student looking for some guidance.