“Summer melt” occurs when students apply and earn admission to college, but fail to complete the enrollment process by hitting key milestones like submitting financial aid forms and health documents, or taking certain placement exams during the summer months between high school and college. When these steps are not completed, students effectively melt away and never arrive on campus in the fall. Summer melt disproportionately affects minorities, first generation students, and students from low-income families. According to a study from Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, up to 30% of students melt away during the summer.
This year, these inequities may be heightened due to barriers exacerbated by COVID-19, according to a recent article in Education Week. The good news is that summer melt texting campaigns can help to freeze the summer melt. According to a study by Benjamin Castelman and Lindsay Page, there is an 11% matriculation increase when students receive personalized text message reminders to support postsecondary enrollment.
As a network, we are committed to scaling effective practices and learning from prior implementation cycles. Inspired by the research showing the success of texting interventions, RISE launched summer melt texting campaigns two years ago at first East Hartford High School (EHHS) and then Hartford Public High School (HPHS). This year, we are excited to expand the summer melt texting campaign; seven RISE high schools will participate, up from just two last year. We will also strengthen this year’s campaigns by making our efforts more targeted through customized and refined text messages.
The summer melt text messages offer students friendly and important reminders to complete enrollment milestones and submit forms, and they also allow students to stay engaged with their high school counselors. Last year, educators at HPHS and EHHS sent each student over 20 messages such as, “Hey (student), have you taken your English and Math placement tests yet or made sure you are exempt?” Students responded to these prompts, and very quickly in some cases. For example, in summer 2019 27% of the over 330 EHHS recipients responded to placement test text messages within 10 minutes.
For the second straight year, we are using the secure summer melt intervention two-way texting platform called SignalVine. Signal Vine has found success doing this work nationally since 2013, and we have the opportunity to borrow and edit messages from their bank. We are also incorporating information from senior exit surveys. For example, we are able to differentiate outreach for students with postsecondary plans and for those who are still deciding; each grouping receives unique messages.
If students have questions that would benefit from a face-to-face conversation, counselors may schedule online office hours using Calendly, an online appointment scheduling software.
We are excited to strengthen and scale the summer melt texting strategy to reach even more students and support successful college transitions. The feedback to date has been overwhelmingly positive as students have told their counselors, “It’s pretty great knowing I have someone to help me if I have questions! Thanks,” or “Thank you for everything you have done for me to help me get to this point and help me choose what’s best for me!”