Summer is in full swing now, and while this season can bring beach vacations and beautifully hot weather, it can also bring a scary reality with another summer-induced phenomena…summer melt. Almost every institution can expect some transition of their numbers from the enrolled students of spring’s end to the actual matriculants of the academic year, but significant transition, or big time summer melt can definitely create a crisis.

As a former Vice President for Enrollment Management, I remember the thought of summer melt sending chills down my spine. Only enrollment professionals can understand what it means to see all your hard work slip away throughout the summer as deposited students cancel their enrollment. Summer melt throws off enrollment projections, yield rates, and budget goals.

The fact is, students change their minds during the summer for a variety of reasons, including financial concerns, negative experiences, waitlist releases, anxiety, insufficient guidance, lack of campus connection…the list goes on and on. However, there are ways to minimize summer melt. The most important way is to actually have a post-yield plan. By creating specific plans and strategies for the needs of this population, you’ll be in a better position to retain these newly enrolled students through the summer months…the students you worked so hard to recruit.

Consider some of these post-yield strategies to complement your existing efforts:

  • Get them chatting. Conduct live online chats with students and parents through Google Hangouts or Skype to assist in answering many last minute questions and assist them in completing financial aid paperwork. This can minimize anxiety and help with strengthening a connection to campus.
  • Create a connection. Organize fun photo contests on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest (e.g. room decorating contest) to engage students with the university in a fun way that helps build relationships and makes their new home and community all the more real.
  • Send a gift. Send deposited students a gift of spirit wear from your university to allow them to show school spirit and reinforce their connection with your university.
  • Host a Send-Off. Organize a send-off event with alumni in targeted cities. This provides something to look forward to and focus on, as well as a real transition from current community to the expanded one they will enjoy as a current student and future alum.
  • Blogs. Have current students blog over the summer months to connect freshmen with current students while learning valuable information and great tips on starting college at your university.
  • Nurture them. Be sure to keep nurturing communications going throughout the summer to stay in contact with your deposited students to ensure they stay on track to enroll. Nothing can feel worse to an incoming student to get loved on through the admissions process and then feel “dumped” or abandonded once they enroll. Texting, personalized postcards, email reminders, using personalized URLs to guide students through enrollment tasks, even simply asking some fun or more personal questions to continue making these last couple of months fun and engaging.

Bottom line…you want to keep your deposited students informed, engaged, and connected with your institution from the time they apply for admission to the time they graduate.

This summer also brings some new and exciting plans for me as I join the team at H·A ThirtyOne. These last few months have been so enjoyable as I’ve experienced the strong dedication H·A ThirtyOne brings to helping colleges and universities reach their goals. This is the kind of work that fully engages my more than sixteen years of experience in enrollment management, recruitment, and marketing, allowing me to give my best to a diversity of institutions as a real partner and collaborator. If I haven’t met you in person, yet, then I hope to do so soon at one of our upcoming presentations, conferences, or campus visits.

As the summer winds down, take a deep breath and enjoy your hard work.  Let me be the first to congratulate you – you have survived another recruitment year! And if you’re ready to talk about how next year can be even better, please let me know. H·A ThirtyOne is ready to help.

Brandi DeFries, H·A ThirtyOne’s Director of Enrollment Strategies, can be reached at 336.706.8216 or Give her a shout!