This is the last week many school counselors are in their offices, before a well-deserved rest—so I’ll keep this short.
Many of you have heard of the concept of “summer melt”. This is the number of college-bound students who don’t show up on college campuses in the fall. For some, this is because they changed colleges; for others, it’s because they changed their mind about college, period; for some, it’s because they ran into some problems over the summer, and didn’t reach out and talk to anyone.
This last group tends to have a very large percentage of students who come from low-income backgrounds, or whose parents didn’t go to college. The reasons they don’t go are common: there was a change in their financial aid award, and they didn’t understand it; there was a deadline to reply to a financial aid offer, and they didn’t meet it; they couldn’t go to orientation due to a work conflict, so now they think they can’t go to college at all.
In other words, some of the students you worked so hard to help get into college aren’t going to get there after all, and it’s likely due to some pretty small reason.
There’s a way to fix this, even now.
Send one last letter, e-mail, and text Now is the time to give them one last word of encouragement. Let them know they will get lots of communications from colleges over the summer, and they should read all of them. If you have access to parent addresses and e-mails, copy them as well.
Encourage them to ask questions Some of these communications (financial aid) will be more important than others (renting a dorm fridge)—but your students might not know that. Give them an e-mail address or phone number they can call this summer to ask their questions. Let them know it may take a day or two to give them a response, but they’ll get one.
Oversee the project This will require you or your colleagues to check in with e-mail or voice mail throughout the summer—or, see if the PTA will work with you and have parent volunteers check, who have an understanding of confidentiality. Not fun, for sure—but it should help to know that schools that have implemented this kind of program have reduced summer melt in students by at least/about a third. Some schools even let the counselor by a disposable cell phone, and encourage them to call their “likely melters” a couple of times over the summer, just to check in. Again, not a work-free vacation, but at least you can make the calls poolside.
Yes, it would be better if you had all of your students give you their cell numbers before they graduated (a program like Remind is a great way to do this and respect their privacy). You can do that next year. For this year, send out one last announcement, and see what happens. It can make a huge difference.