If you’re not familiar with American University’s new Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success, it’s time to take a look. Started just this year, the Center is aiming to become *the* counselor resource for tools, studies, data, and research on the best practices in postsecondary planning. While the Center is just getting underway, it’s worth keeping an eye on, and definitely worth following on Twitter, since they post the latest in research in postsecondary advising.
The Center recently held a Twitter chat on summer melt, and it was particularly enlightening. All kinds of community-based organizations and postsecondary advocacy groups participated, offering tools, Websites, and insights into effective ways to make sure students who tell you in June that they’re going to college, actually make it to college in the fall. (That’s why it’s called Summer Melt—the college plans of up to 20 percent of all students melt away in the summer, as students forget to submit final transcripts, complete financial aid forms, attend orientation, or simply change their minds.)
All of these community-based resources looked helpful, and some offered some impressive results. As we’ve discussed here before, one of the most effective tools is a disposable cell phone, where school counselors text weekly reminders to students over the summer about what to do, and when to call their colleges. This simple practice can offer students the support they need, now that they aren’t seeing a counselor on a regular basis.
These solutions all sound great, but as I reviewed them, I couldn’t help but wonder—where are the colleges in this important effort? If a student doesn’t show up for college in the fall, the college loses another bright mind, and more than a little bit of money. Even more important, the college loses the opportunity to bond early with the student, in an essential way. By reaching out through texting to the student—ideally before high school is over—the college is making a connection with the student, the kind of strong, supportive, “we’re here for you” connection research finds essential for students to make a smooth transition to college—especially low-income and first-generation students.
I’ve asked colleges about this, and their responses are unimpressive. “Who would send the texts?” “This could cost us money.” “Who has the time to do this?”
It may be helpful here to remind my college colleagues that one of the most essential cures to summer melt involves a school counselor buying a disposable cell phone out of their own pocket, and using their high school’s Remind account to text students every week during the summer—the only time they aren’t actually working. Since keeping one of your students from melting over the summer saves you thousands of dollars, do you think you could find a way to buy your own disposable cell phone, collect every applicant’s cell number when they apply, and pay a work study student to use the college’s free Remind account to text college-specific updates to students once a week, while they sit poolside? We aren’t talking about investing in a lazy river here; by the time all is said and done, this is about a hundred bucks.
I know some colleges are doing this already, but more of you need to step up—ideally, from the moment the student is admitted. Getting texts from colleges as early as November is a sure way to make the student excited, encouraged, and comfortable with their college choice—and is there a better combination of qualities to have in an incoming freshman?