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Keeping Your Cool While Managing Summer Melt

Heather Sumperl June, 11, 2020

One might consider being accepted into college as a rite of passage, that paramount moment marking the evolution from adolescence into adulthood. It is truly a thought-provoking moment, one full of exciting possibilities and wide-open doors. The world as an oyster. For most, an acceptance letter symbolizes achievement, independence, and opportunity. But, if being accepted into college is such a milestone event, how do we explain the 10 to 40 percent of accepted students that won't show up for their first day of class this fall?

The phrase, "summer melt" describes the phenomenon of accepted students literally "melting" away over the summer months. In the blazing heat, what was once a heaping scoop of chocolate chip ice cream will meltdown to fill the cone exactly, or that's the hope. And while every summer Admissions Offices focus on melt, complications from COVID-19 are leaving everyone guessing about fall enrollment numbers.

According to a recent survey conducted by LendEDU, 43% of high school seniors polled said they were considering taking a gap year instead of enrolling in college for fall 2020. With these numbers at an all-time high, enrollment managers should consider these 5 suggestions to avoid having a total “meltdown” this summer:

1. Develop Scalable Digital Solutions

COVID-19 shut down campuses and resulted in cancelled events forcing institutions into an accelerated digital transformation. At a time when students are virtually visiting more schools than ever before, colleges are being challenged with how to showcase their most valuable assets.

You only get one shot at making a good impression. This same rule applies, perhaps even more so, in the digital sphere. Develop solutions utilizing tools such as virtual viewbooks and interactive campus maps to create immersive digital experiences that give students a more holistic view of campus, student life and academics.

2. Harness the Power of Personalization

We live in a "what I want, when I want" age where consumers of information are demanding more tailored interactions and experiences. Give prospective and admitted students the experience they want, when they want, by engaging them at every step of the funnel. Virtual experience specialists can help guide schools and create customizable video viewing experiences to make sure every student gets the necessary information they need and want.

3. Connect Through Tech

Schools have come a long way in utilizing social media platforms to connect with prospective and enrolled students, but now it's time to take that a step further. According to RNL's 2019 E- Expectations Report, 1 in 3 students said they had never encountered, or didn't know about, a chat feature when visiting a college website. However, of those that did encounter a live-chat function, 17% reported engaging with it. Implementing a simple solution such as live chat allows for personalized interaction with prospective and newly enrolled students. While this may seem like an easy summer solution, a live chat function has even longer-term benefits for increasing leads.

4. Create Community

Help your students feel connected even when they are physically apart. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of building a strong community network. An admitted student who feels connected and socially engaged is more likely to show up to class in the fall. Create social bubbles by grouped interest to connect students in real-time.

5. Reinvent the Event

Fall is fast-approaching and given the unknowns about campus life next semester, now's the time to rethink upcoming events. Host digital events that showcase everything that differentiates your school from other options and help interested and admitted students get a good sense of what you have to offer. Whether it be for recruitment, yield, orientation, or open house, digital events can help protect your institution, your time, and your budgets while achieving desired results.

No one can predict the shake-out of enrollment numbers for the fall but we do have some indicators from a study done by Inside Higher Ed. For some colleges, the picture paints grim while StudentBridge clients, Bucknell University and Lewis & Clark College, are seeing above-target growth. More than ever schools must demonstrate their value and differentiate themselves from the rest to avoid having a total "meltdown."

Would you like to talk through your summer melt solutions? Contact us today for an expedited meeting!

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