Five Ways Texting Can Reduce Summer Melt

by Rachel Bishop | June 21, 2019
Five Ways Texting Can Reduce Summer Melt

Happy Summer Solstice! We know that the summer months can be some of the most hectic for higher ed professionals. Between advising, recruiting, and planning for the next academic year, it can get busy. On the flip side, for students, this time of year usually means a break from the stresses of school.

And this can be a problem.

Some students are fortunate enough to have most of the steps required to enroll in college finished before graduating from high school. Other students haven’t even begun the process of enrolling in college by the time they walk across the stage. Unfortunately, during the summer months, a strange phenomenon strikes even the most college-intending students. This phenomenon, known as summer melt, occurs when students who fully intend to enroll in college don't.

You can check out the infographic below for an overview of summer melt. Keep reading to discover the research on how texting can reduce summer melt.

reduce summer melt

How can texting reduce summer melt?

Back in 2013, Harvard University researchers conducted a study on the summer melt phenomenon. Researchers wanted to see if there was a correlation between nudging students via text message and positive academic outcomes. A texting platform built by experts in software and mobile technology was created for this initiative. You might have heard of it. It’s called Signal Vine.

Frankly, we wouldn’t still be a company today if this research hadn’t proven what researchers predicted all along, that texting students works to promote positive academic outcomes. For this reason, we posit that a strong texting intervention can help many students overcome summer melt. We’ve worked with partners all across the nation who prove to us that texting works to keep students on track to enrolling.

Let’s dive into the research as we discuss five reasons why texting can reduce summer melt.

1. It increases matriculation rates.

Research shows that texting students throughout the summer months to nudge them toward positive academic outcomes increases matriculation rates. Many studies, including those upon which the Signal Vine platform was built, prove this point. In one study led by Drs. Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page, recent high school graduates who were behind in their college planning were 7 percentage points more likely to matriculate to college than their counterparts who didn’t receive texts. This means that even students who needed to play a little catch-up during the summer were more likely to go to college with guidance via text message.

One main reason why texting is particularly beneficial for students who may need more intensive counseling is that it removes a common barrier to matriculation: lack of support. The summer following high school graduation can be stressful for students with steps left to complete to enroll in college. Over the summer, these students often lose access to the school counselors who would guide them through. Unfortunately, many of these students don’t realize that they can get help from the campus of their desired college. This can leave students feeling even more isolated throughout the college-going process, making many feel like the steps to get to college are just too complicated.

This is why texting works. It opens up the door for dialogue, allowing those well-versed on college enrollment steps to communicate necessary actions, important deadlines, and even advice to these students who need it most. Perhaps most importantly, it gives students a familiar place to go – their phones – when they have college-related questions.

2. It can be used for far more than helping students apply to college.

Studies have proven that texting students promote positive outcomes in a plethora of use cases. One that’s particularly relevant for students on the edge of matriculating to college is financial aid. The results of studies in which college access pros texted students to guide them through financial aid processes are truly phenomenal. We’ll dive into a few once we provide some background.

Perhaps more intimidating for students than the college enrollment process itself is the financial aid process that goes with it. Although many efforts have been made in previous years to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, the application can be overwhelming to students and families who view it for the first time. This complexity can often deter otherwise college-ready students from successfully matriculating to college.

In one study, researchers texted participants of the uAspire program who failed to complete a FAFSA prior to high school graduation. The texts centered on guiding students through the financial aid process, including submitting the FAFSA. Amazingly, these students were 20 percentage points more likely to matriculate to college than their peers who didn’t receive texts. Clearly, there is evidence to support the idea that providing financial aid counseling to students via text works.

3. It’s cost-effective.

In the study cited above which demonstrates how college matriculation rates tend to improve with texting, the intervention cost $7 per student. This cost includes salaries for high school counselors to support students who needed additional counseling. Each text message sent cost only 1 cent. In the second study which focused on financial aid outreach via text, the intervention cost $5 per student. When compared to revenue gains from the colleges and universities to which these students matriculate, it seems that in many cases, a texting intervention pays for itself.

4. Students are more responsive in the summer.

You read that right, and frankly, we were just as shocked as you. We worked with the CollegeBound Foundation to text thousands of recent high school graduates from Baltimore City Public Schools. Throughout the school year, CollegeBound reported a 30 percent response rate from students. However, once the summer months arrived, this response rate jumped to 70 percent. These responses were timely, too: 85 percent of students replied to texts within 24 hours in the summer. Clearly, students were taking action based on the texts they received, even during the summer months.

5. Texting turns students’ weakness into a strength.

You’ve likely heard that today’s college student has the attention span of a goldfish. While this isn’t quite true, there’s no denying that digital natives who grew up with instant access to the world’s knowledgebase have some pretty high expectations regarding what keeps their attention.

This is yet another reason why texting this demographic is ideal. We could go into this further, but the general idea is perfectly summarized by Drs. Ben Castleman and Lindsay Page:

Personalized messaging effectively may turn adolescents’ greatest liability during the college choice process—their impulsiveness—into an asset. By providing simplified information and task-specific links, each message potentially allows completion of required steps in the moment, before students’ attention is otherwise diverted.

Reduce summer melt

Texting to reduce summer melt has proven to be successful among today’s college students. Researchers are dedicating more time than ever to studying the topic as smartphones continue to remain the most popular form of communication among students. It simply makes sense to use the device of choice for today’s students to help guide them through the sometimes daunting process of matriculating to college.

You can read more about summer melt as well as grab free resources surrounding the topic online here.

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