News: College Access & Success

Signal Vine: Combating Summer Melt with Texting

Monday, May 18, 2020  
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By Rachel Hicks, Senior Marketing Associate, Signal Vine

We’re quickly approaching the summer months. For college access professionals, this time of year often calls to mind a unique phenomenon that impacts one-third of college-intending students: summer melt. Summer melt occurs when recent high school graduates who fully intend to go to college ultimately do not enroll due to a variety of factors and circumstances. These students “melt” away during the summer months.

One of the main causes of summer melt is the lack of support that students, especially first-generation students, receive during the summer months regarding the transition to college. Students lose access to the school counselors who kept them on track to matriculating. Even worse, many students are unaware of the support they have available to them from their future college or university. This lack of support and not knowing where to go for help can be enough to deter students from attending college.

Unfortunately, global events are expected to make summer melt even worse this year. In part due to COVID-19, 1 in 6 students who had plans to pursue postsecondary education this fall as a full-time student has abandoned those plans. Surprisingly, this includes 12% of students who have already made a deposit to their institution. These alarming statistics mean that students – even those who have already made a payment to attend a college or university – will need more support this year to stay committed.

To help combat the summer melt phenomenon, many college access organizations have turned to texting, and with good reason. Students who will soon matriculate to college are members of Generation Z. This generation of students is filled with digital natives. They were born into a world packed with technology, and it shows: in a survey conducted by IBM and the National Retail Federation, 74% of Gen Z participants note that “going online” is their favorite way to spend their free time. Another 75% of these participants say that their mobile device is their “device of choice.” Clearly, Gen Z students spend a lot of time on their phones. It makes sense to meet them where they are to guide them toward positive academic outcomes.

This is exactly why Signal Vine exists. The company was born out of Harvard research that focused on the concept of summer melt and whether texting students could help combat this phenomenon. The answer is a resounding yes: Drs. Ben Castleman and Lindsay Page found that the summer melt text campaigns produced an 11% increase in matriculation. Advisers sent various messages to recent high school graduates throughout the campaigns, nudging them to take various actions and providing the information that they needed to persist and matriculate. As a result, more students enrolled and attended college in the fall.

College access advisers can use texting in many ways to keep students engaged and on track during the summer months. One of these ways is to remind students that the summer between high school and college is not a usual summer. They may have several “last steps” to complete to attend their college or university of choice. They should check their emails more frequently to make sure they don’t miss important communications from their future college or university. Even texting students to remind them that assistance is just one text away can help students continue along their path to postsecondary education.

Signal Vine serves as a partner to many college access organizations across the country to help them help their students and combat summer melt. This includes GEAR UP programs like ENMU-Roswell GEAR UP and its text campaign, which helped students secure an additional $100,000 in scholarships, and college access programs like Genesys Works, which experienced an average 88% engagement rate with students between 2017 and 2019 among its six sites nationwide.

For more information and resources on how to use texting to help students overcome summer melt, check out Signal Vine’s summer melt resources. If you’d like to learn more about participating in this year’s summer melt texting campaign, please fill out this interest form by Friday, May 29. As part of this campaign, NCAN members are able to access the Signal Vine platform at a discounted rate. Happy texting!

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