Every year, between 10 and 40 percent of high school graduates who intend to enroll in college do not go on to enroll in the fall – a phenomenon known as summer melt. Strategies to counteract summer melt include building a cohort of college-going students, extending counseling services into the summer, leveraging near-peer advisors to guide and mentor graduates, and utilizing technology to nudge students to complete the necessary enrollment steps.

Programs aimed at freezing summer melt help students build community, learn about the social emotional skills they will need to be successful in college, connect with important offices at their destination college, and complete enrollment tasks including financial aid verification, housing applications, placement tests, and course registration. By extending support into the summer, districts can ensure more graduates successfully enroll in postsecondary education.

How does the strategy create more equitable access and opportunities?

Students from low-income backgrounds, first-generation college students, and students of color are the most impacted by summer melt. Additionally, the pandemic impacted many students’ postsecondary plans, further exacerbating inequalities in who is able to successfully transition to college.

Students generally melt during the summer because a problem arises and they don’t know who might be available to assist them or how to reach out for help. Providing students with summer advising can help connect them to the resources and offices that will continue to support them through the transition and beyond. It gives students who normally are most likely to melt the skills and supports to make it to college and be better prepared once they arrive.

Studies have shown that summer melt strategies are particularly effective for students from low-income backgrounds. A randomized control trial of summer counseling programs found that postsecondary enrollment increased 3.3 percentage points overall, and up to 12 percentage points for students from low-income backgrounds.

What outcomes or benefits are associated with the strategy?

What are the budget implications for implementing the strategy?

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How will the strategy limit significant recurring costs while ensuring long-term sustainability?

While most costs will be recurring, they are minimal. Additionally, partnerships with local college access organizations and post-secondary institutions can help to offset costs such as personnel and transportation to colleges.

What is the anticipated timeline for launching the strategy?

A strong summer melt strategy must begin with information on students’ plans. Schools should administer a senior exit survey in the spring in order to identify which students are planning to enroll in higher education. The specifics of the plan will need to be finalized in the spring and advisors, counselors, or near-peer mentors should be recruited to work with students over the summer. Workshops, individual outreach, college field trips, and texting campaigns will occur throughout the summer. In the fall, use National Student Clearinghouse data to determine what percent of students did not enroll in college and begin thinking of ways to refine the program for next year.

What internal and/or external capacity (e.g. personnel, infrastructure, training, etc.) is needed to launch the strategy? To monitor and sustain it?


  • Connections between local high schools, community-based organizations, and the colleges and universities to which students matriculate
  • Knowledge about high destination colleges
  • Knowledge about the types of social emotional skills that students will need during the transition

Monitor and Sustain

  • Access to the needed personnel (near-peer advisors, counseling staff, college access professionals) on a short term contract
  • Access to student data about their destination colleges and National Student Clearinghouse data to track success of the program
Postsecondary Summer Melt - Invest Forward
Summer Postsecondary Education - Invest Forward

What are the first 3-5 steps to take to implement the strategy?

  1. Survey seniors to identify those planning to enroll in postsecondary education
  2. Determine strategy or strategies to be employed (in-person advising, drop-in centers, text messaging, etc.)
  3. Identify and recruit counselors, near-peer advisors, or other college access professionals to work with students
  4. Connect with summer advisors to co-plan curriculum and outreach strategy
  5. Identify highest destination colleges and make connections with them to partner

What are potential challenges for implementing the strategy?

  1. Challenge: Finding and training staff to work with students over the summer every year
    • Solution: See if there are existing staff who could be trained as summer advisors, leverage AmeriCorps or relationships with local colleges to recruit near-peer advisors, or seek support from local college access organizations
  2. Challenge: The difficulty of recruiting students and sustaining participation
    • Solution: Incentives can help encourage students to participate. Finding summer advisors who already have a relationship with students can also help with engagement. Leveraging technology to remind students of important enrollment steps and then offering follow-up support to students who have questions can also encourage engagement.
  3. Challenge: Finding college partners that are willing to support the program (especially if they are running their own orientation)
    • Solution: Reach out to various offices on campus, including organizations that support underrepresented students, until you find a partner that is eager to work with your students.

What are models of schools, districts, and/or organizations that are successfully implementing this strategy?

  • Project GRAD (Get Ready to Achieve your Dreams) is a summer melt prevention strategy employed by the Partnership for Los Angeles schools. The program targets students who plan to attend one of the top four destination colleges for the district. Students meet in a cohort with other students attending their same destination school for six sessions led by near-peer advisors (recent college graduates) where they support them with building community, learning about the social emotional skills that they will need to be successful in college, and connecting with important offices at their destination colleges. The near peer advisors also create an online community via groupme and reach out to students 1-on-1 for advising.
  • Indiana recently launched a statewide summer-bridge program called Bridging the Gap to support 3,500 Indiana students who do not yet meet college or career readiness benchmarks.
  • CARA’s College Bridge Program hires and trains college students to work in their high school alma maters as Bridge Coaches to high school seniors who plan to go to college. CARA’s new College Connect Program recruits college student mentors to support high school students who are planning to attend the mentor’s institution.

What are some additional resources for districts/states interested in implementing this strategy?