Seniors and their families make a million crucial decisions throughout the course of about eight months that can completely alter their life. Once the end of senior year arrives, it can be easy for students to get caught up in the excitement of what’s next after wrapping up a major chapter of their lives. Yet the summer before college comes with lots of new responsibilities and deadlines.
“Summer melt” describes the period of time between graduation and entering college when students risk “melting off” due to unforeseen circumstances and don’t enroll in college. Even the most high-achieving students can drop the ball unintentionally.
These are the barriers to enrollment that counselors and advisers see year after year:
Students often underestimate the work it takes even before class begins! Receiving a letter that says “Congratulations, you’re admitted!” is really just the beginning. The details around committing to a school, signing up for housing, attending orientation, meeting an adviser, and enrolling in coursework are where we see many students skip crucial steps. We encourage students to stay up to date and check their email and college portals frequently so that they don’t miss anything. Counselors and advisers spend a ton of time emphasizing DEADLINES! Typically, universities are not making a lot of exceptions – if you miss it, tough luck!
Families have a tough time talking about MONEY. Money is a sensitive subject in many households. If no one talks about who is going to pay for the $250 housing deposit, sometimes nobody pays it. If the deposit is an issue, chances are the tuition bill is going to be as well! With college costs as high as they are today, families have to plan financially and adjust their budget – and it doesn't always happen smoothly. This may also be the first time parents discuss their IRS tax return with their children. We encourage students and families to have these discussions early on in order to properly plan for a financially stable future.
Navigating systems is a challenge. Enrolling in college involves working with so many systems – school districts, universities, even state and federal government agencies. Each one has its own nuances, and many are new to students if they are the first in their families to attend. It takes organization and persistence to work through applications, the financial aid process, and all the follow-up steps. There are also many surprises along the way! We encourage students to check in with their counselors or advisers before summer break so they’re on top of deadlines and can ensure that all applications and any necessary documents will be completed and submitted properly.
Self-advocacy requires practice and persistence. Self-advocacy takes assertiveness, and many people are nervous about asking the tough, important questions they need answered before starting college classes. Moreover, students and their parents or guardians often don’t even know what to ask.It takes patience to spend time on hold with an admissions office, but the results are often well worth it. Self-advocacy during the admission phase is also great practice for real college life. We encourage students and families to always seek help when anything in the period between acceptance and admission becomes unclear or a barrier appears.
The summer before college is often a period of growth for students, and they have put a lot of thought into the entire process. We encourage students to stay positive, keep things organized, have open communication with everyone involved, and not give up!