It’s an all too familiar situation. You see your seniors off at graduation, they thank you for all you’ve done, you wish them luck at college, and you wonder when you’ll see them again—until you see one of them at the local grocery store on a night. In October.
Welcome to the world of Summer Melt, a mysterious world where new high school graduates swear in June they are college bound, but never show up for class in the fall. As is the case with too many things in our world, Summer Melt affects more low-income student and first generation students—as many as 40%.
This leads counselors and researchers to believe that a big part of Summer Melt occurs because students don’t complete some of those crucial steps in the summer that are needed to begin their college careers. If they don’t check their emails (and they don’t), students will miss the summer notices about orientation, requests for tax returns, notices of scheduling, and more little things—little things counselors remind them to do during the school year, but now school’s out.
Several research studies on reducing summer melt are easy enough to find. There are also plans out there about creating summer melt drop-in centers and getting colleges to do more to prevent summer melt (and that’s the real answer). But if you’re looking to slow down summer melt right now, here’s your three step strategy:
Open a Remind account. Most counselors are well aware of the great programs that are out there where you can text your students without knowing their cell phone numbers—and, more important, where they don’t know your cell phone number, either. Remind is likely the most famous one of these accounts, but look around, start one, then invite all your seniors to sign up with their cell phone numbers. Better yet, ask around—someone in your school may already have the senior class on their Remind account.
Buy a disposable cellphone. Summer Melt is the ultimate problem for school counselors who really want to help kids, but need their summer to recover—and let’s face it, we all need recovery time. The happy compromise here is to buy a disposable cell phone, the kind you put a certain amount of minutes on with a charge card that doesn’t require a contract. You want to make sure you can text on it, but that’s all the frills you need—and let’s face it, a texting cellphone isn’t exactly hard to find.
Schedule your messages. The first day school is out, send a text on your disposable cell phone that tells your seniors what’s up. “It’s Mrs. Jones, and school’s out! Look for weekly reminders from me this summer that will help you make an awesome start to college.”
After that, your task is to put the phone in a place where you’ll be able to find it every (or pick another day). On the appointed day, turn the phone on, text the message of the week, and turn the phone off before you hit the pool. If you’re looking for a comprehensive texting curriculum:
Week 1 “It’s Mrs. Jones. Have you signed up for college orientation? Check your email and see what to do. Still not sure? Call the college.”
Week 2 “It’s Mrs. Jones. Does your college have everything for your financial aid file? Check your email and see if they’ve sent you something. Not sure? Call the college.”
Week 3 “It’s Mrs. Jones. Does your college need a health form from you? Check your email and see. Not sure? Call the college.”
Week 4 “It’s Mrs. Jones. Are you rooming with someone at college? Do you know who it is? Have you been in touch? If any of these are no, it’s time to reach out!”
Week 5 “It’s Mrs. Jones. Do you have a schedule of classes yet? What about books? What about money for books? Check your email and see. Not sure what to do? Call the college.”
Week 6 “It’s Mrs. Jones. Will you be working at college? If so, are your job plans all set. Are you sure? If not, call the college.”
Week 7 “It’s Mrs. Jones. We’ve sent your final transcript. Does your college have it? Are you sure? If not, call your college.”
Week 8 “It’s Mrs. Jones. How are you getting to college? Is your ride all set? Will you be commuting to school? Confirm your plans—especially if you’re car pooling.”
Week 9 “It’s Mrs. Jones. You should be starting college soon. Have fun, and let me know what you need!”
You’ll want to talk with nest year’s seniors about Summer Melt in March and April, and you might want to put together a plan for how students can get hold of you, since Remind won’t let them text you. Then again, you might not, if you really want students to test their wings over the summer. Either way, these 9 texts will help get them on their way to what’s next, without doing serious damage your time at the beach.