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They drop at a rate of 10 to 40 percent across the nation – freshmen who have committed to attending in the fall, but then never show. The phenomenon known as “summer melt” is thought to be a result of accepted students feeling anxious about college costs and social changes, as well as encountering barriers in the enrollment process.

Whatever the reason, summer melt is an enrollment-busting paradox and the bane of higher education admissions departments.

A shift in marketing strategy after students are accepted helps to cool summer melt. Some colleges and universities that have employed a social media strategy focused on accepted students have found a way to get more students into the classroom on the first day of school.

Why do students melt?

Students melt for a number of reasons, but the majority fall through cracks because the support and guidance they received in the college-application process from their high school is no longer there once they graduate. They have a great degree of social anxiety about fitting in and being liked. They have no experience in making a move to a new area. And they often struggle with the mechanics of pre-enrollment deadlines, like financial aid and class registration. Feeling alone and unsure, students can simply stall out in their process of enrolling.

Preventing summer melt with social media.

Admissions departments are finding social media a great help in shifting their marketing focus from selling the school to encouraging enrollment. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow admissions to really understand what accepted students are concerned about and then to reach those students in a timely manner via a channel they are comfortable with. An effective social media strategy to stem summer melt revolves around three goals: listening, connecting and promoting.

  • Listening and responding to the incoming class. Social media is a two-way street, where the school can actively listen to what accepted students are concerned about or struggling with, and then provide information that meets those needs. Concerns and questions can be addressed and resolved almost immediately. The institution can also be alerted to more complex issues that may come to light, which can then be addressed more confidentially off-line.
  • Connecting incoming freshman with each other, and experienced students with disenfranchised newcomers. Most admissions offices use at least one, and probably more, social media platforms to connect the incoming class to each other, allowing socialization to naturally happen. To extend that utility, experienced upperclassmen, under the guidance of college staff, can use social media to engage and support new students in a trusted peer-to-peer environment.
  • Promoting resources to meet the needs of students and their families. Enrolled students (and often their parents) need a lot of assurance during that gap between acceptance and the first day of college. Because they are already on social media, you can use those channels to provide that assurance and direct them to resources that can help them with specific tasks like completing financial aid paperwork, choosing courses and purchasing textbooks.

Social media is no longer presumed to be an online distraction or venue for the self-obsessed. Social media is a respected and essential tool that colleges and universities can use to distribute news and information, monitor for questions and concerns, and provide a forum for students to gather in as a new virtual quad. 

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