‘Nudging’ Students to College Matriculation

August 8, 2019

How One School Network Is Using Text Messages to Combat Summer Melt and Ensure Alumni Make It to Their First Day on Campus


While cell phones in the classroom can detract from student learning, one school program is taking advantage of the fact that a generation of digital natives can’t stay off their phones.

KIPP Public Charter Schools, a national charter school network of more than 200 schools, rolled out the National Nudge Texting Pilot this summer. The program seeks to combat a national phenomenon known as “summer melt,” in which thousands of college-accepted teens fall off the map in the summer months after high school graduation and ultimately never matriculate at college. Summer melt is not to be confused with “summer slide.”

The summer campaign will send out automated “nudges” in the form of text messages — twice a week — to help KIPP’s ever growing number of students keep track of the many tasks — like completing housing applications and paying student activity fees — that they’re required to complete before getting to campus in the fall. About 10 percent of KIPP’s graduates “melt away” before making it to the colleges in which they’re enrolled.



Various studies estimate summer melt as affecting anywhere from 10 percent to 40 percent of college-bound students each year, according to the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. The highest rates of summer melt are found among students from low-income families and first-generation students — those who are the first in their families to go to college. Summer melt is so well known among institutions of higher education that some even factor the predicted loss of students into their acceptance rates.

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