Best Foot Forward Project Director Miriam Greenberg shares strategies and resources on how to help students transition from high school to college in the following HGSE Usable Knowledge blog post.
In my carefree days before graduate school, I received an email with the subject line: “Action Required - Correct Tax Information on Your FAFSA.” I attempted to log into my account, forgot my PIN, and then willfully ignored my inbox for the summer. Thankfully, my postal mail was being forwarded to my father, a high school teacher accustomed to wrangling young adults. Almost daily he called me about the financial aid paperwork. Without those loans, he nagged, I would find myself back on the Subway sandwich assembly line, building footlong tuna melts.
Graduating high school seniors face a more insidious kind of melt during the summer before college, as Lindsay Page, Ed.M’04, Ed.D’11, and Benjamin Castleman, Ed.D.’13, have shown. Nationally, up to 20 percent of seniors intending to go to college never attend classes in the fall. Page and Castleman, longtime affiliates of the Center for Education Policy Research, describe the national trend of college-intending students dropping off before the school year starts as “summer melt.”
Why do students who excel in high school falter on their way to a higher education? “There are a number of obstacles,” Castleman says. “We’ve seen everything from unexpected financial challenges to confusion over paperwork that leaves families feeling overwhelmed.”
The phenomenon is even more pronounced for lower-income and first-generation college-going students, who often lack the supports of their higher-income peers. “The rate of summer melt is more like 40 percent for students who intend to enroll in community college,” Page says.