This is the fourth and final post in a series from a college admissions counselor attempting to navigate the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, assistant director of recruitment in his second year at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey. His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.
In his first post, which you can read here, Switay talked about keeping up with the inquiries. His second post offered tips to help other counselors successfully climb the admissions ladder. The third installment focused on admitted student days and bringing in the best class possible.
By Brian Switay:
Ahh, summer is almost here. Time for vacations, lounging on the beach, ice cream, long walks and exploring boardwalks and amusement parks. However, the summer also brings the dreaded summer melt! With more and more students double depositing it seems as though summer melt has been increasing each and every year. So, what can you do?
I would like to use this article to encourage each of you to partake in a virtual chat room, if you will. Please join me on Twitter @brianatstevens and share with me your summer melt strategies.
Today however, I will share some ideas with you first. There has been a lot of discussion about which ideas and implementations will help deter melt from happening, which are controversial and reasons that some schools are not reaching out to students at all.
One of the “newest” forms of reducing summer melt is the almighty text-messaging avenue. Students seem to always have their phones attached to them but never pick up the phone when you call. Schools have resorted to reaching out to students through this medium. According to The Social and Behavioral Science Team through the US Government, 20-30% of college-accepted high school graduates fail to matriculate in college in the fall (https://sbst.gov/projects/reducing-summer-melt/). By sending students personalized text messages with key dates to remember, studies have shown that 68 percent of students, who were sent the text message, enrolled in the college in the fall. However, 64% of students who did not receive the text message also enrolled. So, does this medium really work?
At Stevens we have not yet put our proverbial toe into the texting world. I personally feel as though texting is still an invasive practice that if used incorrectly, can develop potentially dangerous effects. About a year or so ago my cell phone number was placed on my business cards. Students, and more frequently, parents, would call my cell phone at their convenience. So, I would be receiving calls to my personal cell phone at midnight or later. In a day where students, and some parents, believe that the response should happen immediately, text messages seem like phone calls but worse. Also, depending on your prospective students, your phone might never stop vibrating.
To combat the texting initiative for summer melt I have encouraged students (and some mothers) to instead direct message me on Twitter during the summer months. The reason for this is if I am away from my desk or on vacation, these students still feel connected and I can help answer questions even if I’m not “in the office”. It has seemed to be effective, and slowly more and more students are starting to follow me. I am interested in seeing how the Twitter direct message strategy works this summer and fall with today’s “social media savvy” generation.
One of my responsibilities at Stevens is to promote our social media handles. Our social media director and I have really been focusing on expanding our reach on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Frequently I tweet different key dates and try to keep the students engaged by using different hashtags and prompting conversation. Between the decision release of Early Decision II and Regular Decision, I launched #AskADuck. This was the catalyst that started a webinar including current students who were available to answer questions that were submitted in real time by students who had deposited at Stevens. Now, this isn’t summer melt, but I am working on holding another webinar in the middle of the summer where students can once again ask current students and recent graduates about what they enjoy(ed) and will miss about Stevens from incoming freshmen.
While this will be the first adventure into the forum moving forward, we for the most part have not been too involved in the melt process, minus the emails that are released over the summer reminding students to apply for housing and to get other paperwork submitted. I know moving forward that applications like SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have and will continue to play a large factor into the summer melt, just as much as Wait List availability will.
What do you think? I would be interested in hearing what your method is when it comes to battling summer melt? Please tweet me at @brianatstevens to continue this conversation.