Helping Graduates Avoid the Summer Melt

It’s graduation season! Read on for tips to prevent summer melt plus a FREE download from the new Diplomas to Degrees program guide!

This week I got three graduation announcements in the mail from some special teens in my life! Yep, it’s graduation season and soon we’ll see a flood of cap and gown pictures all over social media.  Senioritis is officially underway and high school seniors across the country are counting down to graduation, excited about starting their next chapter. They have worked hard to pass their final tests and classes, fill out applications, take the SAT or ACT, write essays, complete the FAFSA, and decide which school to attend as they prepare for their post-secondary journey.

But then this weird thing happens called the summer melt. And no, we’re not talking about ice cream, heat waves, or climate change. Did you know that one-third of all students who graduate from high school with firm plans to attend a post-secondary institution (a technical school, 2-year or 4-year college) never actually show up on campus to enroll? They’ve already been accepted, and have every intention of attending, but then something happens and they don’t ever go.  This is the summer melt and it’s happening more and more, particularly for low-income students, students of color, and first-generation college prospects.

In most cases, the melt happens because of financial challenges, a lack of support and knowledge about the enrollment process, fear and mindset shifts, or a lack of communication and connection to the school.  But wait, there’s more! Before they can start their new adventure, there are still a lot of important steps to take, deadlines to meet, and costs to shoulder that could add additional obstacles or challenges for our new grads.

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No wonder so many don’t make it!  There’s a lot going on and it’s easy for teens to miss steps, forget about deadlines, or get overwhelmed by the process – especially if there is no one supporting them.

Institutions across the country are finding new approaches to address the summer melt phenomenon. As youth development professionals, we can help to do something about it as well.  We get the privilege of standing in the gap and declaring to the summer melt: “NOT ON MY WATCH!”


Here are some things you can do in your afterschool program to support college-bound seniors:

  1. Continue to build up youth’s confidence by reminding them they ARE college material and they have what it takes to be successful!
  2. Talk to your seniors about the summer melt. Here’s a video you can use!
  3. Encourage them to talk to mentors, parents, Club staff, Club Alumni, and their school’s admissions office if they have doubts, challenges, or questions about what to do.
  4. Encourage them to connect with the school through social media and mobile apps for reminders, news, and updates.
  5. Build in group check-in moments with graduates throughout your summer program so they know they are not alone in the process.
  6. Set up a buddy system among the graduates to help hold each other accountable and remind each other of important tasks and deadlines.
  7. Talk to parents about the summer melt and let them know you want to help ensure their graduate is able to enroll in school as planned.
  8. And drum-roll …. conduct sessions from the NEW Diplomas to Degrees (D2D) program guide! An entire module now exists to minimize the summer melt and support graduates in their transition into “college-life” by addressing common first-year issues. Click here to download a free excerpt from Module 3 of the new D2D curriculum that can be used to talk about avoiding the summer melt. Boys & Girls Club staff can download the entire guide plus learn more at


With a little bit of extra support and guidance, your seniors can make it across the finish line!  

Photo credit Pankaj Khadka

Want to dig deeper? Love podcasts? Check out this episode on summer melt from NPR’s Hidden Brain.

Have you found ways to keep your graduating seniors engaged until they leave for school? We’d love to hear your stories and unique ideas. Let us know in the comments below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email to share!


Stacy Ruff is a member of the Youth Development team and has been with the Movement for 3 ½ years creating workforce development and college & career programs.  She got her start in youth development as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching high school classes in Nicaragua and has been an advocate for youth ever since.


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