By July 5, 2018 March 28th, 2019 News

While the summer months are heating up in Southwest Florida, another phenomenon in college admissions happens: the summer melt. The summer melt occurs when college-intending high school graduates changed or reconsidered where, or even whether, to attend college in the months after graduation.

The summer melt is more prevalent in low-income, minority and first-generation communities that may lack resources and guidance in following through with their college plans. Some estimates by college admissions research places the summer melt of seniors as ranging from 10 to 40 percent of students.

This year, Lee County had a record-setting high school graduation rate of 90 percent, with Collier County’s high school graduation rate at 88 percent. But according to a local workforce study completed by the FutureMakers Coalition, only 37.7 percent of high school graduates have completed a college degree or certificate program in Southwest Florida.

One area of concern is that the pipeline of students that feeds into our workforce development is being underserved. With the FutureMakers Coalition’s goal of increasing degree and certificate attainment in Southwest Florida to 55 percent by the year 2025, both the K-12 and higher education systems need to work more cohesively to support parents and students. Our K-12 system cannot say, “They are graduated, now they are yours,” and the post-secondary institutions cannot say, “They have not come yet, so they are still yours.” A combined effort, including engagement of K-12 and higher education in conjunction with parents and students, is necessary.

According to research, there are some small initiatives that can have large impacts on reducing the number of students who are susceptible to summer melt. While personalized phone calls are helpful, some colleges found students still grew frustrated by the length of time receiving answers from the college, and not understanding the college process of financial aid, documentation, transcripts and other necessary steps to enroll in college.

Florida SouthWestern State College implements a collaborative mindset throughout the academic year and summer to provide additional support to encourage early enrollment step completion to set students up for success and increased outreach during summer months for those finalizing their plans.

School counselors. Florida South- Western State College understands that preparation for college begins long before a student’s senior year of high school. The institution’s admission counselors focus on building relationships with school counselors by offering presentations and programs to provide individualized support to the student body in the community. Throughout the academic year admission counselors can be found in local high schools presenting topics such as basic college knowledge scholarship opportunities, financial aid process and enrollment steps. Admission counselors also commonly offer admission and FSW scholarship application completion workshops and provide assistance to students wanting to complete the enrollment steps to register.

Parents. Parents are critical in reminding students they are college material and can be successful in a post-secondary institution. In addition to playing the role as the cheerleader, educating oneself is essential to identifying which institution is the best fit. A college’s website is a great place to begin.

Parents should promote visiting the college before the first day of class. FSW hosts campus tours at all locations. See www.fsw.edu/tours to schedule a date to discover Florida SouthWestern State College.

FSW encourages parents to ask their child questions and line up necessary documents needed to complete the college application, residency for tuition purposes (at public postsecondary institutions) and financial aid well before the deadline.

Post-secondary institutions. Florida SouthWestern State College is still accepting admissions applications for the fall 2018 semester that begins in August. In preparation for fall, the Office of Admission at FSW strives to provide accepted students their next steps by communicating to students though phone calls and emails. The institution also encourages students to check their student portals frequently for enrollment status updates to ensure they are able to register for the upcoming semester in a timely manner.

New students who have not applied are encouraged to attend an enrollment information session during the summer months to guide them through the enrollment process in a group presentation format. See more information at www.fsw.edu/admissions/events.

Community organizations. For many community organizations that support students during the summer months it is a great time to plan a group visit to one of the Florida SouthWestern State Colleges locations. Group tours typically begin with a presentation from one of FSW’s admission. For more information, contact Ashley Crilly in the admissions office at [email protected] or 432- 7355.

— Amanda Sterk, Ed. D., is the director of accelerated pathways for Florida SouthWestern State College. Ashley Crilley, M. A., is the associate director of recruitment operations for Florida SouthWestern State College.