summer melt blog

Tackling the Summer Before College: Necessary Steps to Take

July 11, 2018

Congratulations, high school graduates!

Did you know that summer is a potentially rocky time for many new high school graduates who were accepted into college? The Gates Foundation estimates that between 10 and 40 percent of students accepted to college don’t show up for the first day of school in the fall.


In fact, this happens so often, it has a name: “summer melt.” Students who are ready to enter college at graduation “melt” away and decide college isn’t realistic for them when it’s time to start classes. Students from low-income families are disproportionately affected by “summer melt.”


If you’re a recent grad, it’s important to think about things that can be done to feel most prepared. Here are some tips, from a fellow graduate navigating my first summer before college.


A New Atmosphere

One of the most important things you should do before college is prepare yourself for a new atmosphere.The college atmosphere can be quite a shock to new students. Unlike in high school, you have more independence, with loads of freetime. As an incoming college freshman, I now am in charge of managing my own time, taking classes I want to take and being in control of my own future.


The hardest part for me so far (and I’m not in school yet!) has been getting adjusted to the feeling of being completely independent. I have to be aware of orientations, registrations, and make my own appointments for exams, incoming freshman events and many more. All while balancing a work schedule. It is much different than highschool and definitely an atmosphere that will keep you on your toes.


Budgeting and Money

The “college struggle” is a very real thing. In college, finances become a very important aspect to your daily life, because you’re completely in charge of how you spend your own money. Creating a budget will provide a clearer image of your over all income, projected expenses on food, tuition, books, transportation and all outside expenses.

As a college student, saving money and sticking to a budget will keep yourself on track for a better living experience.

If you face challenges paying for college, room and board, books, fees or anything, don’t give up! A lot of “surprise” fees and expenses pop up over the summer, and this can deter students from enrolling. Don’t let it deter you. You can reach out to your college’s financial aid office for help, apply for work study programs within your college, submit a free Application for Federal Student Aid at Also contact the Higher Education Services Corporation at for more information about additional programs and assistance such as; the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) for New York State residents, the Excelsior Scholarship/Enhanced Tuition Award, Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), and the New York Higher Education Loan Program (NYHELPs).


Placement Tests

Placement tests are mandatory for all incoming freshman to take. Call your school and be sure to set up a date and time to take your placement test. This placement test is math-based. This placement includes topics regarding algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. You can study for the placement exams by researching topics and guidelines that can be found online through your school’s website.


Immunization Forms

If you have successfully saved your seat at your college, you will receive an email about submitting your immunization forms, which is required to provide proof of immunity. The forms you’ll need to submit include documents such as a certificate from a health care provider, immunization registry records, cumulative health records from a previous school, migrant health records, immunization transfer records, military immunization records, and the immunization portion of a passport or an immunization record card signed by a healthcare provider. Submitting Immunization forms as early as possible will allow you to register for classes sooner.


Registering for Classes

When registering for classes, make sure to take into account what schedule will work for you. One of the perks of college is being able to manage your own schedule. This means deciding what time you can go in and working around potential internships, jobs, activities, and responsibilities. When in college you are in charge of making sure what classes you need to take so do your research and figure out what courses will fill your requirements and best fit into your schedule before making any final decisions.


A related tip: as a new student, take time to meet and talk to your professors. Make sure they know you and see that you are trying. It can really help!


Familiarize Yourself

Before college, be sure to continue visiting your school if possible. Become familiar with the different departments and centers to go to in times where you maybe struggling to write a certain paper or understand a certain subject. And most importantly, learn the routes of your school. Learning the routes of your school will enable you to feel more comfortable and truly make this school feel like your school.


Another way to better familiarize yourself with the college is to become acquainted with some folks online. Join your school’s Facebook or other social media groups where there are tons of students in your position who are interested in making friends and creating a better and more comfortable atmosphere for themselves.


Learn More:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education did a 2018 feature on summer melt

  • The Gates Foundation has a spotlight on summer melt

  • Harvard’s Strategic Data Project has a case study on a summer melt intervention in Fort Worth

  • Joe Matar from Brazen has insight on 4 ways to stop summer melt



Danielle Varner is an incoming college freshman, who will be attending school in New York.