What are the options when a global pandemic usurps a student’s well-made plans to attend college?

Student melt

The Student Melt Conundrum

Students have made their college choice decision, completed all of the required admission steps, received admittance, and then (based on the experiences of most colleges and universities) they don’t register.  This is known in the college admissions and enrollment community as student melt.  In an average year, up to 20% of admitted incoming students communicate that they will attend an institution, and may even pay a deposit, but then they don’t register for classes.  One can only imagine how “melt” is exacerbated in the era of COVID-19.

“This has been a crazy week for summer melt.  The spike of COVID cases is certainly having an enrollment impact”

University Enrollment Administrator

Parents, students, and sometimes the entire family engage in the process to ensure their child is prepared to attend college.  Often, when this student is the first person in the family to attend a post-secondary institution this multi-generational effort is made with the knowledge that a college degree is one of the most important factors to change the financial and resulting social-economic trajectory of the family for generations.  An interruption in this plan to attend college threatens a student’s likelihood to complete college with a degree.  This puts a student at risk of becoming one of the more than thirty-six million Americans with some college and no degree, with the documented negative long-term effects.

Practice and Policy are Important.

How can this path be interrupted, and students be redirected to re-enter college?  There isn’t a single solution to support a student classified as a melt to re-entry, but several key conditions exist that generate student success.  Socio-emotional support for admitted students is an important factor, and the socio-emotional health of students can be gauged by how they recount the strength of relationships in their academic life. 

According to Sarah Horn, CEO of ReUp Education, “If learners don’t see a way that they can become successful, they start to question if it’s worth it — and that has large ripple effects”.  It is not difficult to understand why an admitted student questions the value of going to college in today’s environment when a student may be experiencing high levels of financial and emotional uncertainty.

Practice: Success Coaching

In the ReUp model, coaching fundamentals include awareness building, information sharing, building accountability, and taking action. This is achieved through ReUp’s patent-pending Personas technology which assesses key dimensions in a student’s life that enable or inhibit their success in returning to and completing school. These assessments are made dynamically over time, which allows students to then be classified into one of 16 data-driven personas. Based on the persona, specific interventions are recommended that will be most effective in helping the student achieve positive outcomes when used by their Success Coach. ReUp coaches use the assessments and personas to holistically understand each student’s strengths and challenge areas affecting their return to school (and degree completion).

This understanding, along with the specific intervention recommendations, allows coaches to deliver highly personalized support to all of the students they serve through email, phone, and text. This enables highly personalized support at large scale, while also creating unprecedented insight into trends across your student population.

As an active, concerned, personal connection to the institution, Success Coaches often serve as an accountability partner, provide consistent encouragement, and are a bridge to vital resources that support students in goal setting and attainment of their degree. Research shows that a Success Coach relationship can be the critical difference for students who find themselves with the types of barriers students are facing as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. These obstacles can cause a student to postpone attending college as planned, however, working with a Success Coach can be the critical component that supports a student with the forward momentum to continue their academic career. 


Policies can be an equalizer for students that have traditionally encountered explicit and implicit rules that deter college attendance.  Consider addressing policies that disproportionately impact first-generation students and underrepresented populations, making them subject to melt.  As reported by the federal Education Department “up to one third of all students who leave high school with plans to attend college never arrive at any college campus that fall.  Summer melt tends to hit low-income students hardest, as well as students who are the first in their family to go to college”. 

Enrollment policy should encompass all phases of the student journey, and aspire to reflect the institution’s retention philosophy.  Academic placement tests, affordability and the admission process all contribute to lack of college access for students already at risk of interrupting their college journey.  Process and procedures must be sustainable and provide concrete, real world remedies that can be added to the tool kit admissions and student success professionals’ use as they recruit and support students that have “melted” or stopped out. 

Has this unusual number of student “melts” adversely impacted your institutions’ enrollment this fall?   In practice, success coaching supports students and meets them at their point of need to enable their successful certificate completion or degree attainment. Policies should reflect the current environment and facilitate flexible options that reduce barriers to access.  ReUp has learned a great deal about how to engage, re-enroll and retain students that may have originally melted because they lacked the required knowledge and resources to find their way back to college. 

Would you like to learn more?  Click here to connect and explore the opportunity your college or university has to reach its primary ambition of awarding degrees as a partner of ReUp Education.