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Summer Melt
April 2019


What does the research say about strategies to reduce the number of high school students who have indicated intent to attend college but do not attend?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Arnold, K. D., Chewning, A., Castleman, B., & Page, L. (2015). Advisor and student experiences of summer support for college-intending, low-income high school graduates. Journal of College Access, 1(1), 6–28.

From the Abstract:
"This article presents qualitative findings from two interventions intended to reduce summer melt among low-income, urban high school graduates who had been accepted to college and indicated their intention to enroll."

Castleman, B. L., & Page, L. C. (2014). A trickle or a torrent? Understanding the extent of summer "melt" among college‐intending high school graduates. Social Science Quarterly, 95(1), 202–220. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The object of this study was to examine whether college‐intending, low‐income high school graduates are particularly susceptible to having their postsecondary education plans change, or even fall apart, during the summer after high school graduation."

Castleman, B. L., & Page, L. C. (2015). Summer nudging: Can personalized text messages and peer mentor outreach increase college going among low-income high school graduates? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 115, 144–160. Working paper available from

From the Abstract:
"Several recent low-cost interventions demonstrate that simplifying information about college and financial aid and helping students access professional assistance can generate substantial improvements in students’ postsecondary outcomes. We build on this growing literature by investigating the impact of two applications of behavioral principles to mitigate summer ‘melt,’ the phenomenon that college-intending high school graduates fail to matriculate in college anywhere in the year following high school."

Castleman, B. L., Page, L. C., & Schooley, K. (2014). The forgotten summer: Does the offer of college counseling after high school mitigate summer melt among college‐intending, low‐income high school graduates? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33(2), 320–344. Working paper available from

From the Abstract:
"We report on two randomized trials investigating efforts to mitigate summer melt. Offering college‐intending graduates two to three hours of summer support increased enrollment by 3 percentage points overall, and by 8 to 12 percentage points among low‐income students, at a cost of $100 to $200 per student. Further, summer support has lasting impacts on persistence several semesters into college."

Cobb, J. P. (2014). Addressing summer melt: The effectiveness of a summer bridge program in improving college attendance rates for at-risk high school graduates (Doctoral dissertation, University of Houston). Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This research study examined the impact of a summer bridge program in reducing the summer melt rate for two Title I high schools in Houston, Texas. Results indicated that the summer bridge program positively impacted students who are Hispanic and economically disadvantaged and this impact is statistically significant."

Tacket, W. L., Pasatta, K., & Pauken, E. (2018). Lessons learned from a summer melt prevention program. Journal of College Access, 4(1), 40–50.

From the Abstract:
"In order to minimize the number of students that enroll in college their senior year but do not matriculate in the fall, the College and Career Action Network, with the support of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo and in partnership with nine school districts throughout Kalamazoo County, piloted a summer melt program experience in summer 2016."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Summer melt, College OR University OR Higher Education, Enrollment, Attrition

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.