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Transforming the use of data in education to improve student achievement

SDP Summer Melt Handbook: A Guide to Investigating and Responding to Summer Melt

The SDP Summer Melt Handbook is a resource for education leaders interested in examining whether summer melt is occurring in their agency. The handbook not only serves to diagnose the phenomenon, but also helps leaders understand what they can do to address it.

What is summer melt?

Across the country, 10–40% of seemingly college-intending students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, fail to enroll in college the fall after graduation. This phenomenon is known as summer melt. College-intending students have completed key college-going steps, such as being accepted to college and applying for financial aid, and have concretely signaled their intention to enroll in college. A student has melted if he or she was college-intending, and yet still fails to transition successfully to college the fall after high school graduation. Summer melt is a prevalent issue for education leaders because large shares of students are failing to bridge that gap between institutions. Yet research has identified interventions that can have a significant impact on alleviating the summer melt phenomenon and increasing college enrollment rates. Moreover, it is possible to do so at a relatively low cost.

What can I do? 

Using the SDP Summer Melt Handbook, you can: 

  • measure the magnitude of summer melt among your high school graduates,
  • design a summer intervention customized to the needs and realities of your school community,
  • learn about the extent of the summer melt phenomenon across several large education agencies, and
  • gain insight into the positive impact of additional outreach and support for students during the post-high school summer.

Download the SDP Summer Melt Handbook

Where can I find the sample forms provided in the resources section of the handbook?

You can find the list of available PDFs on the sample forms page

Where can I find more information about summer melt?

The additional resources referenced below can help you learn more about summer melt. 

Academic Research Papers: These published findings provide evidence about the positive impact of summer interventions in several education agencies across the country. They also offer more in-depth methodological and technical information about the studies.

Fulton County Schools Case Study: This case study describes how one district developed, implemented, and evaluated a summer counseling intervention program, called Summer PACE (Personalized Assistance for College Enrollment), to confront the summer melt issue in their district.


SDP Summer Melt Handbook
CEPR