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Summer Melt and Delayed Enrollment: Unpacking High School Seniors' College Intentions and Later Decisions

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Summer melt occurs when a student who intends to go to college does not enroll in the fall semester after senior year. The purpose of this study was to examine why high school graduates, who in the spring of their senior year of high school had intentions to go to college, did not enroll in college the fall semester immediately after graduation (i.e., melted). Guided by the research questions, we wanted to understand why these students did not enroll in college directly after high school and how they went through the decision-making process. This qualitative study adds to the existing summer melt literature, which is primarily quantitative. Interviews with students who were classified as having "melted" revealed that all but one student were enrolled in college within a year after high school graduation. These findings suggest traditional methods of defining summer melt may lead researchers to overestimate the extent of melt, as most students in this study purposefully delayed enrollment to pursue other opportunities before college (e.g., work, gap year) or to accept spring admission offers.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Louisiana State University 2: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 3: North Carolina State University

Publication date: March 1, 2022

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is a semiannual refereed journal providing current research on the first college year and other significant student transitions. The primary purpose of the Journal is to disseminate empirical research findings on student transition issues that inform practice in all sectors of postsecondary education, such as explorations into the academic, personal, and social experiences (including outcomes related to success, learning, and development) of students at a range of transition points throughout the college years; transition issues unique to specific populations (e.g., non-traditional, traditional, historically underrepresented students, transfer students, commuters, part-time students); and explorations of faculty development, curriculum, and pedagogical innovations connected to college transitions.
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