Tennessee College Access & Success Network

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What's Next: A Curriculum for Reducing Summer Melt

Across the country, up to 40% of students who leave high school planning to attend postsecondary do not end up enrolling in the fall (Castleman & Page, 2014). This drop off in the few months between high school graduation in the spring and college enrollment in the fall is oftentimes referred to as "summer melt." Lower-income students are most likely to be affected by the summer melt phenomenon - in some low income communities, nearly 1 out of every 2 students who intended to enroll in postsecondary in the fall fail to start college (Castleman & Page, 2014). 

How can this happen? Experts conclude that this is in large part due to students facing complex, bewildering tasks related to college enrollment - like needing to set up a payment plan with the financial aid office on campus - without the support to navigate these decisions. 

However, there are promising solutions to this problem. The Tennessee College Access and Success Network (TCASN) recently created What's Next, a curriculum designed to reduce the incidence of summer melt and prepare high school graduates to successfully begin college the fall semester after high school. What's Next was originally created for Opportunity Now, a youth employment initiative spearheaded by the office of Nashville’s Mayor, Megan Barry. The program was successfully piloted throughout Nashville in Summer 2017 and is now available to be customized to other local contexts. 

The What's Next Curriculum

Our approach 

  • Identifies one concrete step students can complete each week and supports to help them accomplish it
  • Explicitly teaches skills students need to be successful in postsecondary settings
  • Focuses on connections to peers and professionals on their campus so students have a support system when they arrive.

Interested in learning more about how your school, district, or region can reduce summer melt? Contact Jenny McFerron, TCASN's Director of Strategy and Engagement, to learn how you can customize the What's Next curriculum to fit the needs of your students and community.