Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Stopping the “summer melt:” Summer counseling is a college access strategy that aims to help recent high school graduates prepare for college enrollment. Most programs seek to directly counter “summer melt,” a common challenge, especially for low-income students. Summer melt is when students who intend to enroll in college never do so because of financial, administrative, and social barriers faced in the months between high school graduation and the start of college.

  • Helping participants navigate barriers: Summer counseling programs conduct outreach to recent graduates, often through text messages, emails, phone calls, and social media. The program’s counselors or college student mentors then provide information about and assist participants in completing tasks required for college enrollment. These include tasks like signing up for health insurance, registering for orientation, finalizing financial aid, and more.

  • Varied approaches to operations and staffing: Summer counseling programs are typically run by high schools, though postsecondary institutions and college access nonprofits may also provide summer counseling services. In most cases, outreach and counseling is provided by professional counselors, though some programs recruit near-peer mentors to perform these functions. Generally, programs run for one to two months during the summer after high school graduation.

Cost per Participant
$80-$200 per participant

Multiple studies with rigorous designs provide some evidence for summer counseling as a strategy for improving outcomes related to college access, readiness, and persistence.

  • Begin recruiting participants before graduation: Once students graduate from high school, they can be harder to reach. By starting recruitment as students approach the end of their senior year, summer counseling programs can increase up-take of counseling services.
  • Provide training on common enrollment barriers While summer counseling programs operated by postsecondary institutions may utilize staff familiar with the steps leading to matriculation, most programs rely on high school counselors or volunteer mentors, who may not understand all of the requirements. As such, programs should provide counselors and mentors with training on how to handle common barriers that participants face.

  • Develop partnerships with postsecondary institutions: While many of the steps required for matriculation are similar across institutions, specific details differ (e.g., deadlines, contact information). Programs operated by high schools or nonprofit organizations should prioritize relationships with the colleges with high rates of summer melt among students. These relationships can ensure counselors and mentors understand institution-specific requirements.

  • Provide counselors with a portal to organize communication: Counselors typically conduct outreach to hundreds of participants. Creating a web-based interface for advisors to track contact with participants allows them to better organize outreach efforts and ensure inquiries are addressed in a timely fashion.