What is a Summer Bridge Program? (Plus, How to Stay Connected!)
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6 min read
February 29, 2024

What is a Summer Bridge Program? (Plus, How to Stay Connected!)

Three college students walking down steps.
Student Success
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Increasing enrollment numbers is always a high priority for most colleges and universities. When it comes down to it, attracting prospective students means your campus needs an effective outreach program. There are various ways to engage with students looking to enroll in a college or university, and one way is to create a summer bridge program

You’re in the right place if you’re asking, “What is a summer bridge program?”. Let’s define this kind of program, the benefits your campus will reap with a summer bridge program, and what you can do to keep students engaged throughout their time with your program.

What is a Summer Bridge Program?

A summer bridge program is designed to help prospective college students smoothly transition from high school to university. These programs are intended for incoming first-year students or transfer students new to your campus. 

Typically, new incoming students apply to enroll in the program. Throughout the summer, students participate in various activities designed to prepare them for their first semester on campus. Some of these activities included classes, like math and science refresher courses, and workshops focused on personal finance and development.

While most summer bridge programs are geared toward incoming first-year students, there are various types of programs your campus might want to consider, like TRIO’s Upward Bound program. Instead of focusing on incoming students, Upward Bound’s initiative is to engage with low-income high school students, introduce them to future career paths, and guide them through the college application process.

Summer bridge programs don’t just benefit the students, though. If enrollment is at the top of your “to-do” list, consider these two campus-wide benefits of a summer bridge program.

Two Major Campus-Wide Benefits of a Summer Bridge Program 

No matter which kind of summer bridge program your campus implements, like a program for incoming first-year students or a program for high school students, these kinds of programs are a great way to engage with prospective students looking to continue their education on your campus. And, your campus will benefit, too. Here are two of the most significant benefits.

1. Boost Student Retention Rates

Summer bridge programs are a great way to foster connections between students and their academic advisors. During these programs, academic advisors can get to know their students on a deeper, more personal level. This kind of connection often leads to academic success, too. According to the Center for Community College Student Engagement, 92% of returning students said academic advising was vital to their success. 

Students who feel connected to their campus are more likely to stay enrolled in their chosen programs. This means you’ll likely see higher retention rates, too.

2. Increase Graduation Rates

Summer bridge programs aim to ensure students are prepared for their first semester on campus. Often, these programs work with students to get them ready for college-level courses. This might mean students spend a few weeks of their summer in remedial classes. 

Remedial classes are a good thing. Think about it: if a student enrolls in a class and lacks the skills to succeed, they’ll likely drop out of the course– or worse, they’ll drop out of college entirely. While it might appear the student receives the most benefit from a summer bridge program, the reality is that these programs help colleges and universities ensure students stay enrolled on campus, eventually leading to higher graduation rates.

How to Connect with Prospective Students of Your Summer Bridge Program

Now that we’ve answered “What is a summer bridge program?”, let’s talk about actionable ways you can connect with prospective participants. 

Create a Mailing List

To get prospective students interested in your summer bridge program, you’ll need to advertise it to relevant audiences. If your program is geared towards high school students, connect with local high schools and set up an initial interest meeting. Then, gather students’ contact information to create a mailing list. Or, if your program is geared toward incoming first-year students and transfer students, collect their contact information during the college admissions process. 

When it’s time to connect with students about your summer bridge program, use Cadence to initiate instant, two-way communication with prospective students to invite them to apply for the program. (And, when enrolled, remind them about the program’s activities!)

Increase Advisors’ Availability 

It’s normal for prospective students to have questions about their programs, especially if a summer bridge program is a new initiative on your campus. Lots of questions mean your academic advisors should be on hand, ready to answer them. Live chat is a great way to open the line of communication for students.

However, sometimes, having an academic advisor available for student questions is impossible. There might be an important faculty meeting or it could be after hours. Still, students expect answers. Integrating an AI-powered chatbot to your campus’ website is a great solution to ensuring someone is available at all times.

Cadence’s AI chatbot provides real-time answers to prospective students’ questions. If the question is too complex for AI to answer fully, an academic advisor can take over the chat when necessary.

Tailor Your Program to Student Needs

Summer bridge programs are flexible, meaning your academic advisors can tailor the program to best fit your students’ needs. But, how do you know what your students need?

Easy, ask them. Then use Cadence to analyze emails and conversations between students and advisors for sentiment analysis and topic clusters. With the insights gained using Cadence’s analysis, you and your advisors can better understand how to connect with and support your students throughout the summer.

Stay Connected in Your Summer Bridge Program

Summer bridge programs are all about creating and maintaining connections with prospective and incoming students to support them in their academic journey.

Creating connections and maintaining an open line of communication with your students is easy with the right tools, like Cadence. Reach out today to book a conversation to learn about partnering with Mongoose and how Cadence can help spark connections on campus.