Why peer mentoring is an effective approach for promoting college student success
Both hierarchical (e.g. student-faculty member or student-adviser) and peer (e.g. student-student) mentoring are recognized as best-practice strategies for promoting college student success. Formal mentoring programs utilizing both approaches can be found on many campuses. In the current institutional context of scarce or stagnant resources, college and university presidents and administrators face the challenge of determining which mix of programs to support even though little comparative research on the effectiveness of these approaches exists. This article examines three characteristics of a peer mentoring approach that encourage its greater use. The first two characteristics, cost and the availability of a larger number of potential mentors, relate to concerns about the efficient use of resources. The third characteristic, development of a common perspective, relates to questions concerning the relative effectiveness of different mentoring approaches. Peer mentors and mentees are more likely than participants in hierarchical mentoring relationships to share a common perspective with regards to how they understand and enact the college student role. Differences in perspective impact the process of student identity acquisition, perceived mentor credibility, and the likelihood of mentees following their mentors’ advice. Higher education researchers are urged to conduct studies exploring the relative effectiveness of both approaches and how to best combine approaches in complimentary ways to help administrators make informed decisions.
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