Mutual benefits: How college peer mentoring benefits the mentors

Reference: McCallen, L., Yazdani, N., Pai, G., Bloom, J., Chajet, L., & Fine, M. (2023). How a community engagement model of near-peer counseling impacts student mentors’ college outcomes. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 27(2).

Summarized by Ellen Parry Luff

About the Study:

Many racial and socioeconomic disparities persist within the current postsecondary education system. In response, mentoring is frequently utilized to try and improve these gaps. However, there is still little work looking at the impact mentoring has on mentors’ college success. To address this, the current study examines the College Access: Research and Action (CARA) program located at the City University of New York (CUNY) which provides culturally responsive training to college students while also utilizing a near-peer mentoring model to allow said students to transmit their social and cultural capital to high school and community college students. This study looks at the impacts of this program on the mentors’ college outcomes in relation to a comparison group and aims to examine whether these effects may differ for subgroups of students, specifically Black, Latinx, and low-income students, who have a higher risk of poor college outcomes.

Key Findings:

  • CARA near-peer mentors were, overall, 1.94 times more likely to persist in college than the comparison group. In particular, Black and Latinx participants were 2.09 times more likely, and participants who were Pell/TAP recipients were 1.78 times more likely to persist.
  • Since the study findings were consistent with work showing that students with higher social and cultural capital are more likely to persist in college,  the authors suggest that working as a near-peer mentor can increase these forms of capital.
  • The authors argue that the results show a double impact of near-peer mentoring.
    • Firstly, by providing opportunities for community engagement through the institutional setting, near-peer mentoring creates opportunities for young people to have a say in solutions meant to address unequal college access and achievement within their communities.
    • Secondly, near-peer mentoring can potentially promote social and cultural capital in mentors which can aid them in successfully navigating the college process, while simultaneously sharing these resources with their near-peers.
  • It is argued that the combining of the mentors’ roles as protective agents (offering emotional support in the face of social marginalization) and institutional agents (transmitting specialized knowledge) contributed to the mentors in CARA being able to have authentic mentoring relationships that the authors believe are central to the positive effects seen on mentors.

Implications for Mentoring:

The findings in this study underscore how near-peer mentoring can not only have positive impacts on mentees but can also increase college success for mentors. In particular, the results show how community engagement models can increase aspirational, navigational, and oppositional forms of cultural capital in ways that can serve as assets to both underserved students and higher education institutions. The authors argue that the double impact of near-peer mentoring described above can serve as a compelling case for the investment into the creation of near-peer mentoring programs via campus-community partnerships at both the secondary and postsecondary education levels. Future areas of research suggested included further examination of the effects of near-peer mentoring via qualitative data and examining later college outcomes of near-peer mentors. Overall, these findings lend support to the inclusion of underrepresented students in the creation and implementation of program interventions as, using the example of near-peer mentoring, doing so may increase positive outcomes for both the community and student mentors.

To access the article, click here.