The Impact of Peer-Mentoring on the Academic Success of Underrepresented College Students

Venegas-Muggli, J. I., Barrientos, C., & Álvarez, F. (2021). The Impact of Peer-Mentoring on the Academic Success of Underrepresented College Students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 1521025121995988.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Chilean higher education systems have recently started providing opportunities for more formal education.
  • While this helps advance the social mobility of underrepresented groups, it simultaneously presents new challenges for incoming college students who might not have the academic and social skills necessary to succeed.
  • This study assesses whether first-year college participating in a Chilean peer-mentoring program did academically better than students of similar backgrounds who didn’t participate.
  • Students who participated in the peer-mentoring program had better average grades, attendance rates, and retention levels than students who didn’t participate.
  • The mentoring initiative had a positive impact on the academic performance of first-year college students, especially for those from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Mentoring interventions are promising methods to promote the academic success of underrepresented college students.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

This study evaluates the impact of the peer-mentoring program implemented by a Chilean higher education institution on underrepresented students’ academic success. Specifically, it assesses whether freshmen who enrolled in 2018 and took part in this initiative performed better than students with similar characteristics who did not. A quantitative quasi-experimental design was applied, using the Propensity Score Matching method. The results show that students who took part in this peer-mentoring program got better average grades and had better retention rates and attendance levels than those who did not. Strategies for developing successful mentoring initiatives for college students are discussed, with a special emphasis on their potential relevance to underrepresented students.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This study evaluated the impact of a peer-mentoring program on students’ academic performance at a higher education institution in Chile. The main conclusion from the findings is that the implemented mentoring initiative had a positive and significant impact on students’ academic results. Specifically, using the PSM quasi-experimental method, it was shown that students who benefited from this strategy had significantly higher average grades, retention rates and attendance levels than students with similar characteristics but who did not take part. Likewise, it was also illustrated that the magnitude of this program’s effects on student retention rates is greater among female, daytime students and students enrolled in technical-professional study programs.

In line with Nora and Crisp (2007), it can be argued that INACAP’s peer-mentoring program successfully improved student levels of social and academic integration into post-secondary studies. Additionally, its effectiveness seems to be the result of the correct application of the different principles highlighted in the literature on the subject: having student peers as mentors, a mentor with multiple roles (including emotional support) and a formal program structure (Collier, 2017; Colvin & Ashman, 2010; Lim et al., 2017; ). Senior students with a wide range of skills and abilities are involved in this program to support freshmen. Moreover, this initiative has a formal structure, with mentors being trained, mentees assigned to a mentor and planned meetings sessions. To this effect, the program’s structure appears to play a key role in improving student engagement with their academic environment.

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