In the previous post, I suggested that it is helpful to think of peer mentoring as a set of tools that can be used in different ways in different college contexts to promote student success and degree completion. Three ways peer mentoring can be used to facilitate college student success were discussed: increasing mentee engagement and involvement in learning, building campus connections, and providing mentees with emotional support and validation. This post continues that discussion.
• Peer mentoring can Help Mentees Navigate Your College, locate important resources and use them appropriately.
Peer mentoring can increase mentees’ chances of success by helping locate and use important resources (Collier, 2015, pp. 70-72). The sheer geographical size of a university can make even taken for- granted aspects of student life, such as getting from one class to another when they are not in the same building, unexpected sources of stress. Peer mentors can help new students deal with geographical navigation issues by providing them with campus maps and walking them around the campus to identify important campus resources.
Peer mentors need to do more than just provide their mentees with information about campus resources. They should explain to mentees how specific campus resources are associated with specific student issues. In addition, mentors should share personal strategies for how to effectively use different resources in ways that improve the likelihood of college success. The mentor presents information to the mentee in the form of a script that facilitates storage and recall from memory by connecting a student adjustment issue, such as writing a research paper, with a specific campus resource, such as the library, and a strategy for using that resource to address the issue, such as instructing the mentee to use the website to access tutorials on putting together a research paper.
• Peer mentoring can facilitate mentees’ increased mastery of college student role.
Increasing mentees’ relative levels of role mastery involves mentors helping new students figure out how to proceed in key interactions with university personnel, which is necessary for college success (Collier, 2015). Through role modeling, peer mentors provide mentees with a set of scripts that improve the students’ chances of enacting key components of the university student role successfully in interactions with others. Examples of student success scripts include how to communicate with professors, how to act on the first day of class, how to make the most out of a meeting with an adviser, or how to get financial aid questions answered. The underlying idea is that when students follow these proven scripts for taking on the college student role, they will have a better than average chance of success at the university because these scripts have been shown to work in the past.
• Peer mentoring can improve mentee decision making
One important way that peer mentoring can help transitioning students succeed at college is by helping them make better decisions (Collier, 2015, pp. 72-77).
Through role modeling, peer mentoring leads to higher quality decision making and ultimately college student success. Peer mentors can help mentees achieve positive college outcomes by sharing their college student expertise and providing mentees with insights into the university’s expectations for successful students. Role modeling is the key. It is not enough that a mentor models the college student role, the mentor must also explain to the mentee why the mentor has chosen the alternative problem solving strategy. The mentor not only shares practical knowledge, he or she also provides the mentee with backstage information on how the culture of higher education works.
For the mentee, accepting the mentor’s advice is highly likely to result in a superior outcome. Instead of the mentee using his or her limited experience to try to figure out which alternative strategy will produce the best outcomes based on trial and error, the decision is now based on a much simpler process: “Should I accept this strategy as the best one to use because the mentor recommends it?” It is the peer mentor’s experience with already dealing with this issue that encourages the mentee to follow the advice that is offered. When the mentor shares his or her expertise in the form of strategies that work, one consequence is higher quality decision making by the mentee.
In the last two posts, I’ve described peer mentoring as the “Swiss Army knife” of college student support resources. I identified six potential ways that peer mentoring could be used to promote college student success. There undoubtedly could be more. Typically, the needs of the group of students being served will determine which of these different ways that peer mentoring can promote student success will be incorporated into a single program.
The next post explores why, in some situations, peer mentoring may be more effective than hierarchical mentoring in promoting college student success.
Next: Why Peer Mentoring is Effective for Promoting College Student Success