The transition from high school to university can be nerve-racking and challenging. Upper-year undergraduate students (peer mentors) could provide insightful and unique first-hand experiences of this significant transition to high school or first-year university students (mentees). As a result, peer mentors could offer practical advice and empathy to mentees based on their own experiences. Finally, peer mentors could contribute to mentees’ academic performance, retention rates and overall student satisfaction at university (Crisp et al., 2017).
What Is Peer Mentoring?
In the high school and undergraduate context, peer mentoring involves an experienced student providing academic, career and/or psychosocial support to a less-experienced student (Crisp & Cruz, 2009). Besides the different types of support, peer mentoring also involves other characteristics that are found in all mentoring relationships.
For undergraduate students in their second year or above, being a peer mentor could provide the opportunity to develop soft skills such as interpersonal and communication skills, which in turn, increases leadership capacity (Roy & Brown, 2016). Also, undergraduate students who gain mentoring experience could develop their active listening skills, practice providing constructive feedback, and act as a guide to younger, less experienced students in a supportive manner. Additionally, peer mentors are exposed to a diverse set of perspectives and experiences, allowing them to engage in empathy and cultural sensitivity. Finally, the aforementioned skills are valuable to undergraduate students as they develop their skills for the workforce.
On the receiving end of the mentoring relationship, mentees could increase their personal development, self-confidence and self-awareness (Crisp et al., 2017). By working closely with an upper-year mentor, mentees could develop a more holistic understanding of their strengths and areas of growth, enabling them to be better prepared for their journey in post-secondary education (Crisp et al., 2017).
Problems Surrounding Peer Mentorship During the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, students were struggling with remote learning. The lack of in-person interaction was detrimental to students’ learning and networking. Students who were entering their first year of university at this time did not have the typical transition to post-secondary education. They could not attend university in person, which meant they could not roam the campus physically. This in turn hindered their ability to access help and resources.
Originally, we developed our mentoring program to assist these students who had difficulty getting help and finding information during a global pandemic. We served both domestic and international high school and first-year university students during this unprecedented time with a focus on bridging the gap between high school and Canadian post-secondary education.
What is LEAP Currently Doing In Terms of Peer Mentorship?
Although our mentoring program began during the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to help domestic and international high school and first-year university students obtain access to peer mentors who can assist them with their transition to post-secondary education. We will be launching our new Mentorship Marketplace Program, in which peer mentors will develop personal profiles and mentees will have the autonomy to choose their peer mentors from these profiles. We hope our mentoring program will provide a platform for upper-year undergraduate students to build their leadership, role modelling, mentoring, teaching, coaching, listening and personal communication skills.
How Can You Get Involved?
We hope this article encourages you to consider becoming a peer mentor for high school or first-year university students. If you have not signed up yet for our Mentorship Marketplace Program, please do so! We hope you will take part in our mission to ease youths’ transition to post-secondary education.
Crisp, G., Baker, V. L., Griffin, K. A., Lunsford, L. G., & Pifer, M. J. (2017). Mentoring undergraduate students. ASHE Higher Education Report, 43(1), 7–103. https://doi.org/10.1002/aehe.20117
Crisp, G., & Cruz, I. (2009). Mentoring college students: A critical review of the literature between 1990 and 2007. Research in Higher Education, 50(6), 525–545. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-009-9130-2
Roy, V., & Brown, P. A. (2016). Baccalaureate accounting student mentors’ social representations of their mentorship experiences. Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 7(1), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2016.1.6