Considering a Peer Mentoring Program? Six Tips Can Help

By Bonnie Weaver, USA Funds Consultant

Enlisting the help of students to teach their peers about default prevention and student success offers benefits to all parties involved.

Students who receive assistance from peer mentors connect to campus by learning the academic and financial ropes from those whose school and life experiences are similar to their own. Students who mentor others gain community service and leadership experience while also reviewing the student success lessons they’re imparting.

And schools can benefit from enhanced student retention and decreased student loan default rates.

So are you ready to try peer mentoring at your school? Here are some tips to guide you as you develop a mentoring program for financial literacy and student success training:

  1. Decide which students most need assistance. Mine the data available regarding your students’ success to help you decide which groups to pair with mentors. Does the data for your students suggest that first-year students could benefit most? Maybe it’s students who are struggling academically. Or perhaps it’s first-generation students.
  2. Attract the right peer mentors. When getting out the word about the program — perhaps by poster or by seeking faculty recommendations — tout the benefits and expectations for mentors. Offering pay or even class credit can help you attract more students. Being clear about what’s involved helps ensure that you’re getting applicants who are serious about the effort.
  3. Establish a structured program. I work with several schools that offer peer mentoring programs. They’ve found that it’s important to set clear guidelines for mentors — with signed agreements noting points such as number of students to mentor, amount of time to spend with those students, the importance of confidentiality, and activities to conduct.
  4. Consider how mentors will provide the training. The possibilities are endless for activities focused on default prevention and student success. Examples of activities at the schools I counsel include remedial class and residence hall presentations, study sessions, and fun activities that incorporate financial literacy training. How about a scavenger hunt, movie night or bowling outing?
  5. Determine the tools your mentors will need. Equip your mentors to provide the assistance students need to succeed. You could offer training through a program like USA Funds® Life Skills®. You could provide a list of campus and community resources where students can seek help. And make sure mentors know your office is there when they need you.
  6. Develop a plan for measuring results. Assessment and evaluation of your efforts are critical. So establish goals for performance in peer mentor activities, student learning and program effectiveness. Then regularly track your progress toward those goals.

Need help getting started? Contact USA Funds for assistance and to learn more about tools we provide for your default prevention and student success efforts.