Mentor Support for Adults Transitioning to College

If asked to name a person who has had a significant impact, been a role model, or who has guided us in our professional and/or personal lives, almost all of us will have at least one person come to mind. These guides and/or mentors play a crucial role in our personal and professional growth. Research studies confirm what we already know intuitively – that mentoring works!

In the academic context, the bulk of the research has been done with high school students. Studies have shown mentoring to positively improve attendance (Kennelly & Monrad, 2007), and increase college enrollment rates (Jekielek, Moore, & Hair, 2002), to name a few of the benefits. Mentoring has also been shown to have a definite impact on student persistence and academic achievement in college (Crisp & Cruz 2009; Terenzani, Psacarella, & Blimling 1996).

With such an encouraging evidence base, we at the National College Transition Network (NCTN) were interested in developing a mentoring model that addresses an unmet need for mentoring adult learners transitioning to college from adult basic education programs. Building on our College for a Day project, and with support from the State Street Foundation and the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, Adult College Engagement (ACE) Mentoring project aims to increase access, persistence, and success of adults in college and training and build capacity of the participating adult education programs. To implement the program, NCTN has partnered with three adult learning programs and two community colleges in the Boston area. Mentors are adult ed program alumni, who have completed at least one year of postsecondary education. The mentees are adult education students who are transitioning to college this Fall.

As of September, 15 mentors are guiding their mentees through their first couple of weeks in college. The mentors bring the wealth of their own college-going experience to the mix and have been guiding the mentees over the summer. The ACE project is unique because mentorship straddles the adult education program experience and the first year of college to ensure persistence. Research shows that the first semester and year represent a crucial threshold after which students’ persistence to completion increases considerably (McCormick & Carroll, 1999, Calcagno, et. al., 2006). The mentoring activities are geared to get the mentees through the critical periods when new college students are most likely to drop out: the period between acceptance and when classes begin; the first month of classes; mid-terms; the end of 1st semester; and enrolling in 2nd semester. The testimonials from the participating mentors and mentees have been encouraging and we look forward to seeing the continued impact of the planned activities. All the tools and resources used in the project implementation come from our Mentoring Toolkit, which we hope to make available on our website in January 2015.

Does your program have a mentoring component? Tell us more about your mentoring experiences by connecting with NCTN on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information about the Adult College Engagement project, contact Priyanka Sharma,

Example of a Mentor-Mentee Profile

Mentor #1 is an ESOL and College Transition program graduate from one of the participating programs. After graduating in 2010, she went on to work towards her Associate’s degree in the biotechnology field. At the local community college, she has continued as an exceptional student, working as a teaching assistant. She is now in her final year of study. She is excited to be a mentor and happy to give back as the adult education program has been such a force for success in her life.

Mentee #1, a 50-something immigrant from Haiti, just finished her high school diploma and has enrolled in the local community college to pursue a certification in Medical Transcription. She is very excited to begin her classes as going to college has been a lifelong dream, and she wants to set an example for her teenage daughter.

Published by

Priyanka Sharma

Priyanka Sharma

Priyanka Sharma is Coordinator of the National College Transition Network (NCTN) at World Education, Inc. Her areas of expertise include transition to postsecondary education and training for non­traditional students, professional development for educators, and technical assistance for program development on best practices and strategies around college and career readiness.