The Benefits of Academically Oriented Peer Mentoring for At-Risk Student Populations


  • Bryan Hall Regis University
  • Joseph Serafin St. John’s University
  • Danielle Lundgren St. John’s University



academic performance, at-risk students, belonging, retention, peer mentoring, student engagement


This article examines an academically oriented peer-mentoring program at St. John’s University. The program targeted at-risk first-year students who were having difficulty making the transition to college and matched them with trained student mentors within their major discipline. In addition to meeting with one another bi-weekly, all of the students came together for a series of organized events over the course of the academic year. The goals of the program were that mentees would (1) feel an increased sense of belonging at the university, (2) raise their GPAs, and (3) show improved retention to the second year. After examining how successful the program was relative to these goals, the authors recommend some best practices for peer-mentoring programs. These recommendations are based on both features of the program in the study that contributed to its success and areas where the program could have been improved based on the results.  


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Bryan Hall, Regis University

Bryan Hall is dean of the School for Professional Advancement at Regis University (USA).

Joseph Serafin, St. John’s University

Joseph Serafin is associate professor and chair of chemistry at St. John’s University (USA).

Danielle Lundgren, St. John’s University

Danielle Lundgren is a graduate student in the School Psychology doctoral program at St. John’s University (USA).  


Chester, Andrea, Lorelle J. Burton, Sophie Xenos, and Karen Elgar. 2013. “Peer Mentoring: Supporting Successful Transition for First Year Undergraduate Psychology Students.” Australian Journal of Psychology 65, no. 1: 30–37.

Collings, Rosalyn, Vivien Swanson, and Ruth Watkins. 2014. “The Impact of Peer Mentoring on Levels of Student Wellbeing, Integration and Retention: A Controlled Comparative Evaluation of Residential Students in UK Higher Education.” Higher Education 68, no. 6: 927–42.

Colvin, Janet W. 2015. “Peer Mentoring and Tutoring in Higher Education.” In Exploring Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, edited by Mang Li and Yong Zhao, 207–29. Berlin: Springer.

Cornelius, Vanessa, Leigh Wood, and Jennifer Lai. 2016. “Implementation and Evaluation of a Formal Academic Peer-Mentoring Program in Higher Education.” Active Learning in Higher Education 17, no. 3: 193–205.

Crisp, Gloria, and Irene Cruz. 2009. “Mentoring College Students: A Critical Review of the Literature between 1990 and 2007.” Research in Higher Education 50, no. 6: 525–45.

DeAngelo, Linda. 2014. “Programs and Practices that Retain Students from the First to Second Year: Results from a National Study.” New Directions for Institutional Research 2013, no. 160: 53–75.

Fullick, Julia M., Kimberly A. Smith-Jentsch, Charyl Staci Yarbrough, and Shannon A. Scielzo. 2012. “Mentor and Protégé Goal Orientations as Predictors of Newcomer Stress.” Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 12, no. 1: 59–73.

Hagerty, Bonnie M. K., Judith Lynch-Sauer, Kathleen L. Patusky, Maria Bouwsema, and Peggy Collier. 1992. “Sense of Belonging: A Vital Mental Health Concept.” Archives of Psychiatric Nursing 6, no. 3: 172–77.

Hoffman, Marybeth, Jayne Richmond, Jennifer Morrow, and Kandice Salomone. 2002. “Investigating ‘Sense of Belonging’ in First-Year College Students.” Journal of College Student Retention 4, no. 3: 227–56.

Husband, Poppy A., and Pamela A. Jacobs. 2009. “Peer Mentoring in Higher Education: A Review of the Current Literature and Recommendations for Implementation of Mentoring Schemes.” Plymouth Student Scientist 2, no. 1: 228–41.

Lane, Stephanie R. 2018. “Addressing the Stressful First Year in College: Could Peer Mentoring Be a Critical Strategy?” Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice. Published ahead of print, May 7, 2018.

Lotkowski, Veronica A., Steven B. Robbins, and Richard J. Noeth. 2004. The Role of Academic and Non-academic Factors in Improving College Retention: ACT Policy Report. Iowa City: ACT.

Morales, Erik E., Sarah Ambrose-Roman, and Rosa Perez-Maldonado. 2016. “Transmitting Success: Comprehensive Peer Mentoring for At-Risk Students in Developmental Math.” Innovative Higher Education 41, no. 2: 121–35.

Shields, Nancy. 2001. “Stress, Active Coping, and Academic Performance among Persisting and Non-persisting College Students.” Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research 6, no. 2: 65–81.

Snowden, Michael, and Tracey Hardy. 2012. “Peer Mentorship and Positive Effects on Student Mentor and Mentee Retention and Academic Success.” Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning 14, special issue: 76–92.

Terrion, Jenepher Lennox, and Dominique Leonard. 2007. “A Taxonomy of the Characteristics of Student Peer Mentors in Higher Education.” Mentoring & Tutoring 15, no. 2: 149–64.

Thomas, Liz. 2012. Building Student Engagement and Belonging in Higher Education at a Time of Change: A Final Report from the What Works? Student Retention and Success Programme. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Tinto, Vincent. 1975. “Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research.” Review of Educational Research 45, no. 1: 89–125.

Tinto, Vincent. 1993. Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition. 2nd. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Tinto, Vincent. 1998. “Colleges as Communities: Taking Research on Student Persistence Seriously.” Review of Higher Education 21, no. 2: 167–77.

Zaniewski, Anna, and Daniel L. Reinholz. 2016. “Increasing STEM Success: A Near-Peer Mentoring Program in the Physical Sciences.” International Journal of STEM Education, no. 3, article 14.

Zevallos, Ana L., and Mara Washburn. 2014. “Creating a Culture of Student Success: The SEEK Scholars Peer Mentoring Program.” About Campus 18, no. 6: 25–29.




How to Cite

Hall, Bryan, Joseph Serafin, and Danielle Lundgren. 2020. “The Benefits of Academically Oriented Peer Mentoring for At-Risk Student Populations”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 8 (2):184-99.