Mentoring for Student Success

January marks National Mentoring Month! Formed in 2002, National Mentoring Month celebrates the evidence-based, positive impact of mentoring in the United States. Although most of January’s activities focus on youth, mentoring can have a positive effect on adult student success, too. Returning to Learning: Adults’ Success in College is Key to America’s Future (Lumina Foundation, 2007) asserts that a mentor is a primary need for many adults, especially those who belong to minority groups, need financial aid, work more than 20 hours a week, and maintain single-parent responsibilities. The most successful mentoring provides four types of support: 1) psychological and emotional; 2) degree and career-related; 3) academic/ subject knowledge; and 4) the presence of a role model. Mentoring can have a positive impact on student outcomes including self-confidence, future aspirations, grade point average, and persistence rates (Crisp, 2010). Mentor recruitment, selection, training and ongoing support are key for obtaining positive outcomes.

The United States Department of Education Adult Basic Education to Community College Transitions Symposium identified the provision of mentoring as a promising approach to effectively support nontraditional adult education students’ transition to postsecondary education (MPR Associates, 2007). The first semester and first year in college represent a crucial threshold after which students’ persistence to completion increases by over 45% (McCormick & Carroll, 1999, Calcagno, et. al., 2006). Mentoring for adult college transition students must be geared to get the mentees through the critical periods when research shows new college students are most likely to drop out: 1) period between acceptance and when classes begin; 2) first month of classes; 3) mid-terms; 4) end of the first semester; and 5) planning to enroll in the second semester.

World Education’s Adult College Engagement (ACE), supported by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, will further build evidence for this promising practice. Beginning in January 2014, mentoring will be provided to 15 Boston-area adult learners as they complete their final semester in one of the participating adult education programs, as they transition to college by September 2014, and as they complete their first semester and enroll for the second semester in college. Mentors will be graduates/alumni of the adult education programs, who have successfully transitioned to college, and completed at least one year of postsecondary education. To accomplish this, the National College Transition Network (NCTN) will pilot a replicable, scalable mentoring model and a mentoring toolkit in partnership with three Boston-area adult education programs: Asian-American Civic Association, X-CEL,Inc., and Cambridge Community Learning Center, and with two community colleges: Bunker Hill Community College and Roxbury Community College.

For more information about Adult College Engagement contact Priyanka Sharma at As the project director, Priyanka will share our lessons and new tools as they emerge. Stay tuned!

Ellen Hewett, Director
National College Transition Network @ World Education, Inc.