In recent years, educational institutions are increasingly evaluated on job placement metrics. In an effort to prepare their learners for the job market, more schools than ever are implementing mentoring programs. When run well, mentoring programs have been proven to increase students' academic success, and improve enthusiasm while on the job for participants' post-graduation1. Given these proven benefits, some schools, such as Muhlenberg College, are requiring that all students participate in a school-run mentoring program for at least one semester. If your school is considering implementing a mentoring program, here are five easy tips to ensure your program's success:

1. Determine long-term goals

Before beginning to design or implement the program, determine your school's long-term goals. Potential objectives for the program could be:

  • Improve students' academic outcomes
  • Increase student retention rates
  • Strengthen relationships with community employers to improve post-graduation job placement rates

Your desired outcomes can then be used as a guideline as you build out the details of the program.

2. Create a board or advisory committee

The success of a mentoring program is directly correlated to the skills, vision, and commitment of those who run it. The advisory committee or board can provide leadership and guidance about the program's goals and design. They will also serve the critical function of strengthening connections to community organizations and stakeholders2. Members can be culled from:

  • Community leaders
  • Local employers
  • Government officials

The board or advisory committee should work closely in conjunction with your school's administration to ensure that the program has buy-in at an executive level.

3. Develop an implementation framework

Once your goals and leadership team have been established, it is imperative to develop a robust execution plan for your program. Ask yourselves questions such as:

  • What staff, volunteers, funds, or materials will be needed?
  • What specific activities or services with the program provide?
  • How will outcomes be measured?

Be sure to carefully align your program's implementation plan with your previously-determined goals.

4. Train mentors

Before student pairing can begin, all mentors must undergo a thorough orientation. This session should outline the goals of your program, describe key policies and procedures, and lay out the responsibilities of each prospective mentor. Beyond this initial training, ongoing sessions and resources should be available for mentors to ensure they continue to build additional skills. Some areas for additional training include:

  • Helping mentees set goals
  • Conflict resolution
  • Career planning

5. Evaluate program success and make adjustments as necessary

Once the mentoring program has been in place for several months, your school's administrators and advisory committee or board should conduct a thorough analysis of the program's success thus far. The data on outcomes collected should be directly correlated to the goals you've set. It is also very important that the evaluation be conducted by an impartial party to ensure the accuracy of the findings.

Although quantitative data which correlates to your goals is very important, qualitative data is also critical in telling the full story of your program's success. Be sure to integrate both types of data in your analysis, and present your findings to all necessary stakeholders. The key to a successful mentoring program is the continual evaluation and improvement of its procedures.  

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Sources: Photo Credit. (1) Every Student Gets a Mentor (2) Foundations for successful youth mentoring