Undergraduate student challenges
Many undergraduate students face difficult challenges such as:
- Moving away from home and their communities
- Staying at home to care for family and commuting daily
- Being the first in their families to attend college
- Being undecided about their major and career ambitions
- Being uncertain about where to turn for help and support
Upon arrival, students report being overwhelmed with information during orientation. With such a large variety of opportunities, offices, and resources being presented all at once, students often don’t retain this very valuable information. Within the first few weeks, they may have forgotten where to go for advice on choosing a major, for mental health support, or to change a meal plan. Often, this leads to a sense of feeling out of place, and as Vincent Tinto writes, "A student’s sense of not belonging, of being out of place, leads to a withdrawal from contact with others that further undermine motivation to persist."
Mentorship for Undergraduate Students
In many of these cases, students will turn to one another to understand how to best navigate campus and plan for their college career. Peer mentorship is an effective tool in providing scalable personalized support to all students that builds a sense of belonging. Tinto adds: "Students who perceive themselves as belonging are more likely to persist because it leads not only to enhanced motivation but also a willingness to become involved with others in ways that further promote persistence."
For students who had mentors who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams, the odds of thriving in all areas of well-being were 2.5 times higher as shown by a Gallup-Purdue University study. With the guidance of a peer mentor, particularly an upperclassman or young alumnus that has shared similar experiences, students can develop the self-efficacy and resilience that they need to persist, complete, and succeed both in school and in life.
SHEARWATER AND UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS
Shearwater partners with universities to help provide personalized support to undergraduate students at scale.
- Mentees might include an entire incoming class, or specific demographics the institution wants to support more thoroughly, including first-generation students, students of color, transfer students, or international students.
- Mentors and mentees might be matched based on a common career interest, personal identity or life challenge.
- Common topics of discussion include dorm life, time-management, choosing a major, building a growth mindset, and navigating privilege.
- Common modes of communication among pairs include text-messaging, videochat, meeting in person.
Shearwater AND Tufts University
Tufts University partnered with Shearwater to provide personalized support to each of their new students in the College of Arts & Sciences. The focus of the program was on improving transitions and enhancing the student experience for new students.
The pilot program had the following outcomes:
A 99% retention rate, 4% higher than the 3-year trailing average of 94%.
In 89% of sessions, students reported feeling a close connection to their mentor.
92% of students would recommend the program to a peer.
63% of students optionally offered mentors requested one.