Mentoring programs for high school graduation

Evidence Rating  
Scientifically Supported
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers

Mentoring programs pair adult mentors with at-risk students to provide guidance through academic and personal challenges1. Trained mentors meet regularly with students, establishing a personal relationship and helping the student overcome obstacles in and out of school. Mentors also model positive behavior and decision-making skills2.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased high school completion

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved academic outcomes

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that mentoring programs for at-risk students improve high school completion rates1, 3. Mentoring programs can also help youth with disabilities graduate and transition to postsecondary education or employment4.

On average, mentoring programs increase high school completion rates among students at risk of dropping out by 9%3. Mentoring programs with longer durations (e.g., lasting more than one year) have stronger effects than shorter programs4, 5. Students who have close relationships with their mentors appear to have stronger academic outcomes than mentored students without close mentor relationships6. Low program attendance or completion rates, staffing, mentor recruitment, and other administrative challenges can reduce the effectiveness of mentoring programs1.

Researchers suggest that programs choose willing adult mentors committed to their task, purposefully match students to mentors, provide training and support for adult mentors, and establish mentor/student meetings at least weekly2. Mentoring programs with weekly meetings and opportunities for mentor-mentee interaction outside of large-group settings are more likely to foster close mentor-mentee relationships6.

The cost of mentoring programs ranges from $600 to $4500 per student3. Check & Connect, a mentoring program that has been shown to prevent dropout in urban areas with high poverty rates, costs about $1800 per student per year7. Mentoring programs have an estimated benefit to cost ratio of 2 to 13.

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

As of 2013, Colorado, Iowa, and Michigan have legislation that supports youth mentoring programs8.

Many mentoring programs are implemented in several locations across the country. For example, Check & Connect has been implemented in over 27 states and internationally9.

Mentoring programs are a central focus for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that supports non-profit and faith-based groups in more than 60,000 locations across the country. CNCS also partners with several organizations to support the National Mentoring Month campaign10

Implementation Resources

NMRC-Mentoring - National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC). Supporting youth mentoring practitioners across the country.

YG-Mentoring resources - (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Youth topic: Mentoring.

Check and Connect - University of Minnesota. Check & connect: A comprehensive student engagement intervention.

MENTOR - MENTOR. MENTOR: The national mentoring partnership that promotes, advocates, and is a resource for mentoring.

CNCS-Mentoring connector database - Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS); MENTOR. MENTOR's Mentoring Connector database: Become a mentor.


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1 Campbell-Wilson 2011 - Wilson SJ, Tanner-Smith EE, Lipsey MW, Steinka-Fry KT, Morrison J. Dropout prevention and intervention programs: Effects on school completion and dropout among school-aged children and youth: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2011:8.

2 IES WWC-Rumberger 2017 - Rumberger R, Addis H, Allensworth E, et al. Preventing dropout in secondary schools. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), US Department of Education (US ED), Institute of Education Sciences (IES), What Works Clearinghouse (WWC); 2017.

3 CG-TFR Education - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Task Force Recommends (TFR) education programs to promote health equity.

4 Lindsay 2016* - Lindsay S, Hartman LR, Fellin M. A systematic review of mentorship programs to facilitate transition to post-secondary education and employment for youth and young adults with disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2016;38(14):1329-1349.

5 Child Trends-Lawner 2013 - Lawner EK, Beltz M, Moore KA. What works for mentoring programs: Lessons from experimental evaluations of programs and interventions. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends; 2013.

6 MDRC-Bayer 2013 - Bayer A, Grossman JB, DuBois DL. School-based mentoring programs: Using volunteers to improve the academic outcomes of underserved students. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC); 2013.

7 SPTW - Social Programs That Work (SPTW). Full list of programs.

8 CGA OLR-Dwyer 2013 - Dwyer K. Youth mentoring programs in other states. Connecticut General Assembly (CGA), Office of Legislative Research (OLR), OLR Research Report 2013-R-0459. 2013.

9 Check and Connect - University of Minnesota. Check & connect: A comprehensive student engagement intervention.

10 CNCS-Mentoring month - Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS). National mentoring month.

Date Last Updated