Mentoring programs for high school graduation

Program basics

  • Mentoring programs consist of adult volunteers being paired with at-risk students to provide counseling and guidance for academic problems, family and community issues, and personal issues
  • Programs provide specific targeted attention and resource access to students who most need it
  • Programs vary widely with regard to the amount of time spent on academics versus social activities
  • Longer-term programs with more frequent contact allowing for closer relationships between mentor and student have stronger effects on student outcomes

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)


Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Target population

High school-aged children

Program cost

$600 to $4,500 per student

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • Programs and their results can vary widely; effectiveness may vary by subgroup or outcome category (e.g., academic vs. behavioral)
  • Mentoring programs lasting more than one year have stronger effects than shorter programs
  • Students with close relationships with their mentors appear to have stronger academic outcomes than mentored students without close mentor relationships
  • Some studies have shown significant effects in increased academic achievement, educational attainment, high school graduation rates, successful transitions to employment, and post-secondary enrollment

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Mentoring programs often struggle with low program attendance and completion rates, lack of staffing, unsuccessful mentor recruitment, and other administrative challenges.
  • Community-based mentoring tends to be more successful than school-based mentoring, as programs with a duration of over 12 months are generally more effective.
  • Programs should recruit, train, and screen potential mentors and support volunteers with ongoing assistance and suggested programming.
  • School-based programs tend to cost less than community-based programs as schools often provide space and other in-kind contributions.

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