From the Field

Research Notes: The Impact of Mentoring on Student Success

Mentorships from teachers, counselors, and coaches can help high school students achieve higher grade-point averages, decrease their risk of failing a class, and provide a greater chance of reaching and finishing college, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic.

The researchers—Matthew A. Kraft of Brown University, Alexander J. Bolves of Harvard, and Noelle M. Hurd of the University of Virginia—used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a nationally representative sample of middle and high schoolers during the 1994-1995 academic year. Individuals in the study participated in five waves of in-home interviews over 30 years.

During the third wave of interviews, when those involved were 18 to 26 years old, the interviews included questions about mentorships during their adolescent years. The research team put mentors in three categories: informal, school-based mentors—teachers, guidance counselors, and coaches—whom students met before high school graduation; mentors outside of school whom they met before graduation; and mentors they met after high school.

Using this information, the researchers examined student outcomes for those with informal, school-based mentors and found short- and long-term benefits. While in school, students with mentors had a 2- to 20-percent increase in grade-point averages (GPA), a 22- to 35-percent reduction in the rate of course failures, and a 3- to 5-percent increase in the number of credits earned each year.

Having a mentor for all four years of high school raised GPAs by .24 points and translated into roughly an additional semester-length credit. Long-run outcomes include a 19- to 46-percent increase in the likelihood of attending college. Additionally, educational attainment is increased by more than half a year with the presence of a mentor in a student’s life.

The study found that smaller class sizes and a positive school culture contributed to the development of these informal mentoring relationships. The findings offer insight into the importance of mentoring students from a young age, giving them the support they need to succeed.

Read the Research

How Informal Mentoring by Teachers, Counselors, and Coaches Supports Students’ Long-Run Academic Success

May 2023

Matthew A. Kraft, Alexander J. Bolves, and Noelle M. Hurd