In the nuanced progression of academia, the senior year of high school often sees students basking in the aura of impending graduation—confident top dogs, gazing down at the bewildered freshmen making the leap from middle school to high school. The hallways become a bustling stage where new friendships are forged, and the uncharted landscape of high school is navigated with a mixture of excitement and jitteriness. However, as these seniors metamorphosize into college freshmen, the tables turn with surprising ease. Once the epitome of cool detachment, these college freshmen find themselves stumbling along the same paths they once observed with a seasoned eye. The very maturity they wielded as high school top dogs becomes a cloak of uncertainty as they roam the college campus, desperately trying to decipher the map of their newfound chapter.

The parallels drawn between the seniors’ high school dominance and their subsequent freshman fumblings unveil a profound irony—an irony that underscores the transformative nature of this journey. The narrative pivots from superiority to uncertainty, as former top dogs navigate the challenges of emerging adulthood, mirroring the very struggles they once dismissed in their freshman counterparts. The maturity they once wielded as seniors now gives way to the wide-eyed curiosity of freshmen, navigating the labyrinthine corridors, forging new connections, and grappling with the complexities of a new chapter unfolding before them.

As a college sophomore delving into the nuances of lifespan and development, I’ve come to appreciate the concept of emerging adulthood—a stage defined by exploration, identity formation, and the pursuit of independence (Arnett 2000). Jeffrey Arnett’s assertion that “thirty is the new 20,” resonates profoundly in this transitional phase, encapsulating the challenges and opportunities that define the late teens and twenties as individuals straddle the delicate line between adolescence and adulthood.

College education, a gateway marked by both a “front door” of traditional knowledge acquisition and career readiness and a “back door” acknowledging a strategic delay in entering the workforce, becomes the fertile ground for the seeds of emerging adulthood to flourish. As a college sophomore, I recognize that this structured environment provides the ideal backdrop for self-exploration, identity formation, and the gradual embrace of independence—a buffer, if you will, before the plunge into the professional arena. But the narrative unfolds beyond the mere postponement of adulthood by delving into the transformative power of mentorship at the undergraduate level. Peer mentorship emerges as a guiding beacon, illuminating the path for students like myself, offering invaluable insights and support as we navigate the multifaceted journey through higher education.

By venturing further into the realm of peer mentorship, it becomes evident that this dynamic relationship plays a crucial role in alleviating the transitional anxieties that new students often grapple with. Leaving high school, where routines and expectations are well defined, students can experience a sense of starting over—a blank canvas awaiting the brushstrokes of their collegiate journey. Peer mentorship steps into this void, offering a supportive hand to fill the gaps created by uncertainty. The unique advantage of having a mentor who recently navigated the same terrain is unparalleled. Unlike advice from older mentors, which may feel like a reflection of a bygone era, guidance from a peer mentor resonates with relevance (Dickson et al. 2021). A peer mentor’s proximity in age and shared experiences create a bridge of understanding that goes beyond traditional mentor-mentee relationships (Dickson et al. 2021). In a seminal case study by Dickson et al. (2021), the authors delve into the value of peer mentoring for early-career professionals, especially within the domain of implementation science. This case study outlines a comprehensive curriculum, structure, and outcomes of a peer mentoring group consisting of early-career implementation scientists. The success of their six-year-long endeavor is attributed to a balanced mix of shared and unique group member characteristics, instrumental and psychosocial support, and a collaborative approach to problem-solving (Dickson et al. 2021). Beyond individual benefits, the case study highlights how peer mentoring contributes to institutional growth, successful research outcomes, and the overall advancement of the implementation science field (Dickson et al. 2021). As emerging professionals grapple with the challenges of navigating the early stages of their careers, the insights from this study underscore the profound impact of peer mentorship on professional development and career trajectories, echoing the sentiment that peer mentorship is not merely a supplement but a pivotal component in fostering success within the scientific community.

As a living testament to the power of peer mentorship, I’ve personally witnessed the transformative impact it can have. Observing my peer mentor achieve milestones aligned with my passions serves as a tangible reminder that success is attainable. The narrative becomes personal, relatable, and inspiring—a testament to the effectiveness of guidance from someone who has walked a similar path. What sets peer mentorship apart is the relatability factor. While wisdom from seasoned mentors is valuable, the nuances of contemporary challenges and opportunities may be lost in translation. This is where peer mentors shine, offering insights tailored to the present context, be it navigating specific classes or choosing professors wisely. The advice is not a generic roadmap but a personalized guide crafted from recent experiences, making it more pertinent to the mentee’s current reality. In my own journey, the impact of a peer mentor’s advice on selecting the right professors reverberates profoundly. Acknowledging that success is not solely about taking the right classes but also having instructors who facilitate effective learning underscores the practicality and relevance of peer mentorship. Furthermore, the affinity that comes from having a like-minded peer mentor is a game-changer. Sharing aspirations and common career goals creates a symbiotic connection that fosters an environment of open dialogue. Accessing your mentor’s four-year plan or understanding the steps they took to reach their current stage becomes a roadmap infused with shared dreams and aspirations.

While mentorship from seasoned professionals carries invaluable insights, the relatability and immediacy of advice from a peer mentor cannot be overstated. The transformative effect stems from more than just the shared age; it’s rooted in a shared journey, similar struggles, and a collective vision for the future. As we delve deeper into the layers of peer mentorship, we uncover a narrative that transcends generational gaps, fostering a community where the wisdom of the past meets the aspirations of the future, creating a potent recipe for success and self-discovery. As we traverse the path of emerging adulthood, the symbiotic relationship between higher education and peer mentorship acts as a guiding force, offering solace to those navigating the uncertainties of this transformative phase. The power of a like-minded peer mentor becomes a beacon of reassurance, alleviating the stresses that accompany the pursuit of self-discovery. Through shared experiences, open dialogue, and a collective vision, peer mentorship stands as a testament to the transformative potential in the journey of emerging adulthood.


Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. 2000. “Emerging Adulthood: A Theory of Development from the Late Teens through the Twenties.” American Psychologist 55 (5): 469–80.

Dickson, Kelsey S., Joseph E. Glass, Miya L. Barnett, Andrea K. Graham, Byron J. Powell, and Nicole A. Stadnick. 2021. “Value of Peer Mentoring for Early Career Professional, Research, and Personal Development: A Case Study of Implementation Scientists.” Journal of Clinical and Translational Science 5 (1): e112.

Tiffanie Grant is a 2023-2026 CEL Student Scholar, collaborating with participants in the 2023-2025 research seminar on Mentoring Meaningful Learning Experiences. Learn more about the current student scholars. 

How to Cite this Post

Grant, Tiffanie. 2024. “The Power of Peer Mentorship for Entering Freshmen Undergraduates.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. January 23, 2024.