Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Master of Science (MS)


The transition to college is characterized by instability in a variety of life domains, with some students experiencing sharp declines in well-being across the first year of college (Conley et al., 2014). Well-established in the literature is the link between this life transition and increased rates of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, stress, and relationship problems (Auerbach et al., 2018). The adjustment to higher education can be particularly difficult for underserved students (Carter et al., 2013; Kalsner & Pistole, 2003), who may not have access to the same types of knowledge, resources, and privileges as their White counterparts on campus. Underrepresented students may face barriers to becoming socially integrated and question their ability to succeed in the academic environment (Kennett et al., 2013). Despite risk for the development of psychopathology across the transition to college, more recent research has identified positive variables that promote student adjustment to college. Two key factors are sense of belonging and self-efficacy (Leary & DeRosier, 2012). One promising solution to promote such outcomes has been establishing mentoring programs, which can provide access to social capital, knowledge, resources, and emotional support (Crisp & Cruz, 2009; Palmer & Gasman, 2008). The provision of psychosocial support could be especially potent for individuals from underrepresented groups. In fact, mentorship may promote social justice and equity in higher education by providing a more welcoming, nurturing, and supportive environment for students such as members of the LGBTQ+ community and international, first-generation, and racially/ethnically marginalized students (9). However, most studies on the effects of mentoring minoritized students have focused on mentoring by faculty or staff, and the impact on academic outcomes such as retention and graduation (Crisp et al., 2017). Further, research is mixed on the degree to which students of minoritized backgrounds benefit from mentoring (DuBois et al., 2002; Weiler et al., 2019). As such, the current study seeks to address these gaps by 1) evaluating the effect of peer-to-peer mentorship on first-year students’ sense of belonging and self-efficacy across the transition to college, and 2) examining whether there are unique benefits of the program for students holding traditionally marginalized identities. This longitudinal design with multiple timepoints provides a robust investigation on the potential of peer mentorship to bolster student well-being during a period of heightened vulnerability.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Available for download on Saturday, February 01, 2025