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Facilitating First-Year Student Adjustment: Towards a Model for Intentional Peer Mentoring

Angelique McConney
Magda Fourie-Malherbe


Attrition of first-year university students remains a global problem, and this is also of great concern in South African higher education. In an effort to address this challenge, many higher education institutions offer peer mentoring programmes to assist first-year students with their adjustment to university life, in order to improve their retention. However, evidence of the effectiveness of such peer mentoring programmes is still limited. This article intends to contribute in this regard. Stellenbosch University introduced its BeWell Peer Mentoring programme in 2013. In addition to providing psycho-social support, mentors offer developmental initiatives on holistic wellness to assist first-year students with their adjustment. After an institution-wide roll-out of the programme, the question arose whether the BeWell Peer Mentoring programme actually assisted first-year students in adjusting to campus life. In order to answer this question a research study with a sequential mixed-method design was employed. Our study found that adjustment outcomes were influenced by the intensity of peer mentoring participating students received. Mentor attributes, time invested in mentoring, reasons for  mentoring and the wellness component of the programme all influenced the peer mentoring received. The findings underscored the importance of  selecting intentional mentors, and effective programme implementation and monitoring. A model for intentional peer mentoring is proposed, to  optimise the programme outcomes. Other institutions with similar programmes could also benefit from the proposed model.