Graduate Studies


Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Leadership & Higher Education

First Advisor

Elizabeth Niehaus


This qualitative, multiple case study examined how peer mentors at a public, four-year university supported the transition of first-year college students. Using Schlossberg’s (Anderson et al., 2021) Transition Framework the study was guided by the following questions: 1) How did peer mentors, in light of the Approaching Transitions phase in Schlossberg’s (Anderson et al., 2021) theory, help first-time students understand their college transition? 2) In what ways did peer mentors directly provide support to first-time students to help first-time students as they transition to college? 3) With what other support resources, whether on or off campus, did peer mentors connect first-time freshmen to help them as they transition to college? 4) How did peer mentors help first-time students develop strategies to cope with the transition to college? The participants included four peer mentors and seven first-year students at a midsized public university in the Southwest part of the United States. Data for the study included documents and artifacts from the mentoring program, observations of first-year students meeting with their mentors, and individual interviews with the first-year students and mentors. The data suggested, in line with Schlossberg’s (Anderson et al., 2021) Transition Framework, that the peer mentors first helped students process or understand the novel college experience and then supported the first-year students while those students endeavored to develop new systems of support. In this, they both directly served as a short-term safety net for the first-year students while simultaneously helping the students develop longer-term support systems that allowed first-year students to better transition to college life. This study offers suggestions for research and implications for practice based on these findings. Advisor: Elizabeth Niehaus


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