6 Admirable Mentorship Programs Helping Students Thrive

For many first-generation college students and young people from marginalized communities, mentorship programs can offer essential support through the application process, as well as throughout higher education. If your parents did not receive postsecondary degrees, or you attend high school in an area with limited resources for guidance, such initiatives can be necessary for clearing the obstacles to success. In no particular order, this list explores organizations that are helping students reach their academic and career goals.

Kicking off our list at #1, College Possible offers an intensive curriculum of coaching and support designed to help students from low-income backgrounds apply to, and succeed at, institutions of higher learning. The organization began to come together in 1999, when founder Jim McCorkell, a first-generation college graduate, had the idea to develop a mentoring program for young people facing challenges similar to his own.

Launched in Minnesota, the group now has offices in cities across the United States. Its programming is built around four pillars: coaching for high school and college students by AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers; a research-based curriculum; a large network of peer supporters; and a commitment to students' college success.

#2 is Moneythink. Established in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, this nonprofit was built by a group of students who wanted to develop tools that could provide guidance on financial matters to young adults applying for postsecondary education. As they see it, many of the economic challenges faced by students and recent grads can be addressed by offering clearer information about money.

Moneythink's college financial coaches support students through the application process and the transition that follows, primarily through texts and phone calls. The group also works on designing tools and services that make information accessible to resource-strapped families. For instance, the DecidED app is built to translate award letters into more clearly understandable cost breakdowns.

The #3 entry is Braven. It was launched in 2013 by Teach for America employee Aimee Eubanks Davis, who wanted to fix the education-to-employment gap she saw facing many promising young people. The group's mission is to empower matriculants and recent grads from underrepresented communities with the skills and networks they need to transition from college to strong first jobs.

Partnering with large public universities, the nonprofit works to bring career education into the undergraduate experience for low-income and first-generation college students. It also connects its participants, who are often isolated on campus, with a network of supporters and a sense of belonging.

For #4, we have International College Counselors, which was founded by college counseling expert Mandee Heller Adler. The organization was born out of the frustration her friends and family experienced while trying to navigate the admissions process with their children. In 2004, she established the company to provide effective strategies for those trying to get into schools of all kinds.

International College Counselors takes a one-on-one approach to advising. Some of the services offered include the creation of plans for coursework and extracurricular activities, the identification of schools that fit a student's interests and needs, and preparation for tests, interviews, essays, and campus visits.

Coming in at #5, iMentor aims to build relationships that empower first-generation students from low-income communities to graduate high school, succeed in college, and achieve their ambitions. With offices in New York, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Baltimore, it expands its reach by partnering with local nonprofits that implement its model in their own communities.

The group recruits thousands of volunteers every year, and assigns each to a high school student they will mentor for at least three years. A curriculum is provided, as are check-ins with program staff who work to ensure the success of every student. These strong, individualized relationships allow mentors to develop a holistic sense of their mentee's unique talents.

Concluding our list in the #6 spot is the Midnight Golf Program. This organization is designed to equip determined young adults with life skills training, proactive coaching, long-term mentoring, and golf education, in order to help them succeed in college, their careers, and beyond.

Based in Detroit, MGP's flagship offering is a thirty-week high school empowerment program, which provides support from mentors and peers, as well as educational sessions on a wide variety of topics. There is also a curriculum for college prep that includes a road trip combining campus visits, cultural exposure, and golfing.