Contributed by: PEERFORWARD

Near-peer advising support leverages current high school and college students or recent college graduates to support high school students in developing and navigating their path to postsecondary education and training. Near-peer advisors develop a culture of college and career in schools, support students in college and career exploration, help students complete college applications and the FAFSA, ensure students understand their postsecondary options, engage families throughout the process, and occasionally, follow students through postsecondary enrollment.

Near-peer advising support also offer advice and mentoring to students all while expanding their social networks. Having recently undergone the process for preparing and transitioning to college themselves, near-peer advisors are well positioned to guide students through transition to postsecondary.

Districts and states can either create their own near-peer advising initiative or partner with an organization that specializes in recruitment, training, and managing of these advisors.

How does the strategy create more equitable access and opportunities?

Before the pandemic, inequities in resources, guidance, and expectations in the secondary school system resulted in disparate outcomes with high-income students earning a degree at four times the rate of students from low-income backgrounds. Since the onset of the pandemic, access to and participation in higher education for students from low-income backgrounds and students of color has taken a devastating hit.

To immediately address the pandemic effect and continue to narrow the postsecondary gap, near-peer advising can leverage existing resources in your community (current students, alumni, or recent college graduates) to help students stay on the path to earning a postsecondary degree. By partnering with organizations that offer near-peer advising or training current students to serve as advisors, districts can quickly build capacity to provide the necessary guidance and assistance for all to take the necessary steps to continue education beyond high school. Additionally, many of the organizations that offer near-peer advising (such as PeerForward and College Possible) focus on serving low-income and first-generation college students.

What outcomes or benefits are associated with the strategy?

What are the budget implications for implementing the strategy?

Districts can partner with college advising organizations to expand near-peer advising support for minimal cost. Many programs leverage AmeriCorps to help fund recent college graduate advisors. For example, the College Advising Corps found their model costs $172 per student. PeerForward can train a team of student and school leaders for $31,000 or districts can utilize their train-the-trainer model to reach 15 schools for $120,000.

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What are the estimated costs for implementing the strategy?

  • PeerForward Team: $31,000 per team of eight students and one educator to serve a whole school
  • PeerForward Affiliate: $120,000 per district, up to 15 teams
  • AmeriCorps-funded college advisor: $172 (based on College Advising Corps average cost/student) per student

How will the strategy limit significant recurring costs while ensuring long-term sustainability?

Some college advising organizations do not charge districts but do ask schools to provide a space for their advisors to work. Michigan created a state-wide advising corps leveraging AmeriCorps funds, a cost-effective strategy that could be replicated at the district-level

PeerForward partner schools build a sustainable peer-to-peer practice that drives toward the desired outcomes in a manner that extends beyond adding a single new counselor or a temporary, grant-funded position. PeerForward is designed to adjust services (and therefore costs) after initial training and implementation. Districts may choose to continue full service, or switch to their scalable train-the-trainer model.

What is the anticipated timeline for launching the strategy?

Developing an advising program or creating a partnership with an existing program should occur the spring before launching the program. Recruiting and training near-peer advisors should begin in the summer and into the early fall to begin working with students at the start of the school year. Advisors will work with students on FAFSA and college applications in the fall and into the spring then help students select a postsecondary option and complete the necessary enrollment steps in the late spring and through the summer.

What internal and/or external capacity (e.g. personnel, infrastructure, training, etc.) is needed to launch the strategy? To monitor and sustain it?


  • School Leadership to support the training and integration of advisors into the school community
  • Training for new advisors
  • Workspace for advisors
  • Student recruitment support for organizations that work with a cohort of students

Monitor and Sustain

  • Program Advisor – a school-based staff member (teacher, counselor, coach, administrator etc.) to support the program and advisors
  • Student recruitment support for organizations that work with a cohort of students
  • Collaboration between advising organization and school staff to monitor individual students’ progress and progress toward the school’s overall goals
  • Access to school facilities for advising sessions and events

What are the first 3-5 steps to take to implement the strategy?

  1. Identify program partners and finalize partnership agreements;
  2. Recruit student leaders and advisors and/or students to be served by the advising program
  3. Train and onboard advisors, integrating them into existing structures and programs

What are potential challenges for implementing the strategy?

  1. Challenge: An existing college advising program may not exist in the districts’ community
    • Solution: Reach out to existing programs to see about expanding to your district, work with PeerForward to train your own students, or develop your own near-peer advising program.
  2. Challenge: Turnover of trained staff and/or advisors may affect program continuity
    • Solution: Help create strong relationships between advisors, school counselors, and other school staff to ensure program continuity and to strengthen the culture of college and career.
  3. Challenge: Unexpected circumstances prohibit in-person training and interaction, as recently experienced with the pandemic
    • Solution: Programs have successfully transitioned to virtual advising methods, which can also help scale programs and reach students in more communities.

What are models of schools, districts, and/or organizations that are successfully implementing this strategy?

  • PeerForward has partnered with schools in Prince George’s County Public Schools for several years and has had a districtwide partnership for five years, working with 26 schools.The majority of students are Black, Hispanic, and low-income. In the challenging 2020-21 academic year during which most schooling occurred online, PeerForward teams held the line on FAFSA completions, dropping only 2.6% when similar schools serving low-income students nationally have experienced a drop of 12% and those serving more than 40% minority students have dropped by 15%. Prince George’s County advisors offer their perceptions of the program here. And here is an example of how PeerForward teams support district-wide college access efforts.
  • College Possible is in seven states and utilizes near-peer AmeriCorps advisors to guide low-income students to and through college. Similarly, College Advising Corps places well-trained recent college graduates from one of their partner universities as a full-time college advisor in high schools. Advisors supplement existing high school counseling staff to reach even more students.
  • Broward County’s BRACE Cadets are peer mentors who are trained on college and career advising topics and then return to their schools to lead college preparation initiatives, such as FAFSA completion events, parent nights, and college fairs.

What are some additional resources for districts/states interested in implementing this strategy?