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Fostering a Campus Community of Peer Support

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So much of student success depends on access to support. Inside and outside of the classroom, administrators seek to bolster student support as the needs of students change and employers continue to emphasize skills related to emotional intelligence in future hires.


In addition, colleges and universities know that student support not only helps to facilitate a richer, more well-rounded college experience, but it can also encourage persistence and aid retention of students.

Building a Community of Support

Higher education’s efforts to support students include intentional interactions with faculty, staff, peers and the community. It is relationships with friends and mentors often among the prized possessions graduates take with them as they go on to their careers. In particular, relationships with peers are a core component of the experience campuses seek to provide, knowing the value of peer support on student success.

Fostering a community of peer support in both formal and informal ways creates key connections for students. Formal peer support is often delivered through structured programs with student leadership roles (usually paid) where the focus is serving their peers. 

A key here is training: Resident Assistants, Orientation Leaders and Peer Educators are examples of students who receive extensive training focused on being a resource to their peers and they are known as leaders in this sense. 

Knack provides tutoring resources and modules for partner institutions based on the College Reading and Learning Association’s (CRLA) guidelines. These modules are also offered for free at peertutortraining.com.

In addition, some formal peer support programs focus on select groups of students who might have a unique experience, such as veterans, FYRE students or students with disabilities.

More Than a Formality

While formal peer support is essential, informal peer support is also extremely valuable. Informal support fills gaps, adds variety and casts a wider net to engage students. 

For students who don’t consistently engage with formal peer support programs, informal peer support becomes a mainstay because the more students are exposed to opportunities to engage with peers, the more informal peer support can develop. 

Living in a residence hall, working on group projects, getting involved in clubs and organizations, serving with peers in the community– all of these introduce students to peers in such a way that natural connections form.

We must also consider the student leaders in informal peer support. Student personal trainers, student athletes, residence hall student desk attendants, tutors and fraternity or sorority students are prime examples of students who have a higher visibility or level of connection on campus. The nature of their interactions with students may mean they are in a position to provide peer support to others at some point even if they are not provided with formalized training.

High Impact Peer Support

Certainly, peer support seems inherent in several of the high-impact practices (HIP) found to be beneficial for college students due to its tremendous effect on student retention, engagement, and learning. 

In a recent webinar, Dr. George Kuh discussed HIP usage and how “we need to do everything in our power to make sure all students have the opportunity to participate in HIPS.” These HIPs and the educationally purposeful peer interactions (EPPIs) they create have “developmentally powerful effects” on students.


And, it’s been noted that the peer is the most influential group on campus, regardless of campus demographics.

It’s difficult to imagine HIPs such as first-year experiences, collaborative assignments, learning communities, and common intellectual experiences occurring without peer support playing a large role along the way. Service and community-based learning also strategically allows students to forge connections with each other as they work together towards a common purpose.

Given that many peer support roles come by way of student employment, initiatives like Knack’s peer to peer tutoring program strive to enhance the student experience by impacting students and peer leaders directly.

See Peer Support In Action

By implementing peer support and tutoring to impact retention, graduation and engagement rates, many Knack partners have seen the positive outcomes of peer support and then some.

Hampton University expanded and virtualized their tutor network, increasing tutoring usage 50% by the end of the first year, and saw that students who completed more than four Knack tutoring sessions had a higher rate of course completion than students who didn’t utilize the services. 

Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business launched their Knack peer tutoring program in 2021 and expanded in Fall 2022 to support all business school courses. Following expansion, program administrators began looking at the correlation between DFWI rates and students who used Knack tutoring. They found that for their high DFWI courses students who utilized Knack tutoring had a lower rate of DFWI than students who did not utilize tutoring services.

These are just a few examples of successful peer support programs making a major impact on course completion, retention and student success. 



Learn more about Knack programs and how Knack can impact statistics on your campus by visiting joinknack.com/partner.