Mentoring outcomes: Student, alumni and staff reflections on our mentorship impact

The Access Project students on our Oxford trip in 2022

At The Access Project, our mission is clear: to empower students from under-resourced backgrounds to secure places at top universities. We assess our impact by asking a fundamental question: Does our programme increase the likelihood of under-resourced students gaining admission to top third universities?

This metric guides our efforts, ensuring that we continuously evolve to meet our mission. In this article, we delve into our impact statistics and gather insights from both mentors and students, highlighting the transformative power of mentoring.

Our programmes target students from under-resourced backgrounds, using widely recognised measures of deprivation as our referral criteria to ensure inclusivity across six regions and over forty schools. Each year, we meticulously track the percentage of students who apply to, receive offers from, and secure places at top third universities. External validation from UCAS’s Outreach Evaluator service confirms the effectiveness of our programme in facilitating access to top universities for under-resourced students.

Our impact evaluation consistently reveals significant success: students in our programmes are nearly twice as likely to secure places at top universities compared to their peers from similar backgrounds. Despite challenges such as grade variations and disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our programmes have maintained their effectiveness.

In 2022, 93% of our students applied to top third universities, with 82% receiving offers and 53% securing their places. This success is attributed to the dedicated efforts of our in-school mentors, who collectively provided thousands of hours of support and guidance. Notably, over 559 of our students have secured places at Russell Group universities since 2021, with a substantial portion gaining admission to the top ten universities in the UK.

Student testimonial: Ceydanur’s journey with The Access Project

Beyond numbers, student testimonials underscore the profound impact of mentoring. Ceydanur, a mentee from North London, credits her mentor for empowering her journey towards studying Medicine at the University of Cambridge.

Ceydanur said: “My mentor has been instrumental for my university journey. She consistently checked in on me to ensure I was both personally and academically well. Her patience and kindness throughout my struggles improved my confidence when applying to a competitive course like Medicine”.

She added: “I am so grateful for my mentor and all the support she has shown me over the past few years, where she has significantly contributed to the person I am now and will be”.

Alumni outlooks: Meet Najibah

Najibah Miah, Group Tuition Coordinator at The Access Project

Najibah was a student on The Access Project at George Green’s School, securing a place at UCL to pursue her undergraduate degree. She has recently started working at The Access Project herself, driving our group tuition experience as part of the Strategy and Impact Team. It goes without saying that the entire organisation sees Najibah’s involvement (as well as the involvement of other alumni at the organisation) as a standout measure of our impact.

She highlights the transformative role mentors play in guiding students towards their goals and fostering skills essential for success. Najibah said: “Having such a committed person pushing me towards my goals, modelling high expectations and cheering me along the way was empowering. My mentors were inspiring and dedicated, and I hope to have the same impact on students one day”.

Our mentors, passionate about making a difference, tailor their approach to each student, fostering a supportive environment where students feel valued and empowered. When asked to sum up how they feel about mentoring, our mentors share words like empowering, transformational, supportive, rewarding, impactful, uplifting and hopeful.

Our impact in schools

Our mentors’ dedication is recognised and lauded by schools, which acknowledge the pivotal role mentors play in nurturing student potential and fostering a culture of success.

At our 15th anniversary event in 2023, Karen Chamberlain, Headteacher at Lilian Baylis Technology School expressed her admiration for The Access Project. She said: “Having a trusted member of staff who helps our students to navigate their challenges and achieve in spite of them is what makes the difference. The Access Project shows students they are worthy of investment, that we believe in them, and that they are capable of great things”.

Repeatedly, schools have shared with us that our expert mentoring is where we have the greatest impact, providing that tailored support to realise student ambitions and create a culture of success across the student community.

Looking ahead, we remain committed to expanding our mentoring programmes to reach more young people and communities. In the final section of this report, we discuss our future plans and how we are transforming our mentoring to serve more young people, schools and communities.

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