10 Ways to find a mentor who can be your BFF
Finishing up high school and getting ready for college is thrilling and maybe a little scary. For some, the transition to college comes easy, while for others, the transition can be more difficult. Finding a good mentor to help you through difficult times can be the key to a successful college experience and graduation.
"Finding that good mentor can be really helpful in making sure students get to the finish line," says Nicole Hurd, PhD, founder and executive director of the National College Advising Core, which places graduate students in high schools to start students on the path to college graduation.
Academic advisors get you started
All universities have academic advisors who are assigned to you to help you choose your courses and follow the correct academic path to obtain your degree. If you have decided on what degree you want, these advisors offer instrumental help in getting you started, as well as keeping you headed in the right direction for graduation. If, on the other hand, you are undecided about your future career, academic advisors can still be great assets. "As an 'undecided' advisor, we let the student know it is okay to be undecided, and to take the time to explore the many different options that the university has to offer," says Aqueelah LaGrone, an academic advisor at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR).
This exploration can help you find the right career path, without the pressure of having to decide right away. These advisors can help you to choose classes that are necessary for all majors as well as classes that may interest you and give you a push toward a career path that works for you. They can be valuable mentors to an undecided student, and can help you find other mentors within the school system.
Mentoring groups provide guidance
Some colleges have groups that work as high school mentors with students on the transition to college. At UNR, the Dean's Future Scholars Program (DFS) works with students starting in the sixth grade. This past year, they mentored the students in their first year on campus, as well. "A mentor for a student's freshman year can not only help with academics and becoming acclimated to a new campus," says Amber Burroughs, a graduate student with DFS, "but a mentor can also help when there are social pressures that come about that may not be the best for students to engage in." You can be proactive and find out if your high school or future college offers programs like this, and join them to help you find a mentor that fits perfectly with you.
Clubs and organizations provide experienced student mentors
In addition to academic advisors and mentoring groups on campus, clubs and organizations are a great place to find a mentor. You already know what you enjoy, so joining a group is a perfect way to meet people who share a similar interest. After meeting these people, you can often find an older student who can show you the ropes, and help you when you get stuck in certain situations. Often these students have been where you are and can provide advice, as well as new friendships.
"We often let them know about the many clubs and organizations offered and where to find them," says LaGrone. This is especially useful if you are a first-generation college student. Clubs and organizations also offer you the chance to try new things, and possibly find a mentor in a new activity. Often these mentors can remain in your life for years to come.
Small classes can lead to big answers
If you aren't feeling the connection with your academic advisor and haven't decided what club or organization is quite right for you, then try talking to one of your teachers in a smaller class. Often your introductory classes will be quite large, but some specialized classes have limited enrollment, and you will have more of an opportunity to speak to a teacher that knows your name.
Teachers are there to help, so take advantage of their office hours, and let them know your interests. "The academic aspect of mentoring is essential," says Hurd. Teachers may be able to steer you in the right direction to find mentors within the university. Even if the class is larger, if it is a class that really interests you, ask the teacher about any clubs or groups that are associated with that field. This can be useful in deciding a major and finding a mentor.
Independent students still need help
Even students who don't feel overwhelmed by high school or college can benefit from a mentor, by having someone to talk to and who can offer advice. "Usually students are not too concerned--or at least they do not seem that way--about 'fitting in,'" says LaGrone. So, even if you are not concerned about fitting in, you may still want to participate in activities and try to meet new people.
Having a mentor that understands what you are going through can vastly help your college experience. "I would definitely recommend that they find a mentor at the collegiate level," says Burroughs. "A mentor can greatly enhance a student's college experience and it can assist in making the transition from high school to college a lot easier."
Mentors are not a requirement at college. But finding a mentor that can help guide you and who has shared your same worries, fears, and even positive experiences can help you stay on track and graduate college. "There is a constant paying it forward that happens at the collegiate level," says Hurd.
So, to find a great mentor, be proactive. You may not only find a mentor, but a great friend. Below, we outline five types of mentors for different types of students.
If you've been the victim of neglect or abuse, finding a mentor who can take an interest in your goals, dreams and provide emotional support would be a good fit. Try reaching out to social workers, people involved in support groups and those who work with victims of abuse.
Water cooler mentor
If you've got the technical aspect of your studies nailed, but need help from someone with broader experience in the field who can teach you about how businesses work, what's appropriate to do in situations involving office politics and so on. Perhaps you can find alumni who have been successful in your area of interest, or investigate corporations that have mentoring programs.
If you know you're smart enough to get by without fully applying yourself, but you also know that's not the best way to approach your education - or your life - then finding a mentor you respect who will push you to realize your full potential could be a tiny bit annoying, but hugely beneficial. This type of person could be a coach, a former teacher or even a relative or adult friend who realizes you need some tough love.
Maybe you want to be a puppeteer, or, you live in the land-locked Midwest and your dream is to be a marine biologist - what to do? A mentor who is already working in your field of study will provide comraderie, support and knowledge from real-life experience, and thankfully, with the Internet, can be easy to find. Research associations, forums and sites dedicated to your interest, no matter how unconventional, and start a correspondence to build a relationship.
Just say 'Yes' mentor
Perhaps you weren't even looking for a mentor, but someone in your life took an active interest in you - whether related to your personal goals, your performance in a sport or on a stage, your writing - and approached you to find out if you'd like to participate in some sort of club, group, special league or other activity. Say yes - it could be the beginning of a beautiful, new mentor relationship, and provide you with an unexpected source of guidance and support.