What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who can help your student navigate the college experience, starting as early as high school and continuing through college graduation. Mentors can be students in their junior or senior years, teachers, professors or even alumni from networks at their school. This is a person your student can go to for advice, support and resources for school and for their future career — someone who wants to invest in your student’s future.
Mentors aren’t just there to help with professional connections, either. Sometimes what students need is a listening ear, and advice on balancing their workload and personal life. Having someone who has been through it all is a valuable resource as your student navigates new stages in their life.
How your student can find a mentor
Connecting with the right person to be a mentor can be a daunting task — your student might not know where to start. Luckily, many high schools and colleges offer multiple ways to connect with mentor figures. Some schools have a program set up specifically to connect students to mentors. Your student can visit their school’s counselor or career services center or reach out to the alumni association. They can also check on LinkedIn to find alumni who are willing to mentor current students.
If your student’s college has some form of freshman or first-year success program, they could get an opportunity to connect with a mentor as early as their first semester. Otherwise, by their sophomore year they’ll have had time to connect with professors, academic advisors or upper-division students in extracurriculars.
Getting the most out of a mentor experience
What should your student expect from a mentor experience? For one thing, they’ll get an insider’s perspective on the college experience and the industry they hope to work in after graduation. While a student might not get a job or internship from the mentorship experience, they can expect an advocate with connections to help them achieve their goals, and maybe even provide a letter of recommendation. This U.S. News & World Report article on career mentors recommends that students work through their goals and expectations with their mentor from the beginning, including how often they will meet and communicate.
The mentor-mentee relationship doesn’t have to end at college graduation, or be an exclusively in-person experience. Many students stay in touch with their mentor for years, whether that’s by phone, video calls or email — this can be someone who is a supportive and valued professional connection throughout your student’s life.