Why College Students Need Mentors
Mentors can be beneficial to you in many ways throughout your college career. Early on, a mentor can give you honest and specific insights into the field you're interested in, which can help you determine if your career choice is right for you. Your mentor may also be able to provide guidelines for academic success and assist you in choosing the best courses and extracurricular activities for your career goals.
Mentors also have connections of their own, which can expand your professional network. Through their contacts, they may be able to help you find experiential learning opportunities, such as externships, internships, and co-op jobs.
Perhaps most importantly, college mentors can share their own experiences and offer guidance, which is especially valuable when you're encountering new situations. For example, you may be a first-generation student with many questions about higher education. Or you may be getting ready to graduate and need help preparing for job interviews.
We asked a number of professionals who have worked with mentors for their input so you can make the most of the experience. Luke Lee, CEO of PalaLeather, says, "Mentors are incredibly valuable for their experience, knowledge, and guidance, and they provide invaluable input to young professionals. Mentoring helps you gain exposure to different perspectives and challenges you may encounter along your career path."
Luke Lee, CEO of PalaLeather, says, "Mentors are incredibly valuable for their experience, knowledge, and guidance, and they provide invaluable input to young professionals. Mentoring helps you gain exposure to different perspectives and challenges you may encounter along your career path."
How To Find A Mentor In College
Mentoring relationships can take many forms. You may find someone who lives near you, or you may connect with someone who lives far away. Your mentor may be significantly older or fairly close to you in age. You may work with your mentor one-on-one or as part of a group. In any case, there are numerous ways to find mentors for college students:
- Through a mentorship program run by your college
- At school, such as a professor, teaching assistant, administrator, or staff member
- Through your school's alumni association
- Through your college's career services center
- On the job, including internships and co-ops
- Through your professional network
- On social media, especially LinkedIn
- Through an online mentorship platform, such as SCORE, GrowthMentor, or Pelion
- At meetings of local volunteer organizations, such as the Kiwanis Club or Rotary International
- At meetings of professional organizations focused on your industry
What To Look For in a Mentor
Many people have the wisdom and experience to mentor college students, but only some have the right characteristics to be good mentors. There are some qualities that are common among effective guides.
You'll want to look for someone who is willing to share all of their experiences — both their achievements and mistakes — so you can learn by example. At the same time, a mentor should be a good listener and show respect and understanding for your perspectives, opinions, and feelings. Your guide should be focused on helping you articulate your goals and charting a course for academic success, wellness, and professional development.
You and your mentor also need to be comfortable with each other. This quality can be hard to define, but you'll know it when you've met the right person. Falen O. Cox, a founding partner at Cox, Rodman, & Middleton, LLC, says it's a matter of finding someone you "click" with. "Mentoring can be an intimate relationship," she notes, "one where you share your dreams and fears — a person you go to with questions when you're too embarrassed to ask anyone else. As a result, you want to make sure that it's someone you feel comfortable being vulnerable around."
How To Ask For Mentoring
Mentoring relationships often start as friendships or work relationships and evolve naturally over time. However, if you've had one or two conversations with someone who meets your criteria for a guide, or if you're working through a mentoring program, you can formally ask that person to be your college mentor.
Start by setting up an in-person or virtual meeting. When you talk, explain why you think the person would be a good mentor and what you hope to gain from the relationship. Be specific in setting objectives, so your prospective mentor understands what's expected. "You should never enter into any type of mentorship without having some sort of idea of what you want to accomplish," explains Jonathan Saeidian, founder and CEO of Brenton Way. "By establishing goals, you are giving yourself a focal point of attention and focus."
You can finish your proposal by asking if the person would be willing to mentor you and, if so, how often they'd be willing to meet. Your contact may need some time to consider your idea, so leave the door open for future discussions and end by thanking them for their time.
How To Interact With Your Mentor
Once you've found a mentor, having the proper mindset and taking the right steps can enable you to get the most value out of the time you spend together. Here's what our experts have to say based on their mentoring experiences.