How Can I Build a Positive Relationship with a College Mentor?Although attending college can be an exciting time in anyone’s life, adjusting to college life can be tough. A mentor is the best way to make a smooth transition into college and remain focused on what you need to do to achieve your higher education goals. However, there are some things you need to look for in a mentor to develop a positive relationship that should last a lifetime.
The first thing to look for in a mentor is a shared passion for your field of study. One way to connect with professors or others at the college who have a shared passion is to join clubs and organizations related to your major. Through those organizations, you will connect with professors and upperclassmen who also have an interest in the same field. Once you have identified someone who you feel would be a good mentor, make an appointment during office hours. Most professors have no problem with a student asking them to be a mentor. In fact, many welcome the opportunity to guide a student along their higher education path.
During the initial appointment, be sure to ask questions to determine how serious the professor regards mentoring. Ask if they will be willing to guide you and if they may have other contacts in your field that would assist you with career goals. Be sure to ask their advice regarding where you need to go in your college career to create better opportunities upon graduation. If you have identified more than one person who may be a good mentor, make appointments with all of them and choose the one that you have the most in common with professionally as well as the one who you can talk to the most easily.
The initial appointment should be the first of many conversations with your mentor. You should keep in touch on a regular basis, but you should also hear from your mentor regularly. Don’t wait to talk to them when you have a problem. Make sure to contact the mentor when things are going well, like when you score highly on a test you struggled with or receive special recognition. Consider asking the mentor to help you with a research project or talk to them about current events in your field of study. You could also ask them to critique a paper or get advice on research strategies.
Difference Between Mentors and Advisors
It is important to understand that your advisor may not be your mentor. An advisor is charged with formal responsibilities of your progress, such as academic planning, requirements for graduation, goal setting and degree completion. A mentor goes beyond the formal requirements of advising. Mentors share personal knowledge and experiences as well as networks the student may use to advance in college and beyond. Mentors can provide career planning guidance which many advisors are unable to provide due to time constraints.
One Size Does Not Fit All
It is important to remember that each mentoring relationship is different. Each field, discipline, and program have different approaches to mentoring. A mentor who works well with a friend may not be a good match for you. In some cases, you may want to develop a mentoring network as you may need a mentor for different areas of your study and personal life. Also, having more than one mentor helps when one mentor is not available when you need advice.
Assessment and Feedback
One of the most important features of a mentor is to provide you with evaluation and feedback. This means that the mentor may provide feedback that is negative if they do not agree with a path you are taking. It is critical that you listen with an open mind to the mentor’s suggestions and not simply brush them off. Your mentor has often dealt with the same issues and may have a better eye for what you need to do than you will. Although you should not blindly follow your mentor if you feel the advice given is not in your best interest, you should at least listen and consider what the mentor is saying.
It is crucial that you remain professional with your mentor at all times. Although it is possible to develop a closer relationship with a mentor than with an advisor, your main goal in working with a mentor is to achieve your college and career goals. Advice and guidance are what you are seeking from your mentor, not necessarily a friendship. It is possible that a mentor may become a close friend, but socializing should be contained while you are attending college. Once you have graduated, a personal relationship is more acceptable.
You want to choose a reliable mentor, so you may need to do some background research on those you identify as potential mentors. You don’t want to choose a mentor who plans to retire in the next six months or one that other students have found to be unreliable. This could be a professor who is notoriously late for meetings or who cancels at the last minute quite often. Speak to other students about the person you think will be a good mentor to be sure that there are not any underlying personality conflicts you may not be able to deal with.
Availability During Summer Months
Many students do not attend college during the summer months. In fact, you may not live close to the college you attend. Be sure to talk to your mentor about their availability over the summer. Even though you may not be able to meet face-to-face during the summer, technology allows you to connect in other ways. You can email, call or use teleconferencing software such as Skype to have discussions with your mentor when you are not attending school.
Network and Referrals
Your mentor should be able to provide you with the names of other people who can help you with your college and career goals. Talk to them about others in your field who could also guide you along the way. One of the benefits of a mentor is connecting with a network of professionals who may be extremely beneficial once you have completed your degree program. Many graduates report that their mentor joined them with a future employer or individual who helped them move their career in the right direction.
A mentor during your college years is an excellent way to keep yourself on the path to success. However, it is important to choose the right mentor and to nurture that relationship in order to get the most out of what a mentor is meant to do for you. By using a few tips and guidelines, you can choose the right mentor who will provide you with advice and guidance. Also, research indicates that a good mentor can improve your chances of college graduation. One report found that students who used a mentor had an 87 percent higher graduation rate than those that did not, indicating how important a mentor can be for success.