5 Tips to Find a Mentor at University
All students need some sort of mentor when they begin to navigate through the university system. In fact, some universities even assign a mentor to each student, especially at the post-graduate level. However, the mentor-student personality match isn’t always right and then the student isn’t able to get what they really need from the situation: Trust and confidence that this person is out for the student’s best interests.
Other universities, most in fact, leave it up to the student if they wish to find a mentor. It’s important for those students to know that there are different types of mentors and they can be found in many places. At the end of the day, a positive student-mentor relationship can make all the difference when it comes to an enriching learning experience on campus.
1. The traditional route
Students who are seeking an official mentor are encouraged to try the traditional route. They can approach the Student Services office (similar names found at different universities) and ask for an assigned mentor. This is a service more commonly offered at smaller, private universities or at the graduate level. If high school students already know that mentorship will be important to them, they should check to see if these services are available prior to making a four-year commitment to a particular institution. If students have a choice of mentors, they are encouraged to tell the university a little bit about their personality or meet each potential mentor in person or over Skype prior to making a decision.
2. The unofficial route
Unfortunately, the majority of large undergraduate universities don’t offer an official mentor to each student. In this case, students may choose the unofficial route. Students actively seeking an unofficial mentor are encouraged to get to know their professors in each class they take as a first year student. Think about which ones seemed already busy with their current workload, which ones are consumed with long-term research, and which ones are only on campus two days a week. These people may not make the best mentors at that particular time because they are probably overwhelmed with other activities. Then think about who is often having a cup of coffee after class with a group of students and discussing the latest news and publications in their field. These are probably the types of educators who will be a good fit.
3. A seasoned student
Sometimes, a seasoned student (a post-graduate researcher or a student working as a Teacher’s Assistant, for example) can make a great mentor. Older students have been through just about everything their younger counterparts are facing now and have somehow survived to make it to the next level. The struggles and excitements of university life are fresh in their mind and they generally have some pretty good advice to offer.
4. Choosing multiple mentors
In reality, many professors and seasoned students would love to be a mentor but simply don’t have time in their busy schedule to make it a full-time commitment. With this in mind, students should think about reaching out to several people to act as mentors within the university environment. If a professor holds a coffee and chat session once a week for all students, take advantage of the time to ask questions in an informal environment. If another professor holds office hours every Tuesday/Thursday, take advantage of the time. Sometimes advice and guidance from many people can be better than advice from just one.
5. Looking to the alumni
In addition to the teaching staff, alumni make great mentors. People who have been out of the university environment for awhile often have a great perspective on what’s really important and what isn’t. For example if a student thinks that their world is coming to an end because they got a passing, but not perfect, grade in one of their courses outside their major, an alum may be able to help lighten the mood. On the other hand, if a student is skipping class to party all afternoon, a reality check may be on the menu.
At the end of the day, every student can benefit from the knowledge and experiences of their older counterparts. Whether they seek the guidance of an older student, a full-time professor or someone who attended university years ago, they are encouraged to find someone who can help them through the transition from high school to university and eventually career.