As you think about life after high school, you might start googling colleges. All the admissions requirements seem to be understandable, so it’s just a matter of finding your favorite institution of higher learning, right?
Not so fast! No matter what college you eventually select, there’s an important step you should take now to assure you’ll be prepared for the strange, new world of college: finding a mentor!
What is A Mentor?
For every successful person you encounter in life, there’s at least one mentor behind the scenes—and usually more! Mentors are just people who can guide, support and encourage you in any endeavor you undertake. Mentors aren’t meant to replace parents, guardians, or teachers (although sometimes those people make the best mentors), but rather are individuals who can help you by encouraging positive choices, supporting academic achievement, and introducing new ideas.
Why Do I Need A Mentor?
There are a lot of steps between where you are now and your college destination. Along the way you’ll have many questions related to financial aid, admissions, college social life, and choosing a major. Although college is a great place to find a mentor, you’ll want to get ahead of the game and start that process now.
We talked with an expert about this. Amy Ingram, Manager of UNIV Student Success Program for Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM), helps match AUM students with the right mentor.
“When you go on a first date,” said Ms. Ingram, “you want to make a good impression, so you prepare with that goal in mind. Same thing with college; you want to maximize your chances for success from the beginning.”
She says that, while a good GPA and a variety of extracurricular activities are great to get you into college, there’s more you can do to be prepared.
“Find a mentor while you’re still in high school. The adults in your life really want you to succeed in college and in life, and sometimes all you have to do is ask them. Mentors have been where you are and can give you insight or information you may not have.”
How Do You Find A Mentor?
Finding a mentor is easier than you might think. Think about the adults in your life. On any given week you might come in contact with a potential mentor. He or she could be a:
- Guidance counselor
- Pastor or church member
- Family friend
- Manager at your part-time job
- Current college student
To find an academic mentor, AUM’s Amy Ingram suggests browsing the website of a local college or university.
“Find events and activities to attend on campus. Colleges always welcome potential students, and it’s an ideal opportunity to connect with a new mentor.”
It’s true; some adults don’t have the time or patience to mentor a young person, so your job is to find one who does. To start, ask the potential mentor to sit down with you for 10 minutes so you can ask a few questions about college and/or careers. If that meeting goes well, who knows? You might be on your way!
Here are some tips on how to find and keep a mentor:
- Not all mentors can help you with all questions or needs. If this is the case, ask them to put you in touch with someone who can.
- It’s OK to have multiple mentors!
- Show your gratitude for your mentor’s time with a short phone call or a handwritten thank-you note.
- Be persistent; if he/she can’t meet with you immediately, it doesn’t mean they’re not interested.
- Think through any phone messages, emails or texts before you send them. Be on time for all meetings.
- Keep your parents or guardian updated on who you are meeting with for mentorship.
- Check out www.mentoring.org for more information.
Mentors can be a vital resource for you over the course of your lifetime. As they cheer you on and help you make crucial decisions, you’ll be learning more than just how to become successful. You’ll also be learning how to return the favor one day by mentoring someone who needs your wisdom and experience!