How a Mentor Can Help You Get Into College
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Keeping up with the whirlwind of high school classes, homework, tests, and extracurricular activities means constantly balancing workloads and rushing to meet deadlines. When you add thinking about your future, making long-term goals, evaluating colleges, and preparing for the seemingly endless admissions process, it can all feel overwhelming.
Fortunately, students don’t need to step into the college preparatory whirl alone. Having a trusted, knowledgeable mentor can help you or your child improve grades, discover talents, choose meaningful extracurricular activities, write compelling admissions essays, prep for the SAT, and choose a path toward a successful and fulfilling career.
Students with well-chosen mentors improve their skills, expand their interests, and develop confidence. A strong mentor-student relationship can be a valuable resource throughout the entire college application process.
What does college mentorship involve?
Mentoring is the process of building a one-on-one relationship with a trusted adviser. College mentors work with individual students to:
- Assess current skills and experience
- Respond with insights and suggestions
- Create an action plan to address problem areas
- Discover and develop interests and aptitudes
- Set realistic but challenging goals
- Envision and execute a well-rounded portfolio of skills and achievements
Just as career mentors help guide protegées through the business world, college mentors prepare students for the challenges of college. Mentors help students uncover their abilities and achieve their potential. They aid students in determining which are the most appropriate colleges for their needs and goals, then support students in efforts to earn admission to those colleges.
Where can students find suitable mentors?
Mentors are found in many places, including high schools (counselors, teachers, coaches, etc.), religious and other youth groups, college alumni associations, professional associations and community groups, family and friend networks, and professional college mentorship programs.
Traditionally, mentor-mentee relationships developed between people who already knew each other or met through their networks. Today, professional college mentorship options take advantage of sophisticated pairing algorithms and in-depth assessments to match students with high-performing college students at top-ranked institutions.
These mentors are well-versed in their mentees’ interests and are knowledgeable about dealing with teens’ challenges. Mentors’ skills, relevant knowledge, and recent college and college-prep experience often provide the most apt and actionable insights available. Their youth and immersion in college culture make it easier for their mentees to feel comfortable and connect with them personally.
What should a student look for in a mentor?
While a support network with varied sources of guidance is valuable, students should consider how well a potential mentor meets the following criteria. The best mentors:
- Are well-informed about current college entrance requirements
- Help students to prepare for SAT or ACT entrance exams and improve upon previous test scores
- Are impartial—a good mentor seeks only to advance a student’s success and has no personal interest in recommending a specific college or course of study
- Know which classes and extracurriculars are most likely to appeal to a student’s most-favored colleges
- Share helpful insights about how best to balance AP and standard courses
- Encourage students to both manage expectations and challenge themselves
- Are able to meet on a regular basis
- Can help find support and accommodation for students’ mental or physical health concerns and challenges
Some mentors, like guidance counselors, may be quite knowledgeable about what colleges offer and what they require of students. However, counselors are often overworked and strapped for time since they meet with hundreds of students each year. Few have time to get to know a student’s interests and capabilities or see where a student might shine with a little more effort.
Counselors have limited time to visit or research colleges, and most focus their greatest attention on local institutions and a few big-name schools. However, smaller, less-well-known regional colleges often have excellent programs specific to a student’s interests. Such colleges also frequently offer better financial aid options.
Taking advantage of counselors’ knowledge is wise, but relying on them alone for college prep advice limits a student’s view of the wealth of options available. Overworked counselors may also miss the more personalized, detailed information that opens a student’s imagination to more appropriate and satisfying scenarios.
College-age mentors do more than help teens choose colleges
Near-peer mentors are college students themselves. That’s why they are:
- Knowledgeable about college entrance exams, application essays, and interview prep
- Aware of tips and techniques that make studying less stressful and more productive
- Skilled at noting potential areas of interest in which a student can stand out
- Sympathetic to the rigors of the college prep process
A skilled mentor can help a student identify objectives, then build required strengths, skills and experiences to meet those goals. Mastering these skills leads to greater competence and self-awareness, stronger motivation, improved leadership and communications skills, and a notable uptick in confidence.
When is the best time to begin a mentorship program?
Students benefit from early mentoring, but a mentorship can also be of great benefit during the sophomore or junior year. Students who begin a mentorship in 9th grade focus on building a strong academic base, developing excellent study habits, exploring interests, and choosing beneficial extracurricular activities.
Those who engage in a 10th grade mentorship can focus on choosing the right classes, improving study habits, building on key extracurriculars, preparing for aptitude tests, and getting ready for the college admissions process to come.
Beginning in 11th grade means focusing most heavily on the college admissions process, including creating lists of potential colleges, keeping track of deadlines and securing strong recommendation letters.
More benefits to having a near-peer mentor
The best mentors don’t impose plans on students. They help students to discover, focus, interact and challenge themselves based on each student’s own histories, goals, needs, and abilities.
Near-peer mentors have recent experiences relevant to the students they mentor. They know the current trends in education and technology, and are familiar with current admissions protocols and procedures. They know what students go through, and they foster realistic goals while encouraging teens to challenge themselves. Young mentors inject positivity and energy into what can feel like a long slog toward college, and they act as relatable role models to help students to focus on what’s most important:
- Discovering and developing interests
- Choosing activities and classes that build on strengths
- Bolstering areas that need improvement
- Improving interpersonal and leadership skills
- Creating an impressive (and genuine) persona attractive to potential colleges
Success in life requires more than getting into a good school. It means having the skills to feel confident and capable at college and throughout your life to come. That comes from choosing a course of study that fits and develops your talents and passions. The ultimate success is a rewarding, productive, and well-rounded life after college. Pre-college mentorships can help you prepare for rewarding college experiences that lead to a richer, happier, more successful life.
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academics, choosing courses, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and much more!
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