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.

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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.



What does a CollegeVine mentor do?

Each mentor/student relationship is different and is personalized to meet the needs of the student. Students and mentors in the CollegeVine mentorship program meet frequently and consistently to make regular progress and steadily improve skills and confidence. College mentors and students aim to meet weekly to set up a college preparation strategy together and consider tactics that move students toward goals, including:


  • Choosing extracurricular activities
  • Engaging in community service projects
  • Enrolling in a balanced mix of standard and AP courses
  • Getting tutoring where necessary
  • Evaluating colleges
  • Preparing for entrance exams
  • Writing compelling college entrance essays
  • Applying for scholarships


CollegeVine’s near-peer mentor program offers one-on-one pairing with an exceptional college student for one year. The mentor and student meet weekly to explore the student’s interests and abilities. They find ways to strengthen and emphasize aspects most likely to appeal to favored colleges. Our mentors are high-achieving college students representing over 20 majors. They have experience with a wide array of extracurricular activities. Each mentor provides monthly progress reports that break down how the year plan is progressing.


CollegeVine’s mentors emphasize social as well as academic skills. These build stronger relationships with teachers and prepare students for leadership opportunities. They also lead to happier, more involved and successful adults. Positive interaction with the student’s community is also an important goal. Each mentor-and-student pair develops a plan for a final project that improves the student’s relationship to the community and provides a valuable public service.



When is the best time to begin a mentorship program?

The CollegeVine mentorship program allows 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students to create a full academic and extracurricular plan for the year that includes specific, measurable goals. Students benefit from early mentoring, but a mentorship can also be of great benefit during the sophomore or junior year. CollegeVine uses a proprietary personality questionnaire and matching algorithm to pair each high school student with an impressive and appropriate mentor at any stage.


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 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.


Choosing an 11th grade mentorship program 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 academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


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Laura Grey
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Grey is an alumna of Mills College and the mother of a Simmons College graduate. Laura’s liberal arts education has served her well over the course of her writing and editing career, and she’s a big supporter of the women’s college experience. She enjoys writing film and music reviews, creating art, studying history and incorporating Godzilla figurines into her holiday decorating.