How Near-Peer Mentors Change the College Admissions Game
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The college application process can be stressful for both students and their parents. It can be fiercely competitive and enduring (especially if you start early), and you may feel confused and overwhelmed by the various ins and outs of the process, including the specialized vocabulary surrounding admissions.
Because the process changes frequently—for instance, the College Board recently revised the SAT, overhauling the exam’s structure and content—it can be difficult for parents and other family members to stay up-to-date with everything they and their students need to know, since their own experiences likely differed considerably. While most high schools offer guidance counselors, advisors, college counselors, or similar personnel to assist with the college application process, often, particularly at large public schools, their available time to work one on one with students may be somewhat limited due to serving a large part of the student body. (However, if the resource is available, students should make every effort possible to engage with their guidance counselors, as described in this guide.)
So where and to whom should high school students starting the college process turn? One possibility is mentors. It can be very useful for high school students who are planning to apply to college to have a dedicated mentor to help them through college applications.
What is a near-peer mentor?
A “near-peer” is a current college student or recent graduate who has recently gone through the college admissions process himself or herself. Because of the relative closeness in age of the mentor and mentee and the mentor’s familiarity with the process, he or she has personal, up-to-date knowledge of and experience with recent developments and expectations regarding college admissions. Also, because of the small age gap compared to the one between a high school student and a parent or teacher, this mentor may be able to better empathize with high school students and understand what they are experiencing.
What does a near-peer mentor actually do?
Your (or your child’s) near-peer mentor will assess the student’s academic strengths and weaknesses and assist him or her with the areas of the application process that require the most guidance—personalized according to the individual student’s needs. The mentor can also answer specific questions on admissions procedures, acceptance rates, admissions standards, current admissions trends, and so on.
A mentor can also answer more personal questions about the “feel” or atmosphere of a college, and what might make or good or bad fit for the particular student. Remember, getting in isn’t the only important thing; the student needs to feel comfortable at a given school, and it needs to be an environment where he or she can learn and thrive.
There are number of other ways a near-peer mentor can help a high school student with the college admissions process, such as:
- Understanding and keeping track of deadlines and requirements, such as which standardized tests to take and when to register for them
- Asking the right kinds of questions to inspire students’ own ideas for essays
- Editing and proofreading application materials to ensure that students are presenting their applications professionally and error-free
- Assisting with standardized test preparation in a more structured way than students may be able to do on their own
- Helping maximize financial aid by identifying scholarship opportunities, assisting with scholarship applications, and keeping track of deadlines
Due to their own experience and their experience helping others with the process, mentors may be able to access materials high school students normally wouldn’t know about. For instance, at CollegeVine, we have access to a great deal of quantitative admissions data from our large group of clientele over several years, so we are better equipped to give informed advice about the types of students who are typically admitted to certain universities and other insights into the admissions process.
How can a high-school student benefit from near-peer mentoring?
There are many benefits to engaging a near-peer mentor. As we discussed above, the college admission process can be confusing and overwhelming, so it helps to have an informed ally to provide advice and insights, both for students and for parents who may not be able to assist as closely. Additionally, a mentor gives a student someone to hold themselves accountable to, since a mentor can help him or her help keep track of goals, as well as provide structure to the admissions process. It can also reduce the possibility of embarrassing errors like typos, incorrect dates, forgotten answers to essay questions, and so on ending up on the student’s application.
Furthermore, a mentor can help students to practically and emotionally manage the stress of preparing for and applying to college, especially since he or she recently went through the same exhausting process. This common background allows for greater understanding and improved communication between the student and their mentor, while also providing the student with an understanding ear to listen to his or her problems and anxieties.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, having a mentor may improve your chances of admission to college, as well as assist you with the application process. Because a near-peer mentor has been through the process, he or she knows what works and what doesn’t, and will be able to share insights from experience to help students succeed. They know what colleges look for and can help students achieve their goals.
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