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The Surprising Benefits of Being Mentored by Both Younger and Older Students

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Here at CollegeVine, it’s no secret that we believe in the power of mentorship.


A quick glance back through history reveals the power of a strong mentor in shaping the future. Consider this: Frank Sinatra was mentored by Bing Crosby. Vincent Van Gogh was mentored by Paul Gauguin. Henry David Thoreau was mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Even rapper Drake has a mentor: Lil Wayne.


While most people consider a mentor to be someone who is older than they are, this isn’t necessarily always true. It’s important to consider the unique benefits of both older and younger mentors. Everyone around you has something to offer, and when you think about the strengths, experiences, and insights that someone can provide, that value is rarely tied to numerical age.


In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of mentors, first looking at how a mentorship typically works and then evaluating the perks of being mentored by both older and younger people. If you’re interested in finding out more about how mentors can help on your journey through both high school and life, keep reading.


What’s the deal with mentorships anyway?

The term mentor is often thrown around somewhat casually, and this is because many mentorships start in a fairly casual way. Often, a student or rising professional is introduced to someone, frequently in the same field, who has unique experience and expertise to lend. Over time, the casual friendship and offering of advice develops into a mentorship, in which one person provides insight or advice to the other.


Largely due to the undeniable success of casual mentorships, formal mentor programs have been developed to capitalize on these types of arrangements. While they may function fairly similarly to a more casual arrangement, formal mentorships will have a more rigid structure, with scheduled, regular meetings over a prolonged period of time. Usually, mentors in a formal mentor program undergo training to learn the most effective ways to motivate, inspire, and guide the people they mentor.


Mentorship usually refers to one-on-one interactions with a committed mentor who has a long-term involvement with you, helping you to grow personally, academically, and professionally. In a strong mentoring relationship, your mentor really gets to know you and can offer advice that’s tailored to your unique strengths and situation.


Mentorships are a successful model because literally everyone can benefit from help, advice, and both inside and outside perspectives. This is especially true of high school students.


High school is typically a time of rapid growth and change. At the same time, in the midst of all the life changes, you are expected to plan for your future. It’s no easy task, and it can sometimes seem like the more ambitious your plans are, the more difficult the planning becomes. This is where a mentor who has successfully and recently navigated the high school experience along with college admissions can be a real advantage.


But older students aren’t the only ones who can provide mentorship. There are unique benefits to having both younger and older mentors in your life, and by keeping an open mind, you can capitalize on all that both populations have to offer.


What are the benefits of being mentored by someone older?

Being mentored by someone older than you is the more traditional mentorship arrangement. Someone who has already experienced the things you’re going through will understand what it takes to get through high school, apply to colleges, and land that first job. They will be able to offer advice and perspective that is rooted in their own life experiences.


An older mentor can also reflect on his or her own successes and failures and use them as learning experiences. You will receive insight that can usually only come from actual firsthand experience and will help you avoid similar pitfalls.


Furthermore, an older mentor often has a longer-term perspective. It can be hard, especially in high school, to fully grasp the bigger picture. While you might think that getting into your dream school is going to make or break your entire future, an older mentor will almost certainly be able to reassure you that this isn’t the case. Instead, he or she can put things in perspective and help you to realize how your decisions now will impact (or not impact) your long-term plans.


Finally, due to his or her life experience, an older mentor will often be fairly practical, offering realistic advice based on carefully weighed risks and benefits. Often, this can help to even out any overly ambitious dreams and lead to a more practical plan. In addition to mentors that are in college, finding mentors who are working professionally can provide even more of this practical advice.


But older mentors aren’t the only option.


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What are the benefits of being mentored by someone younger?

Because older mentors are so often the norm, it might come as a surprise to hear that younger mentors are another great option for you. Younger mentors can have valuable advice and insight too, and you don’t want to overlook their potential.


It’s helpful to keep in mind when considering a younger mentor that youth does not necessarily mean inexperience. Some young people have been wildly successful early in life. Others have amassed extensive travel, academic, or even business experience at a young age. Remember, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook at only 20 years old and hundreds of other young people have become self-made millionaires while still in their teens.


Youth also does not necessarily mean lack of insight. Many young people have had a breadth of experience or perspective that allows them to offer insights that you otherwise might miss. Age does not always mean wisdom.


Young people can often provide you with inspiring creativity and fresh perspective. They might have the ability to dream bigger or less traditionally. Additionally, a young person might be more connected with current events or emerging trends and technology, offering a fine eye for the next big thing. In this way, their advice might be more current than that of someone who isn’t as entrenched in popular culture.


When you consider finding a mentor, age is nothing more than a number. As you seek out mentors, keep in mind what your long-term goals are. Consider them in direct relation to what potential mentors bring to the table. Ask yourself if this person has any direct experience in your areas of interest. If so, how relevant are their experiences to what you hope to accomplish? How well will you be able to relate to this person and how will they be able to motivate and guide you? Do you respect this person?


Finally, think about your own areas of weakness and how a potential mentor might complement them. Does this person have strengths where you feel less confident? Has this person overcome any obstacles similar to the ones you are facing? While it’s always good to find people who are strong in your own areas of weakness, you will also want someone who can relate to your struggles and understand why or what is holding you back.


Keep an open mind when choosing mentors and remember that it’s completely possible to have more than one mentor. Learning from a variety of different experiences and perspectives will do nothing but add to your cache of knowledge.


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!


To learn more about the benefits of mentorship and the various ways in which mentors can help to guide and shape your high school experience, read these CollegeVine posts:



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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.