Graduating from high school and being accepted to college are big accomplishments. Even so, figuring out how to balance classes and homework with a part-time job and social life can be a bit overwhelming. Many students take longer than four years to earn their degrees and countless others drop out of college. Having a mentor can help students stay on track whiling dealing with curveballs that life may throw their way.
Mentors are common in many professions. Some large companies assign mentors to all new hires to serve as helpful “friends” as well as colleagues. Mentors offer information about the workplace and provide anecdotal advice when needed, helping new employees through their training, probationary period, and often through the years. A solid mentorship can be a critical aspect of someone’s success at work.
If you’re in high school or college, chances are good that you need a mentor, too. While it’s true that academic advisors can offer suggestions on course schedules and registration, most students only meet with their advisors when their signature is required on a form. A mentor can be your advisor, but can also be a professor or even someone who works in the industry you hope to enter after graduation.
Mentorships can be time-consuming relationships, and students often hear things that they didn’t want to hear, but there are many benefits to having a mentor during school. Here are six important reasons you should seek a mentor today:
1. They’ve been there, done that. Confused about your classes? Discouraged by college in general? A mentor can help guide you in the right direction. They probably didn’t go through the exact same scenarios that you’re going through, but they can help offer insight and advice because of their age and their own past experiences. You can truly learn from their mistakes.
2. They’re not your mom or dad. Parents—and other relatives—can be a great source of encouragement, but there are plenty of things that students don’t feel comfortable discussing with their parents. If you’re having an internal debate as to whether or not you really want to be a pre-med major, a parent in the medical field could be upset if you mention that you’re starting to change your mind. Speaking with a mentor, who is there to offer advice without taking sides, could help you reach a decision without feeling guilty.
3. They will encourage you and challenge you. A good mentor will help hold you accountable for living up to your full potential. They’ll encourage you to reach for the stars, so to speak. He or she will also challenge you to get outside your comfort zone and take risks if they seem reasonable.
4. They tell it like it is. Parents and friends have a tendency to “sugarcoat” bad news and their opinions when you ask for them. Think of a mentor as the friend who isn’t afraid to admit, yes, that outfit does make you look fat. If you’re slacking off, they’ll remind you.
5. They can point you in the right direction. Got questions and not sure where to have them answered? If your mentor doesn’t know, he or she can help point you in the right direction. If you go to college away from home, your parents probably don’t know the intricate workings of your college campus or the town where you live.
6. They have connections. Good mentors have plenty of colleagues, friends, and other business connections because they are involved in their communities as well as on the job. It’s not a guarantee, but many mentors help their mentees get internships and even jobs.
Don’t overlook the benefits of having a mentor. They can help you stay in school, improve your self-esteem, and set and achieve you create career goals. Some colleges and universities have mentorship programs in place for incoming freshmen and transfer students. These programs are especially beneficial to students who are the first member of their family to go to college and do not receive much school-related advice at home. Other students seek their own mentors. If you know someone that you think could help you—a professor, a guest speaker you met after class—don’t be embarrassed to approach them. Chances are they had a mentor when they were your age.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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