A Good College Mentor Can Make All the Difference

by Heather Nelson

When you step onto campus for the first time as a freshman, everything is new. The buildings, the classrooms, the teachers—even the food! Navigating all of this can be tricky and, if you’re not careful, isolating. But remember, there are plenty of people on campus who have been where you are now and are willing to help. Connecting with a college mentor can make all the difference.

If you bonded with a teacher in high school, you know just how beneficial a trusted relationship with a mentor can be. Bring that experience into college by finding a professor or faculty member who you connect with beyond academics. Drop in on the professor’s office hours or ask to grab a coffee. If your school offers a mentoring program, take advantage and get involved.

Once you think you’ve found a good fit, use your time with your mentor to ask about life, school, faith, and everything in between. Your mentor’s advice and experience can help you make the most of your time at college—and beyond.

Know Where You’re Going

While there are endless benefits to having a mentor for emotional support, there are also some practical advantages. If you’re new to college, a mentor can help you learn the lay of the land. Campuses tend to be large and hard to navigate, so knowing where your classes are ahead of time is key. Mentors can teach you some of tricks of the trade to help you adjust to your new schedule and freedom. Time management is an important skill to develop while you’re in college, but it doesn’t always come easy. It’s useful to talk to somebody who has been there before, who can help you learn from his or her mistakes.

Mentors might be more familiar with other professors and class curriculums than you are. When it comes time to choose classes, he or she can help you select the best courses based on your academic and career interests as well as your current workload. Maybe he or she has even taken some of the courses you’re considering, or interacted with particular professors, which could help you make the right decision.

Gain Perspective

Sometimes learning from someone who has lived longer than you can make all the difference. Eliot Reasoner, a recent Azusa Pacific University graduate who was mentored all four years of college (and continues his mentoring as a graduate student), says his mentor’s life experience is what made the relationship and time together so beneficial.

“Because a mentor is someone who is older and has more life experience, [having a mentor] has been really beneficial in terms of life advice,” Reasoner shared. “Just seeing the life of someone who has already been through what I have and come out on the other side was always encouraging.”

A college mentor can speak to a lot of areas in a new student’s life beyond logistics—how to get to class, which courses to take or avoid. He or she can help you gain perspective when things are new, interesting, or even confusing. In college, there are a lot of faculty members, but each interprets life and faith differently. Find someone who helps you see your place in the world and the difference you can make. Having a mentor to encourage and support you can help you gain a broader understanding of how to face this new time in your life.

Thrive After Graduation

Did you know that having a positive mentoring relationship in college can prepare you for the workplace? A Gallup-Purdue University study found that a student’s college experience determined well-being and success after graduation. Students who spent time with a professor who “cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams,” were not only more engaged in the workplace, but saw their well-being thrive overall.

In Reasoner’s opinion, all freshmen should have a good mentor in college. “It’s important to find a role model or someone in a stage of life that you want to be at one day and can help you get there,” he said. “You can learn so much from them.”

College can be an intimidating place, but a mentor can help you gain the confidence necessary to thrive.