If you’re in your second or third year at university then you may well have the opportunity to become a student mentor. This is where you take one or possibly a group of fresher’s under your wing, show them the ropes, help them settle in and answer any questions they may have about university life.
Most universities have some kind of mentorship scheme in place, even if that’s not always the term they use (Oxford and Cambridge, for example, refer to their mentors as “college parents”). If you’re thinking of signing up, here’s our guide to being the kind of mentor every first-year student would like to have.
Check your motivation
Good reasons for becoming a mentor include the desire to help other students and “give something back” or, possibly, because you want to hone some highly employable skills, like communication and relationship building. Being a mentor is a big commitment, so ensure that you are dedicated to the programme and will have the capacity to see it through to the end.
Yes, there are things we all dislike about university, but in your role as mentor, it’s best to keep them to yourself. Your fresh-faced student(s) will be arriving full of excitement and optimism – therefore try to avoid bursting their bubble. Each student’s experience will also be different, so while you may be tempted to deliver a critical assessment of the student union bar/university choir/places to go, you could end up putting people off doing something they might actually enjoy.
Remember how nervous and unsure of yourself you were in your first few weeks and months at university? That’s exactly how these first years will be feeling now. So be patient if they ask one too many questions and empathetic if they appear to be struggling. You – literally – know what it’s like.
Don’t pretend to know more than you do
The people you are mentoring will probably have lots of questions for you about university life. Some of these will be easy to answer. For example: where’s the best place to grab some lunch? Some of them, on the other hand, will require specialist knowledge that you may or may not have. For example: are you allowed to switch courses from English and French to just English? If you’re not sure, be honest and point your mentee in the direction of somewhere they can get a definitive answer e.g. their academic department or the careers service. (It would be terrible if someone made an important life decision based on your wrong advice.)
And the most important thing of all…
Given that you’re being asked to play such a key role to a new student, it’s only natural if you want to try and come across as cool, experienced and the person who has all the information that they need. But the only thing you really need to worry about being is… nice and helping your mentee transition into student life as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
Are you looking for something interesting to do with all your communication and relationship-building skills? Why not find out more about our Graduate Management Trainee and Internship programmes today.