The power of mentoring

College life is filled with many challenges, and college students need both emotional and moral support. For example, a srecently reported by the American College Health Association, 85 percent of college students struggle with feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities at some point during their college careers.

A mentor can provide guidance and help students cope with such difficulties, showing them how to prioritize and focus on getting the most value out of the college experience. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by scholars at Texas A&M University, mentored students are 81 percent more likely to be “college persistent,” or still pursuing their studies at a four-year institution two years after high school, than students without access to mentoring.

However, mentoring is not merely about guaranteeing good grades. It’s about offering holistic support to students and creating a strong foundation for lifelong learning — an essential component of an enriching adult life.That’s why college and university officials are pledging more and more support to student mentoring services.

Dr. Norma Hedin, Provost of Dallas Baptist University, testifies to the vital importance of mentoring.“Faculty mentors are critical to the personal, academic and spiritual growth of students,” she notes.

Dr. Stan Poole,Vice President for Academic Affairs at Ouachita Baptist University in Oklahoma, shares a similar view.“Mentoring relationships in the educational setting are still one of the highest and best examples of how one generation passes on wisdom, confidence and resilience to the next,” he observes. 

What are the keys to establishing these rewarding and lasting relationships during your college years?

Be bold

The best mentoring relationships are organic, but they still require initiative. Unless you speak up and ask for mentoring, you are unlikely to receive it.

A shared passion

Faculty members within your field of study are excellent mentor candidates. But what if you aren’t able to study directly with a faculty member who shares your interests? Join clubs and other organizations related to your major.Through these organizations, you can make connections with professors outside the classroom.

Good communication 

If the fit seems right, your initial meeting should only be the first of many conversations with your mentor. But remember that a mentoring relationship is a professional relationship. Faculty members are often quite busy and have many obligations outside of the classroom.

Make sure you come to them with thoughtful questions and genuine concerns. Listen attentively to their advice, be respectful and always thank them for their time.

A mentoring network 

It’s possible that one mentor may not satisfy all your mentoring needs.

Moreover, sometimes your primary mentor is unavailable.Talk to your peers and collaborate to establish a mentoring network. Multiple mentors can also provide you with alternative perspectives and strategies for overcoming obstacles to your learning. 

Don’t limit yourself

As Dr. Hedin observes,“staff and peer mentors are also powerful guides through the various decisions that college students need to make throughout their educational journey.” Additionally, alumni often mentor current students, bringing direct knowledge of the student experience to that relationship.Ask if your school has established a mentoring program that connects students with alums now working in different fields and industries.

Beyond college

Another strong proponent of mentoring is Jonathan Gilralter, President of Wells College in Aurora, NY, who points out that the mentor-mentee relationship often endures even after graduation. As such, a college mentoring relationship can have a significant impact not only your personal well-being, but also your professional growth. “Although you may feel inundated with advice about college, summoning the courage to open up to a mentor can change your life,” Gilralter says.

“Faculty mentors are critical to the personal, academic and spiritual growth of students.”