Giving Back Through College Mentorship: How to Become a Mentor to Others

At NSCS, we often encourage students to seek out peer mentors. These mentors can help guide them through their college experience, support them in career-related decision making, and serve as role models. Something we don’t discuss quite as often as how beneficial it can be for more advanced students and recent graduates to mentor other students. Becoming a great mentor to others can be incredibly rewarding. So, how do you go about  becoming a great mentor? Here are a few key tips.

1. Set expectations from the start.

When you first meet with a student you are planning to mentor, spend a little time discussing what you both expect from the relationship. Ask your student what they want to gain. Maybe they want someone who can help them improve their soft skills and practice interviewing. Or perhaps that want someone to bounce ideas off of as they build a customized course plan. Then, let the student know what you can offer and what expectations of theirs you can meet.

2. Get to know your mentees as people.

While you do want to keep this relationship professional, for the most part, it’s also important to get to know your student as a person. In your first meetings, take time to ask them about their hobbies. What do they like to do on the weekends? Where are they from? What is their family life like? Not only will this help you give the student better guidance, but asking these questions will help them feel more comfortable and confident around you. 

3. Share your own experiences.

In the course of meeting with your students, there will be times when they come to you with problems they’re facing at school, in an internship, or even on the job. Try to relate your own experiences to theirs. Tell them about a time when you experienced something similar, and describe how you responded. If you don’t think you responded well, be honest about that. Tell your student what you’d do differently now that you know better. This sort of approach makes the mentoring experience very real and human for both you and your students. 

4. Use the phrase “sympathy or solutions?”

When your mentees come to you with complaints about their coursework or career, resist the urge to immediately jump in with advice. Sometimes, the mentee may not be ready for advice; they may just be looking for an understanding person to listen to their woes. A good question to ask in these situations is “Are you looking for sympathy or solutions?” Based on the student’s answer, you then know how to best respond and relax.

5. Celebrate your mentees’ accomplishments.

Maybe your student just completed a course that was really hard for them. Perhaps they just landed the internship they were hoping for, or maybe they got an interview at a promising company. Celebrate these occasions! You could keep a bottle of sparkling grape juice in your desk to pull out when a student gives you good news. Or, you could take students out for coffee when they come to you about this sort of accomplishment. This shows the students that you care about them and their achievements, and that you’re truly in their corner.

Follow the tips above, and you’ll be a mentor students come to for encouragement, hope, and guidance. If you’re not yet an NSCS member, consider joining. We have an awesome mentorship program with many of our alumni and more senior students serving as peer mentors to younger members. 

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