The Role of Mentorship in Overcoming College Challenges: Learning from Your Mentor’s Experience


It’s hard to deny that attending college is a transformative experience. As a college student, you learn so much more than just your course material. Especially if you take steps to get involved, you will learn valuable leadership skills, how to collaborate with others, and how to navigate professional relationships.

Learning these skills is not always easy. In fact, it can be downright challenging! The good news is that if you have a mentor, you don’t have to learn only from your own challenging experiences. You can also learn from the challenges your mentor has endured. This may keep you from having to undergo the same struggles and hardships yourself.

How to Learn From Your Mentor’s Experiences

To learn from your mentor’s experiences, you want to start forming a productive and dynamic relationship with your mentor. This means meeting with them regularly. It also means slowly opening up not only about your coursework and college experiences, but about who you are as a person. Don’t hesitate to tell your mentor about your history, your interests, your hobbies, and what makes you “tick” as a person. After a few weeks, the two of you should start feeling more comfortable with each other as people. That will lay the framework for a relationship in which you can openly discuss your challenges and any related experiences your mentor has had.

Starting from this firm foundation, make sure you go to your mentor when you are facing a challenge. Maybe, for example, you’re leading a group in class, and some of the group members are not showing up to group meetings. Bring the situation up to your mentor, and ask whether they’ve dealt with something similar. They can likely tell you about similar experiences they’ve had, and how they resolved them.

When your mentor tells you about their past experiences, don’t hesitate to ask questions. For instance, you could ask “did the group members push back when you said that?” or “Did you feel nervous when making that announcement?” This will help you relate your mentor’s experience to your own. You can then use what you’ve learned in the conversation to help solve the problem you’re facing. Remember, not all of these situations will result in your mentor telling you what worked for them. Often, your mentor will say “These are the mistakes I made. Don’t make the same ones.”

nding a Good Mentor

Of course, it is easiest to relate to and learn from a mentor you connect with. So, take the time to meet with a few different mentors and find someone who makes you feel supported and at-ease. Here are some different ways you can meet potential mentors:

  • Ask professors whose lectures you enjoy if they mentor students.
  • See whether your department has a faculty mentor program.
  • Join an honors society like NSCS; we have active mentorship programs.
  • Ask a student who is a year or two ahead of you to mentor you.
  • Reach out to your peers and ask if they have a mentor they would recommend.

Listening to others speak about their experiences, challenges, and even their mistakes is a great way to learn. This is especially true when those experiences and challenges are similar to your own. Find a mentor you connect with, and the insight you gain through this one relationship will surprise you. NSCS is really proud of our mentorship programs, and we encourage you to consider joining our society. We’re a place where students routinely discover the true meaning of mentorship, scholarship, and leadership. 

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