Everyone can benefit from having a mentor in their life. A mentor can share advice, help you navigate difficult decisions, and offer networking opportunities. However, there are several different kinds of mentors. One that can be particularly helpful, especially during the college years and early in your career, is a peer mentor.
What Is Peer Mentoring?
A peer mentor is someone who has been through the same program or experience you’re navigating. Usually, they are only a year or two ahead of you in terms of experience. For instance, a freshman college student may have a peer mentor who is a junior in the same department.
When you have a peer mentor, you can go to that person for advice, feedback, and guidance. You can ask them questions such as “how did you handle this exam?” and “what subject did you choose for this project?” The relationship between a peer mentor and their mentee is usually somewhere between professional and casual. Students often think of their peer mentors as being like older siblings or more mature friends.
What Are the Benefits of Peer Mentoring?
There are a few key benefits of working with a peer mentor, particularly during your college years.
For one, your peer mentor can give you realistic advice regarding classes, projects, and professional advancement. They can share their own experiences with you and let you know what has worked for other older students, too.
Working with a peer mentor can also help improve your communication skills. This is usually a more casual relationship, so you can relax and speak your mind, for the most part. However, you’ll get used to talking about yourself, your skills, and your professional goals with someone else — and being able to do so will prove incredibly helpful once you start interviewing for jobs.
Peer mentoring can also help expand your network. Your peer mentor may introduce you to graduates who are a few years older than them. They may recommend you for an internship they have or had, or put you in contact with better advisors. Those connections could eventually help you find a job or new work opportunities.
NSCS Mentoring Program
Included in an NSCS membership is the opportunity to participate in the NSCS Mentoring Program. The Scholar Central member community will help match you to the best fit mentor, provide a framework for how to interact with your mentor, and milestones along the way to ensure you are achieving your goals. If you would like to join NSCS, please visit info.nscs.org/mentorship-lp.org.
How Do You Find a Peer Mentor?
Some colleges have specific peer mentoring programs. Usually, these exist within certain departments. For example, if you are a biology major, your department may have a mentoring program where they pair junior and senior biology majors with freshman students. Contact your Department Chair to see whether such a program exists at your college.
Another way to find a peer mentor is to join an Honors Society. In particular, look for an Honors Society that welcomes students in all years of study. Some of these societies have formal peer mentoring programs. Or, you can simply start attending meetings and chatting with older students who share your interests and goals. They can mentor you in an informal way, giving you a better idea of what lies ahead.
Finally, you could talk to your professors about peer mentoring opportunities. One of your professors may known an older student who would excel in mentoring you. They can arrange for you to meet, chat, and get to know each other. This could even be the start of a new mentoring program within your department.
As you continue through college and enter the workforce, the advice you receive from others will become invaluable. A peer mentor can help you navigate your college years and the transition into the workforce. Try some of the approaches above to find a peer mentor who you can connect with and learn from.