By the end of this module, you will be able to . . .
- Explain the role and responsibilities of a College Success mentor.
- Approach conversations with your mentee with a solutions-focused attitude and an encouraging demeanor.
- Conduct and interpret a degree audit to guide your mentee toward success.
What is the College Success Project?
Founded by Ashley Clavel in the fall of 2018, this program offers support to EVKids graduates as they start college. Nationally and locally, students from low-income secondary schools graduate college at significantly lower rates than their peers. By offering academic help and emotional support during this important transition, mentors work 1-on-1 with their assigned mentee to help low-income, first-generation college students tackle the challenges ahead and close the matriculation gap one student at a time.
What Challenges are your Mentees Experiencing?
- Financial aid/ scholarships
- Work-school balance
- No financial safety net
- Insufficient academic advising
- May require extra coursework to catch up
- Executive functioning struggles– some of these students may not know how to study or manage their time independently as well as their peers
- commuting makes it hard to find community at school
- finding the right friends/fitting in
“The American system of higher education has the potential to be a powerful engine of mobility, able to reliably lift young people from poverty to the middle class, and from the middle class to affluence. But in reality, for many young Americans, it functions as something closer to the opposite.”– Paul Tough The Years that Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us
What does a College Success Mentor do?
Because most students in the College Success program are first-generation college students, their parents often do not know how to help them navigate the college experience. As a college graduate, it is up to you, the College Success mentor, to use your own experience to help your mentee develop effective organizational and study skills.
By conducting degree audits and reviewing your mentee’s courses with them, you will be able to supplement the academic advising they are receiving from the school to ensure they are spending their time and money wisely. Make sure that students are taking courses that satisfy multiple requirements whenever possible, and work with them to create a schedule that sets them up for success while allowing them to graduate in a timely manner.
Here are some specific ways you will assist your mentee academically:
- Filing the FAFSA application for the year
- Helping with strategies to manage coursework
- Deciding a major/guiding career choices
- Planning ahead for papers and essays
- Provide guidance when searching for internships
Since the College Success program works with low-income students, your mentee will likely be working during college. As their mentor, work with them to ensure that they are leaving sufficient time for their studies, and help coach them on how best to communicate with their boss and professors to balance the various components of their life.
Studies have found that socio-emotional support may have a greater effect on college student’s academic success than academic support. Especially if you are working with a freshman, your mentee will be transitioning into a new life with increased independence that may involve being far away from their friends for longer than they have ever experienced. By believing in your mentee and providing emotional support through all the difficulties college can bring, you can help provide the stability that sets these students up for success.
Sometimes, you’ll meet with your mentee to work on homework or discuss specific problems. Make sure to reserve some time to ask how they’re doing and ask about their life at college. Their answers to those questions can provide invaluable insight into other problems that you may discuss with your mentee. For example, if they are unhappy or having trouble making friends at college, loneliness may make it difficult for your mentee to motivate themselves for schoolwork.
We asked one of our mentor-mentee pairs to share what this experience has meant to them. Take a moment to reflect on the value of mentorship with Kasilyn and her College Success mentor, Jane, and think about the mentors in your life and how you hope to support your future mentees.
As a College Success mentor, you will be working with young adults who may not be significantly younger than yourself. When doing so, it is important to maintain healthy, professional boundaries.
Mentoring should focus on academic and college life advising.
If your mentee talks about serious health issues, either physical or mental, you should recommend that they speak to the appropriate health professional, which is often available through their institution. Direct them to the appropriate office if they are not sure where to go, but do not give advice on treatment options if the treatment could seriously impact their health.
You will work with students experiencing financial struggles, and you may be tempted to give them a small amount of money to help them through a tough time. If your mentee tells you that they are experiencing serious financial issues, speak to the College Success advisor about what the organization can do to help. Suggest that your mentee reach out to the College Success advisor as well to discuss solutions for these issues.
Recognize Your Role
You are not the only adult in your mentee’s life. Speak respectfully of their parents and professors, even if you do not agree with those adults’ decisions, and work to develop a relationship with your mentee that pushes them to succeed while partnering with the other authority figures in their life.
You may discuss issues that make your mentee feel vulnerable. Remember that you are there to support your mentee, but maintain an appropriate physical distance. Romantic or physical relationships between mentor-mentee pairs violate the rules of professional conduct.
Remember that you are Human!
While balancing your personal life with your mentoring responsibilities, you may make a mistake along the way. How you react and work through these mistakes can be an important learning moment for your mentee. You should model professionalism whenever possible, but remember that no one is infallible, and it’s okay to admit that you made a mistake and that you would like to work through that mistake.
As a College Success mentor, you should be working with your mentee to help them find internships, complete their FAFSA, help them manage their course load, and listen to their general concerns. If you ever feel that your mentee is pushing boundaries or if you are struggling to start a conversation about these boundaries, please contact your College Success advisor.