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What is a mentor? Why do I need one in college?

Whether you are getting ready for your first year at college or already a student, there’s one resource you shouldn’t overlook: a mentor. A mentor provides students with valuable guidance throughout their college years and support that will help you navigate through your journey. Let’s explore what mentorship is and how having a mentor during your college years can shape your experience and contribute to your success.

What is a mentor?

a man and woman looking at a folder togetherIn college, a mentor is a trusted guide who has been in your shoes before. They’ve been through the same experiences and can share their wisdom with you. A mentor is more than just an advisor; they’re a friend who wants to see you grow and succeed. Mentors are patient, understanding, wise and caring. They’re there to help you with both academic and personal goals, ensuring that you have the support you need to thrive and also get through hard times.

What does a mentor do?

A mentor performs a variety of roles, including but not limited to:

  • Guidance: Offering advice on academic decisions, career paths and personal development.
  • Support: Providing emotional support during stressful times and helping you overcome challenges.
  • Networking: Introducing you to valuable contacts in your field of interest.
  • Accountability: Keeping you on track with your goals and encouraging you to stay focused.

Why do I need a mentor?

a man and woman walking together with green trees in the backgroundHaving a mentor in college can be a game-changer for several reasons:

  • Academic success: Mentors can help you choose the right courses, develop effective study habits and navigate academic challenges.
  • Career development: They can offer insights into different career paths; help you build a professional network and guide you through internships and job applications.
  • Personal growth: A mentor can support your personal development, helping you build confidence and resilience while gaining life skills.
  • Decision-making: With their experience, mentors can provide valuable perspectives that aid in making informed decisions.

What to look for in a mentor?

When seeking a mentor, consider the following qualities: Look for someone who has relevant experience in your field of interest. Ensure that your personalities and values align, as this will make the mentoring relationship more effective. Choose someone who has the time and willingness to commit to regular meetings. Lastly, a good mentor should be able to communicate clearly and provide constructive feedback.

Mentorship podcast episode

Want to hear more about mentorship? Check out The Search Bar episode on How does mentorship in college foster success? You’ll hear from James Span Jr., executive director of Student Inclusion and Diversity at Central Michigan University.

“It goes from you’re someone that I know to someone that I trust, to someone that I seek for support and answers to questions. And so, there’s this evolution of the relationship.” – James Span Jr.


How to find a mentor

Finding the right mentor involves:

  • Networking: Attend events, join clubs and participate in activities where you can meet potential mentors.
  • Utilizing campus resources: Many colleges have mentorship programs or career services that can help connect you with a mentor.
  • Reaching out to professors: Professors and academic advisors can often serve as mentors or connect you with professionals in your field.
  • Online platforms: Use professional networking sites like LinkedIn to find and reach out to potential mentors.

How to ask someone to be your mentor

Asking someone to be your mentor can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be

  • Two people wearing masks and looking at a microscope in a labBe clear and direct: Explain why you are seeking a mentor and why you believe they would be a good fit.
  • Show appreciation: Acknowledge their accomplishments and express your admiration for their work.
  • Outline your expectations: Clearly state what you hope to gain from the mentoring relationship and how often you would like to meet.
  • Be respectful of their time: Understand that potential mentors may have busy schedules and be open to working around their availability.

Sample message

Dear [Potential Mentor’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I am [Your Name], currently a [Your Year and Major] at [Your College/University]. Having followed your career and work in [Specific Field or Industry], I am truly inspired by your accomplishments and insights.

I am reaching out to see if you would be open to mentoring me as I navigate my academic and professional journey. Your experience in [specific area of expertise] is particularly relevant to my interests and aspirations, and I believe your guidance could greatly enhance my learning and growth.

If you have the time, I would love the opportunity to discuss this further and explore how you might be able to provide mentorship. Thank you very much for considering my request.

Best regards,

[Your Name]


Mentorship can be a transformative part of your college experience, providing guidance, support and opportunities for growth. By finding the right mentor and building a strong mentoring relationship, you can significantly enhance your academic, personal and professional development.

Don’t hesitate to seek out a mentor — it could be the key to unlocking your full potential in college and beyond.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
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