The 3 Types of Mentors You Need in College

Author: Da’Ishah Collie, M.S.Ed.

Do you remember your Take Stock in Children mentor’s impact on your high school experience? Your mentor is likely just a phone call away if you need anything now in your collegiate journey. Mentors matter and they play a critical role in your overall success in life. They provide support, motivation, and guidance during your best and worst days. As you encounter the many highs and lows of your college experience, it is best to have a robust support system that you can turn to that will help you meet critical milestones. A part of developing this strong support system is having different mentors with varying levels of expertise. College is the perfect time to do this because you interact with others in various stages of their life and career that can help you reach your goals now or in the future.

There are three (3) types of mentors that you should seek to obtain. Having a peer mentor, academic mentor, and professional mentor is vital to your success!

  • Peer Mentors: A peer mentor is a person who is at a similar stage in life as you, has more experience in your areas of interest, and can provide guidance with many of your short-term goals. As a college student, your peer mentor should be a person who attends your institution, shares similar academic interests, and has experience with your prospective extracurricular activities. You may find it most helpful to have a peer mentor that is at least one college-level higher than you.

You can speak with your peer mentor about your academic journey. If they have similar academic interests to you, they have likely been enrolled in your current classes and can provide you with guidance on how to navigate your coursework successfully. They can often share what academic resources they used for assistance and share study tips.

Additionally, if you have interests in extracurricular activities, student organizations, and other programs, your peer mentor can share their experiences thus far and what they have observed on campus. Thus, you can make a better-informed decision about your student involvement and goals to impact your campus community.

  • Academic Mentors: An academic mentor is a person who is skilled and knowledgeable in your subject/major area that provides academic advice and general support toward your degree attainment. An academic mentor can be an upperclassman peer who has successfully passed their coursework, or they can be one of your professors.

You may find it most helpful to obtain academic mentorship from one of your major professors as they are the most experienced with the subject matter and hold office hours where you can receive academic support consistently. Professors can also support you in other areas later in your collegiate journey by serving as references and writing letters of recommendation on your behalf if you would like to further your education or secure a job after graduation.

  • Professional Mentors: A professional mentor is an individual who is knowledgeable of, and/or, works in your occupational field of interest. This mentor provides you with support to promote your professional development, which includes your leadership and transferrable skillset. They also assist with career development by helping you explore various jobs within your field and providing guidance on ways to build your resume.

Transitioning from college into your career can be a challenging process. Speaking with your professional mentor can alleviate some of the stress that comes with life after graduation. Your mentor can speak with you about the job search process and graduate/professional school applications. They often are some of the best people to serve as a job reference and recommender for your future endeavors.

Now that you’ve learned about the different types of mentors, we have a few tips on developing a mentor/mentee relationship.

1. Build Rapport. Start by building rapport with your peers and professionals around you. Building rapport is getting to know an individual and establishing a relationship.

2. Identify a prospective mentor. After you have built rapport with people in your network, you may find that you see specific individuals as role models and would like to learn more from them.

3. Ask! Plan a good time and place to speak with a prospective mentor about your college goals and career aspirations. Ask them if they would be willing to serve as one of your mentors throughout your journey.

4. Follow-up. Whether your identified prospective mentor has agreed to serve in the mentor role or not, always remember that they are a part of your professional network, and it is best to keep in touch with your network regularly.

Bonus: Many colleges have mentorship programs that you can apply for on your campus. These mentorship programs often pair you with a peer or professional with similar interests to you. Be sure to utilize mentor programs if they are offered on your campus.

Take Stock in College scholar, you don’t have to do it alone! There are endless opportunities for you to seek out mentorship and build your network. Remember that the Take Stock in College team is here to help you along the way!