A Foundational Guide for Mentoring Students

September 27, 2022 Watermark Insights

When higher education institutions create mentorship programs, students and faculty can see an increase in engagement, retention, and productivity. Mentors can encourage students and guide them to success, but you must have a program outline and communicate your expectations and ideas with your team. 

Mentorships are enriching for both the mentor and the mentee, and students can make valuable connections, discover new opportunities, and seek expert knowledge and skills for their careers. Our guide for mentoring students will help you understand the role of a mentor and discuss how you can create a mentorship program for your students. 

Advisors vs. Mentors: What's the Difference?

Advisors and mentors may seem similar, but they have very different roles. Although both have professional experience, advisors and mentors use it differently to guide others. Advisors have a formal function and give others a sense of direction. Mentors perform a similar role but use personal experience, knowledge, and skills to lead others to success. Mentors can act as role models and develop deep connections with mentees, while advisors have a more surface-level relationship. 

Simply put, many people can be advisors, while only some can serve as mentors. An advisor directs others to perform tasks, but a mentor guides mentees through career and personal development. Mentors consider personal obligations, passions, and goals and encourage mentees to seek their own paths. On the other hand, advisors do not take a social-emotional approach but expect others to complete objectives despite them. 

Students may have an advisor who tells them which classes they should take, when they should begin an internship, or which clubs would be most beneficial for their resume. In a sense, the advisor encourages the student to check off the boxes that will enable them to graduate on time. A mentor is more inclined to know the mentee personally. Mentors will understand the student's motivation and suggest courses, clubs, internships, and other valuable resources that align with the student's interest. 

Types of Mentors

Types of Mentors

Mentors can take different roles and structure the relationship in various ways. Although many believe mentors must be old and wise, mentors can also be young, bright minds or peer mentors. Some mentors provide emotional support, teaching coping methods and stress-relieving practices, while others share industry knowledge and expertise. Still, other mentors act as an all-encompassing helping hand who guides mentees to success in one form or another. 

Types of mentors include:

  • Experts: These mentors have in-depth knowledge of their field. Experts could be practicing work in the industry or have decades of experience with work. These mentors help student hone and realize their strengths. 
  • Champions: Champions are support mentors who advocate for the mentee. These mentors help students discover opportunities and make connections they can carry into their careers. 
  • Copilots: Peers can be mentors for each other in a copilot relationship. This mentorship benefits both parties, and they support each other and collaborate while holding one another accountable. 
  • Anchors: Life is a rollercoaster of ups and downs. When the ride gets wild, students can benefit from having someone who can see the silver linings and help them overcome obstacles. 
  • Mentees: Young mentors can keep a fresh perspective and engage with the younger generation by taking a leadership role on campus. 

Creating a Mentorship

College or university student mentoring can be incredibly beneficial for students and staff when everyone practices the proper methods. Additionally, mentoring university students can be very rewarding for your instructors and faculty, but you should establish a program that works for everyone. Encourage your team to collaborate and determine the best schedule, policies, procedures, and student mentoring report format. 

Establish the Relationship

A mentorship is only as strong as the relationship between mentor and mentee. At the beginning of the mentorship, you should establish goals and expectations so both parties understand their role. Mentors will also need to take the first step to develop the relationship with their mentees to create a trusting rapport. 

A mentorship can operate through three relationship formats. A structured format is built around a mutually beneficial goal, and this mentorship creates a continuous environment for learning and development. A requested relationship is one where mentees present mentors with questions, and they figure out solutions together. This relationship does not require structure, and mentors do not need to plan materials in advance. Lastly, a suggested relationship encourages mentors to reach out to struggling students and give support. 

Create Boundaries

Any professional relationship requires boundaries, especially in higher education institutions. First and foremost, the mentor and mentee should always feel a level of respect from the other. A mentorship is a deep connection; neither party should feel that one is more important than the other. The mentor and mentee should create a schedule together and determine their preferred methods of communication and when it is appropriate to reach out. 

Set Expectations

When mentors and mentees express expectations, in the beginning, both people can move forward knowing what the other expects. Expectations will lay the foundation for the mentorship, and the mentor and mentees will craft a relationship around this foundation. This will also help the student understand what role their mentor is playing. They will know whether it's appropriate to ask their mentor for emotional or mental support or if they should rely on them to discover exciting courses of study. 

Know Your Limitations

A mentorship is nurturing and continues to grow as the relationship continues. However, a mentorship should be a reliable connection rather than a constant obligation. Although many mentorships turn into lifelong friendships, others can be more formal, and it's essential that the mentor and mentee are exhibiting the same amount of effort. Although mentors want to help students grow, they must ensure they understand their learning experience and do not overwhelm them or provide uninteresting opportunities. 

Mentors and students should practice self-care and understand when to give themselves a break. When people overextend themselves, they become burnt out and less helpful to others. Additionally, if students feel their mentorship is a chore, they may refrain from contacting their mentor or opt to neglect their other work. 

Tips for Mentoring Students

Schools need mentorship programs to encourage, engage, and motivate students to finish their studies and reach their goals. Students can become more connected with their course materials, make new connections, and have a more satisfying campus experience. Create a mentoring program at your institution, and check out these tips for mentoring students:

  • Identify clear goals and expectations
  • Adapt a flexible schedule
  • Encourage self-advocacy
  • Utilize a check-in system to receive updates
  • Establish deadlines and stick to them
  • Hold regular meetings to report progress
  • Encourage students to ask questions
  • Give quality feedback on assignments, projects, or tasks
  • Discuss your students' motivations and interests
  • Understand that your student may get busy 
  • Notify students about departmental changes and events
  • Present campus clubs, activities, and opportunities 

Explore Mentorship Programs With Watermark

At Watermark, we understand the importance of mentorships and want to help you craft a program that works for your faculty and students. We encourage higher ed institutions to utilize success coaches to create holistic educational experiences and guide students to their goals. We can help you design a program that benefits your students and improves your institution. 

Browse our case studies to see how we've helped other higher education institutions engage students, or contact us to learn more about what we can do for you. 

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