A recent poll of nearly 30,000 college graduates conducted jointly by Purdue University and Gallup, Inc. looked at the relationship between college experiences and college graduates’ lives post-graduation. The study examined workplace engagement and graduates’ sense of well-being as well as factors influencing students’ life while in college.
According to the results of this study, six factors emerged as important influences on graduates’ engagement and well-being. Over the next six weeks, our series, College Experiences That Lead to Well-Being After Graduation will examine each of these factors and how students can take control of their college experiences to make sure that they participate in the activities in college which will help them in the future. We hope parents will share these ideas with their college students to help them work to pursue these important experiences.
I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.
Only 22% of those graduates responding to this survey strongly agreed with the above statement. That means that a very large percentage of graduates felt that during their college experience there was not a professor who personally guided them in pursuing their dreams.
It is possible to look at this statistic and condemn colleges and faculty members for not working hard enough to mentor students. And it is possible, even likely, that schools and faculty members should be encouraged to do more — and perhaps taught how better to mentor students.
But once again, students need to bear some of the responsibility for finding and building the mentoring relationship. Faculty members can reach out, but students can reach out as well. Talk to your college student about the importance of the mentoring relationship and why she should look for a mentor. Talk to your student about how best to maintain that important relationship once she finds it.
Here are a few thoughts about how students might work to ensure that they find — and maintain — a good mentoring relationship while in college.
- Students need to begin by working to find the right mentor. It is possible that a student’s advisor may serve as a mentor, but it is also possible that an advisor may not be the ideal mentor. Students must work to get to know their professors and to reach out to the person or persons with whom the student connects. Seeking the right mentor must be an active process undertaken by the student.
- Students need to be clear about why they want a mentor. If a student is not sure of what a mentor should do, or why a mentor might be helpful, the student will not be able to make the most of the relationship.
- In order for a mentor to be able to encourage a student in her hopes and dreams, the student must be clear about what those hopes and dreams are. Help your student do some soul-searching to know what she hopes to accomplish or where she hopes to go. Once she is clear about what her dreams are, she will be ready to have someone help her achieve those dreams. If your student does not know wheres he wants to go, no mentor will be able to help her get there.
- Students must be willing to share their hopes and dreams openly with a potential mentor. Even if your student is clear about his hopes for the future, if he does not share his ideas with his mentor, the mentor will be unable to help.
- Students must trust their mentor and be willing to be guided and led. Acknowledging the mentor’s wisdom and listening to advice is essential.
- Students should remember that any good relationship is a two-way street and flourishes best with time and attention. Not all of that attention will come from the faculty member to the student. Your student needs to be willing to connect with her mentor and to spend time with her. She needs to be willing to visit during office hours, make appointments, do the work of building her end of the relationship.
- Students also need to be respectful of their mentor’s time. While it is important to be open and to spend time building the relationship, it is also important to know when to step back and give the mentor a break.
- Finally, students need to remember to express gratitude for the mentor’s time and efforts. It is important not to take the relationship for granted.
A good mentoring relationship can be one of the best keys to success and fulfillment. This study supports this and demonstrates that the effects are not only immediate, but can be long lasting. Students need to remember, however, that they bear some responsibility for finding and maintaining a good mentoring relationship.
Talk to your student about the importance of mentoring and about how to build that relationship. And don’t hesitate to share with your student stories of your own mentors and their importance in your life.