Wednesday’s Parent: Choose a mentor in 3 steps

Choose a mentor carefully. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Choose a mentor carefully. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Earn while you learn explains the popularity of apprenticeships to employees and internships for college students. For the college-bound, a mentor can supplement classroom learning and provide enrichment in  understanding. Who to choose as a mentor is not always an easy choice because there is a lot riding on the consequences of taking a mentor’s advice.

Mentors can serve as advisers, guides, gurus, counselors, consultants, confidantes, trainers, teachers, tutors, and instructors for any part of the college and career prep and process. As experts in their field, they can share valuable insider tips, tricks and insights. They can furnish introductions through networking opportunities and serve as role models. Here is my three-step method to choose a mentor:

1. Do a big picture analysis. The first step in choosing a mentor is to determine which position a student needs a mentor to fill. In my article, It takes this village to get into college, I explained six different roles students look to for counsel. A mentor can fill more than one part and students can have more than one mentor for different reasons. Use the parent-student team to explore the areas a student could benefit from extra guidance. Since college prep is preparation for achieving success in college and beyond, take both a short and long view. As objectively as possible, analyze together the student’s current academic and extracurricular interests, skills, abilities and talents. Let the student lead the discussion on future plans and dreams. Compare the two to determine the qualifications of a suitable mentor.

2. Brainstorm candidates to serve as a mentor. A mentor’s academic and life experience may relate to a particular profession, business, or membership. The person may be a prior or current teacher or school counselor, family friend/colleague or someone from a club or organization the student or parent knows. A mentor usually comes from a direct connection but doesn’t have to. Recommendations may come from others. It is worth doing some research to find the best match and double-check reliability. Students will be trusting the mentor’s judgement. Read How trustworthy is your college info source? for what to watch out for.

3. Make the first move. Whether it is someone the student knows already or comes by way of recommendation, the approach is the same. Start the mentor relationship on a higher plane by being professional. Students should be prepared with an elevator speech about themselves, what they want, and how they believe the person can help as a mentor. The key is to explain why they are worthy of the mentor’s valuable time and knowledge. Be respectful and prepared by bringing a resume similar to the one I suggest be given when requesting teacher recommendations. A conversation about how the mentor experience fits in will follow naturally.

Read Suzanne’s post5 Qualities a Mentor Should NOT Possess


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.