The college admissions process is notoriously confusing. And for many students—especially those who are the first in their families to go to college or are from another historically underserved group—the bewilderment doesn’t stop once they’re admitted.
Students may find themselves choosing between multiple schools that, on paper, look exactly the same. Or they may need to grapple with competing priorities: Should they pick the school that’s close to home but offers no financial aid, or the one in another state that can give them a full ride?
Meeting regularly with a peer mentor can help—significantly.
A mentor can help a student determine whether the college they’re considering will be a good “fit” for them, one of the top reasons students cite for choosing a certain institution. Fit is one of the more elusive and intangible reasons students pick a college. But unlike other important factors, such as affordability or proximity to family, it’s tough to figure out whether a college will be the right fit without talking to someone like a peer mentor who has firsthand experience with the institution.
Students who feel like their college is a good fit for them report higher satisfaction, which may lead to higher graduation rates, according to research from MDRC and the National College Attainment Network.
Bottom line: Mentorship programs that help students find the school that’s the best fit for them benefits everyone.
Mentorship Goes Beyond Surface-Level Relationships
Many institutions have systems in place to try to entice students to apply to their schools. These often look like student ambassadors or tour guides—even college-sanctioned social media influencers.
These tools help showcase an institution’s highlight reel. They are clearly successful at convincing some students to apply and sometimes even enroll. But in many cases—especially when it comes to trendy fads like university influencers—the tools aren’t created with student outcomes in mind.
That means these tools have little value when it comes to creating a safe space for a person to ask the detailed questions that a student—especially one without a network that went to college—needs to know. That’s where a personal relationship with a peer mentor, like one through Mentor Collective, can come in.
Take this prospective student, admitted to Montclair State University. The student is nonbinary and was matched with a current student at the institution who is also a member of the LGBTQ community.
“I had really specific questions about LGBTQ housing, and the response I got [from my mentor] was very insightful,” the student said.
The student also pointed out that the mentor relationship was beneficial to get a real-life answer about some of the questions they felt uncertain about asking.
“I was hesitant to ask about financial aid, since my questions were also very specific, but it was helpful to connect and ask, ‘How are you dealing with it?’ I got really good information that you can do jobs on campus within the university.”
Mentorship is a Game Changer for Students
These mentors can offer real-life examples from their own campus experience and answer as many specific questions as their mentees may have. Having a mentor program sets an institution apart: Not only does it provide a highly personalized information process before the student sets foot on campus, it also gives them the opportunity to build a relationship with a peer that can last their entire college career.
The mentorship program helps institutions identify issues its students may encounter. When admitted students have concerns about or face challenges while enrolling, a Mentor Collective mentor can raise a flag, alerting the institution and allowing admissions counselors to take proactive action.
For one Montclair State University student, being part of the Red Hawk Mentor Collective program was a game changer.
“The school reaching out to say I have a mentor weighed heavily on my decision [to enroll]. It felt comfortable knowing I have resources and I have people. If I need anything, here’s where I can go,” she said. “A lot of people say in college no one cares about you and that you're just there to learn, but you should have an environment where you have relationships.”
To learn how you can make your admissions process more personal and relevant to all students, contact us today.