Colleges and universities frequently offer mentorship programs, yet such offerings appear far less commonly in the earlier stages of education. However, considering the intrinsic benefits of these programs, primary education institutions may wish to consider changing that.
Mentorship increases the value of a student’s education by allowing them to work hands-on with experts and advocates of formal learning. Students learn to ask for help without relying too fully on their mentor’s instruction, and they can personalize their educational goals with the help of their guidance.
While these benefits commonly apply to all mentorship programs, Monty Cerf states that it is important to note that not all are alike. There are at least 4 types of mentorships from which students may benefit.
Mentors offer their students support in a variety of forms. They do not act as mere tutors or advisors who simply provide instruction on how to navigate lessons or academic protocol. While such services may be included, they also work closely with students to help them discover how their studies relate to them on a more personal level.
The approach for guiding the mentee may depend largely on the type of mentorship they embody. These types are:
- The Expert – The most well-known and widely sought type of mentors are those who have already excelled in a particular field of study relevant to the student’s preferred career path.
- The Champion – The life coaches of the education world, champions may help mentees find internships or independent study opportunities to expand their education and further their career.
- The Anchor – Academia sometimes takes an emotional toll on students, but this mentor excels in keeping their mentees grounded.
- The Copilot – Some students play dual roles, acting as both teacher and student in partnership with a trusted peer. This is essentially the academic version of a buddy system.
Successful instruction may lead way to the more uncommon fifth type, the mentee who leads by example. Effective guidance creates a student capable of demonstrating what they’ve learned in both speech and action, producing a ripple effect that benefits their peers by virtue of sheer association.
There are a plethora of benefits to this type of coaching, but they may be split into two basic categories. The first pertains to academic and educational benefits, while the second relates to more personal benefits such as socialization and self-actualization.
While counselors expect their students to stay on top of academic assignments and will help them to excel in doing so, this alone would do little to differentiate them from tutors or academic advisors.
Advisors go the extra mile by helping students dive into the work on a personal level. Not only do they learn to study like true scholars, moreover, they learn how to identify their own strengths and set personal goals for their education and future career that will utilize these strengths as effectively as they’ve utilized them in academia.
Support vs. Enabling
Despite the undeniable advantage mentored students have, an advisor’s job is not to act as a crutch. This would accomplish little other than teaching students to rely on others’ instruction, rather than learning to responsibly employ their own problem-solving skills.
A well-defined relationship between counselor and student should include boundaries. Mentees must learn to ask for help when they need it, yet also learn that some problems are better solved on their own. In fact, they should arguably endeavor to approach most issues on their own the first time around, then recap the results with their mentor later.
By advocating for the student while simultaneously encouraging them to advocate for themselves, mentors guide students through a balanced approach to self-actualization. Students learn both their strengths and their limitations, and that there is no shame in accepting either one or acting upon it when seeking the best possible solution to a problem.
Mentorship benefits students greatly. In copilot mentorships, these programs might be said to benefit the counselors as well. While it makes sense for guidance to thrive at the collegiate level, the existence of mentorship types besides experts and the potential benefits of mentorship at all ages suggest many students would benefit from an increase in availability of such programs.