Mentoring: A Necessity for the First Year of College

LaMonde Howard is a Organizational and Mass Communications major at Texas Southern University. She is a member of the Thomas F. Freeman Honors College, Communication Student Alliance, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In addition to these memberships, she mentors freshmen communication students through a program called the Urban Academic Village. LaMonde aspires to writing for television and film in addition to teaching incoming college students about effective communication in business as well as life.

As a mentor for incoming freshmen students, I have had the pleasure of sharing the experience of starting college all over again through them. Fortunately for my mentees, I am able to steer them clear of some of the bumps and bruises that lay waiting for the ‘fresh meat’ and their naïve senses. I have found that almost all freshmen have a pre-conceived idea that college is an extension of their high school experience and when the reality comes knocking, the initial result is for freshmen to run and hide or find solace in the nearest party to work off some steam. Having an upper classman willing to be available as a guide is essential for success in the first year. It almost guarantees a smooth transition from high school to college and from freshman year to sophomore year, if both parties are willing and capable participants.
Mentoring freshman and some sophomores is rewarding. It validates the knowledge that has been amassed throughout the mentor’s journey. The mentor develops real leadership and communication skills that get passed along to the mentee to turn around and use after a year or two on another new college recruit. Also, mentoring develops nurturing characteristics that ensures a transition from an individual with a self-centered viewpoint into a team player that thinks of others in decision making, direction, and communication. Their view of the world becomes more inclusive rather than just personal.
Freshmen students gain great wisdom and direction from their mentors, too, both good and bad. Realistically, it is more good than bad but the non-good has to be recognized as a possibility. Having an upperclassmen mentor will aid in the first year ‘run around’ that happens when one question posed to five different people on campus which quite often yields five different answers. One point of reference (the mentor) will save both time and frustration. Plus, the ability to network with the appropriate campus connections is invaluable.
The smart choice in a worthy mentor would be one that is within the chosen major or interest (for those that have not declared a major). Ask questions to ensure that the mentor is suitable for the goal of graduation. Having a mentor that is on the six or seven year undergraduate plan is not usually the best choice. A mentor that has a high GPA (grade point average) is an indication that this person is focused on the importance of meeting goals and expectations. Also, a good mentor is a great communicator. This person should be able to speak without judgment and condemnation. They should be supportive and transparent in their intentions. Mentors should be willing to share everything they know about the college life/culture and introduce their mentees to key people to aid in the goals of scholarship, internship, graduation, and if they are really good, a start on the career of choice. A great mentor includes parents on the college journey as well. Entering into college should be a team effort in support of the individual’s success; therefore, mentoring should be on the short lists of must-haves when beginning the journey.
-LaMonde Howard

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