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The Importance of Cultivating Mentors

High school student meets with one of his mentors during the college application process.

By Indhika, IvyWise Graduate Admissions Counselor

Having committed mentors in college goes beyond gaining advice on courses and securing strong letters of recommendation. Cultivating mentors who support your goals, identify opportunities, and advocate for your success will help you make the most of your college experience and solidify the foundation for your future pursuits. Moreover, a strong mentor will support and inspire you, facilitating reflection and personal growth and helping you navigate challenges. I encourage college students to proactively seek out mentors and invest in the intrinsic value of building long-term and meaningful mentorships.

Types of Mentors

Professors provide critical advice on both academic and professional goals — courses you are enrolled in are the first place to identify mentors. Professors teaching courses in your major or intended major can share relevant academic and industry insights and connect you to resources on campus and external contacts. In addition, professors teaching courses in other subject areas can offer unique perspectives and help you tap into new fields.

Equally important are professional mentors. Internship supervisors and other professionals who know you in a work-based setting can share insights based on relevant career paths, recommend further training, and connect you to job opportunities. In addition, mentors who have a solid understanding of your professional skills — leadership, collaboration, communication, initiative, work ethic, and problem solving, for example — can help you identify your strengths and areas for growth.

Finally, peer and alumni mentors can be valuable members of your network and community. Peer mentors can offer course and co-curricular recommendations and share internship search tips. To build a network of peer mentors, you can join relevant student clubs, attend campus events, and sign up for any department or campus-based peer advising services. Alumni mentors are great for professional advice and networking, and some can provide supplementary references for jobs and graduate school. To connect with alums in your field of interest, check in with a career services office or use LinkedIn to introduce yourself.

Be open to who might be a strong mentor for you. Consider mentors whose values and philosophies align with your own, whose life experiences resonate with your aspirations, and whose areas of expertise will enable you to delve deeper into your interests. Some specific benefits of having a mentor are explored below.

Academic and Co-Curricular Guidance

Academic mentors will share important department-specific academic insights and broader guidance on graduate and professional paths. For example, professors in your major or intended major can suggest further study, recommend relevant courses, and connect you to specialized research projects. A professor who has a strong understanding of your academic profile can also help you sift through co-curricular opportunities to identify what will best match your strengths and goals. Peers in your major or intended major are also valuable in this area and can provide honest feedback on courses and professors based on their experiences.

Industry Expertise

Faculty and professional mentors who have established careers in your field of interest can guide you in navigating industry nuances. They can help you weigh the benefits and challenges of research-intensive vs. applied career paths, suggest routes for further training or graduate study, and, more broadly, facilitate reflection on a meaningful long-term career path. A mentor who is an industry expert will motivate you to connect your academic studies to specific professional goals.

Network Building

Mentors can facilitate important introductions to academic and professional contacts. For example, a faculty mentor may know a professor in a graduate program you plan on applying to, or an internship supervisor can introduce you to a professional contact in a company you want to work for. In addition, alumni mentors can be very helpful network builders. Your mentors should be proactive connectors, so make sure to familiarize yourself with their backgrounds and networks in order to help them identify and facilitate introductions.


A personal champion who wants the best for you will go out of their way to ensure your academic and professional success. College can be challenging to navigate, and having someone in your corner will help you feel confident, empowered, and more open to taking advantage of all the resources available to you. Moreover, don’t just find a mentor who thinks you’re academically strong and professionally competent. Find a mentor who values you as a person. A mentor who is also an advocate will provide glowing recommendations that will convince any hiring or admissions committee that you are the highest-caliber candidate.

As you go through college, keep in mind that it is critical to sustain mentor relationships. Keep conversations going with office hour appointments and any other opportunities for in-person meetings. If you are not able to meet in person, keep in touch via email. Sharing updates on coursework, co-curricular projects, significant achievements, and evolving interests and goals will help mentors feel connected to you.

And don’t forget to continue the tradition of mentoring! Being a mentor to younger students will not only help them but will also teach you a lot about yourself.

Developing these types of mentor relationships in college can take time and guidance. At IvyWise, we offer Academic Advising and admissions counseling to help students identify opportunities for mentorship and the best ways to pursue those resources. If you need help navigating the resources and mentors available to you on your campus, contact us today for more information on our Academic Advising services.

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