3 Individuals to Turn to for High School Mentorship

Many accomplished individuals have found that working with a mentor made all the difference in their lives. In a student’s academic journey, mentorship is an integral part of college, graduate school and the professional world.

A mentor can offer practical advice on topics that are rarely covered in class, such as how to network or how to navigate the rules of etiquette in a particular field. A mentor can also offer encouragement when the road ahead seems daunting, as well as academic letters of recommendation or work references. In short, mentors are guides who have already traveled the path you hope to take.

We hear less about mentorship for high school students, perhaps because parents are expected to fill the role of adviser. But a mentor can augment that help with specialized knowledge. The question then becomes, “Where can a high school student find a great mentor?” Here are three individuals to turn to first.


1. A teacher in a favorite subject: One of the easiest places to search for a mentor is among the teachers of your favorite subjects. Many teachers have some degree of real-world experience in their field, as well as insight on success in their chosen area – both in college and beyond.

Certain high schools offer programs to connect students with potential mentors. If you are not sure whether your school participates, speak with your guidance counselor. If there is a program, request a mentor who shares your academic interests.

3 Individuals to Turn to for High School Mentorship

If there is no formal program, do not fret. Educators often choose to teach because they love to assist and guide students, and they may be more than happy to serve as your mentor.

Keep in mind that selecting a mentor is a mutual process – the teacher must have free time to devote to you, and his or her interest is critical. If you feel a connection with a particular educator, ask if he or she would be available to mentor you.

If your teacher declines, remember that this is a person who is already juggling multiple private and professional demands. Instead of establishing a formal mentorship, consider asking informal questions: How can you best prepare for college, or which majors might be most relevant to your interests?

Ask your teacher where he or she went to school, and what your instructor thought about his or her major. Would your teacher have done anything differently? An educator who is willing to answer your questions, and who asks questions in return, has already taken the first steps toward mentoring you.

[Explore how mentoring programs may increase high school graduation rates.]

2. An extracurricular leader: Great mentors do not need to have deep knowledge of your intended career field. A mentor can be anyone who has found success in life and who wishes to help you succeed in turn. At school, this can include athletic coaches and club advisers.

A coach or a club adviser may not have the most recent information on which schools have the best biology majors or especially rigorous writing programs, but success is often as much about how you do things as it is about what you know.

An extracurricular leader who values your pursuit of excellence can be an amazing mentor regardless of your professional goals. How many books on leadership and planning, after all, are written by military veterans or star athletes?

To find a mentor among your out-of-class activities, look for people who take a real interest in their students. Do they ask about your life beyond the club or sport they supervise? If so, begin by asking them about how they came to be where they are. A potential mentor will answer with enthusiasm.

[Get tips on choosing the right extracurriculars for college applications.]

3. A community member: Your third arena is the world beyond school. Involvements like an ongoing volunteer project or a part-time job can connect you with people who care about your future.

Whenever possible, seek out community mentors who attended your high school or who are employed in your ideal career field. This will give you an academic and career base from which to work.

Identifying a mentor outside of school can be difficult. However, it is possible. Look for people who have been where you are now – perhaps a family friend who was also overwhelmed with the process of picking a college and is now working in the field you’re interested in, or a manager at a part-time job who can share other types of career-related insights. They will understand what you’re facing in a way that a teacher, with radically different life experiences, may not.

And remember – there is always room for more than one mentor in your life.

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