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Tips for Mentoring a Young Person’s Education


If you aren’t a teacher, can you still influence the education of young people? You definitely can, and you can do so in different but no less effective ways than if you were a teacher. In fact, there may be avenues that are open to you that might be inappropriate for a teacher, such as cosigning on a student loan. You can also give them a degree of attention a teacher might not be able to because it could mean neglecting the needs of other students.

Why a Mentor Is Important

There are parents, guidance counselors, teachers, and college advisors, so why would the student need another adult in their life giving them advice? The answer is that none may be able to provide the structure and expertise that you can. In a family where the child is first to go to college, there may not be anyone who is able to provide them with the necessary guidance to prepare for, apply for and choose a college.

Professionals can be great, but they are limited by the number of kids they need to serve. You can step into that gap. Even in families where the parents have been to college, hearing another voice and another point of view can be helpful. Kids will often listen better to other adults who are not their parents. In addition, if you are a professional in the field they hope to enter, you might be able to provide insight that these other parties cannot.

Your Role as Listener and Advisor

As a mentor, your job isn’t to tell your mentee what to do, as tempting as that may be. Instead, your job is to listen and advise. Since you’re working with a young person, you may want or need to provide more guidance than you would to an adult that you were mentoring, but it’s still important that you don’t let your ideas overrule theirs. By asking questions, you can help identify their areas of interest and future plans that will help assist you in guiding them onto the right educational pathway.

Helping Them Choose Classes

You can start helping the young person while they are in high school, choosing classes that will better prepare them for college. These might include college prep classes in general, but you can help them hone in specifically on the most important courses to take based on their areas of interest. The right choices for someone who wants to pursue fashion design will be very different from what a future physicist should take and both of those will differ again from what might benefit someone who hopes to be the CEO of a global corporation one day. They may also be uncertain about what they want to do with their lives, but you can still help them choose a wide array of classes that will help them prepare in a general way.

Cosign on a Student Loan

This is a big ask, but it’s also an invaluable help. It’s not unlikely that a student might be unable to get a private loan on their own since they probably haven’t built up the credit history necessary for approval. In the event that they do get approved, they might be looking at a very high interest rate. Going with student loans with a cosigner are more likely to be approved and may offer better terms. Of course, it’s normal for you to be cautious about taking on such a big financial responsibility, and it’s important to discuss it thoroughly with the student and make sure they have a plan to pay back the loan and understand the implications for you if they do not.

Researching and Applying for College

You can offer a huge amount of practical help in this area. This might start with researching and discussing the different types of schools that they could attend based on their educational goals and career plans. You can also help them research scholarships and grants. Next, you could look at the application requirements and deadlines and help them organize their time, including making time to write an essay, if necessary, and ask for recommendations, one of which might come from you.

If they receive multiple acceptances, you can help them determine which one would be the best choice for them. Besides the specific department that they are interested in and the academic standing of the school, you could also talk about things such as location and campus culture that can also make a big difference in their experience and how comfortable they feel in the new environment. Finally, once they have gone off to college, you can continue in your supportive role if necessary.

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