The transition from high school to college can be an exhilarating experience; a time filled with adventure and excitement as well as a time fraught with uncertainty and anxiety. Although technically classified as “adults,” recent high school graduates may feel lost as they try to navigate this often overwhelming transition period. Finding a mentor on campus to assist students in navigating their college years can be an important factor in their future success. Whether new college students are relocating far from home for the first time or still living with family while attending classes, cultivating a mentor relationship during this critical chapter in their life can have a significant impact on their character, educational and professional development.
My first year of college was a very difficult one. I was away from home for the first time, didn’t know anyone, and suffered from an injury to my knee. After my first semester, I was ready to transfer to another university or even just give up and go home. But then I met my mentor; an upperclassman who encouraged, guided and comforted me during this difficult time. Her influence and advice were a major factor in my choice of major. I was fortunate after graduation to have the opportunity to work with her at our alma mater. She taught me the ropes of college admissions and higher education, and more importantly, she taught me to believe in myself and my abilities. Her encouragement and guidance gave me self confidence that has translated into inspiration and passion in my work with college students.
Since experiencing first-hand, the benefits of a positive mentoring experience as a student, I have been fortunate to be able to become a mentor to students during my time working in higher education. I have enjoyed guiding and counseling students through the admissions process and acting as an adviser for a student organization. Most recently, my mentor experience has expanded into athletics as I have coached the women’s basketball team at Penn State York.
As a coach, I have had the opportunity to be an advocate for a great group of young ladies. Not only am I someone they can go to for basketball questions and concerns, but also for problems with other aspects of college life. I’ve been a reference for some of them for different part-time job applications and guided them towards different courses and majors when I have witnessed them struggling in a particular area. Many times, as a mentor, my job has been simply to be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on through relationship break-ups, conflicts with family and friends, trips to the emergency room, and the loss of loved ones. I feel privileged that I can be more than just a coach or admissions counselor for them, and I hope that my support and encouragement will assist in the development of their own self-confidence.
Mentoring relationships in college can be a vital tool in a student’s success. Having a positive mentor relationship during my college years was critical to my future personal and professional growth. Being a mentor continues to stretch and develop my communication skills, as a professional and as a human being. Mentoring the Penn State York Lady Lions makes my job in higher education extremely fulfilling and helps me develop new skills that will assist me as I continue to work with students in my career. These young ladies have also taught me a lot about patience, toughness and how to really enjoy the moment and the things you love in life.
I strongly encourage all students to actively seek a mentor relationship on campus. Whether the mentor is a faculty member, staff member, coworker, employer, adviser, or another student, a mentor can provide the advice and encouragement needed to help students succeed academically and grow personally.
By Terri Van Slyke
Admissions Counselor/Head Women’s Basketball Coach