For most students, choosing a high school is an exciting time. But with so much to consider in making your decision, it can also be a stressful endeavor. You’ve probably found yourself searching for a lot of the same information for each of the schools you are considering.Average class size, college placement statistics, average SAT score, and access to unique and challenging classes have probably received the bulk of your attention—and rightly so. Above-average SAT scores and high college enrollment rates are great indicators that a high school invests in the success and future of their students.
Free Downloadable Guide: Take a Closer Look at Friends' Central School
That being said, however important academics are in choosing a school to attend, it is also important to consider other factors. One factor that you may not have considered is whether or not the school has a strong student mentorship program.
While you may not have given much thought to mentorship, mentorship programs have been shown to bring a number of powerful benefits that makes it worthy of some attention.
What is mentorship?
Mentorship programs can come in a lot of different forms, and the type of help and support that they offer can be as varied as the schools themselves. That being said, most typically, mentorship programs consist of older students who are tasked with mentoring younger students.
There may be an academic component to this—for example, a form of tutoring—but more importantly, mentors are there to offer emotional and social support to the students under their care. Mentors become someone that their mentees can turn to when they are having issues with friends, or when they are struggling with classes, or when they are unsure about something in life. They are trusted advisors and friends who have themselves gone through similar situations, and whose only goal is to help you succeed in high school and beyond.
At Friends’ Central School, each Freshman classroom is designated two mentors at the beginning of the year, who are selected from the Junior class. These mentors stay with their class through Sophomore year (at which point the mentor will have graduated), which allows them to build real, consistent, and lasting relationships with the students under their care. The early support offered by the mentorship program sets the stage for a successful high school experience, and is often especially helpful for transfer students who are new to the community.
Benefits of Having a Mentor in High School
There are many benefits of having a mentor in high school, which can have far reaching implications for students and their overall academic performance.
The most obvious and most frequently acknowledged, benefits are found, of course, in the academic arena. Mentors, having already gone through the same coursework as their mentees, are able to offer guidance and support that their mentees can use to develop stronger study habits. Because mentors have also typically had classes with the same teachers and instructors as their mentees, they can also help their mentees navigate those instructors' unique personalities and teaching styles. With the assistance of mentors, it’s been shown that students more consistently complete their assignments, and often with a higher quality of work than they might otherwise.
Additionally, students who begin their academic experience with a mentor tend to approach their education and educational goals differently compared to students without a mentor, and achieve at a higher level.
For instance, the presence of a mentor, especially in students who might be considered “high risk” or at an economic or cultural disadvantage, increases the likelihood that their mentees will set higher education goals and will enroll in and graduate from a postsecondary education. In short, mentors instill a better attitude about academics and a student’s academic future in their mentees than students without some form of mentoring.
In addition to academic benefits, peer mentorship provides students with the interpersonal skills and sense of community that are integral in developing a healthy sense of self and place in society.
Starting at any new school, especially high school, can be an intimidating process. With a mentor acting as a peer resource to both welcome mentees into their new student community and serve as emotional support, new students are able to develop healthy relationships with people who are immediately dedicated to their well-being and success.
Additionally, with ready access to a mentor close to their age, mentees are able to ask questions and seek advice they might not otherwise feel comfortable or confident asking of the adult teachers and counselors around them.
This in turn gives them the confidence to navigate the challenges of their new academic environments, and life outside school as well. In fact, students who have mentors are 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not and are less likely to utilize drugs and alcohol, and engage in otherwise destructive behaviors than their peers without mentors. In short, having the care and guidance of a mentor assures that students are making the healthiest decisions both inside and outside of the school environment.
Benefits to the Mentors
Mentorship programs don’t just benefit the mentees however—there are incredible advantages and rewards to those who are acting as the mentors as well.
Acting as a fellow classmate’s champion, educational mentor, and tour guide through the complicated high school environment allows mentors a sense of both accomplishment and community. Through helping mentees hone their academic and social knowledge, mentors are able to further their own understanding of their courses, their peers, and understand the ways in which they can positively impact those around them.
Being a mentor is truly an exercise in community participation, and allows mentors to develop leadership and supervisory skills that will serve them throughout their academic, professional, and personal careers.
Choosing a New Community
The decision to attend a particular high school is an important one. After all, the high school environment often sets the stage for your future, be it academic, social or career. You will no doubt be paying close attention to the traditional indicators of success—student graduation rates, test scores, and enrollment rates in reputable colleges and universities. Adding the presence of a strong and consistent peer mentorship program to your checklist will ensure that you have the guidance and support you need as you learn and grow both as a student, and as a person.