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How a Mentor Can Help You Get Into College

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Photo courtesy of Skooli.

The concept of mentoring is nothing new. A one-on-one relationship with someone who is a teacher, tutor and coach is an idea that has been key to intellectual development for thousands of years.

Think of Socrates and Plato, or Plato and Aristotle. These one-on-one mentorships produced the most significant advancements in Ancient Greek philosophy.

You might be looking for something a little simpler. But if mentors have been an effective method for intellectual development since the time of the Ancient Greeks, and if they have proven to be effective for college students and working professionals, then shouldn’t high school students seek them out?

Why high school students should seek one-on-one mentors

Subject mastery, or mastery learning, is a distinct advantage of one-on-one engagement with qualified mentors. This kind of teaching allows a student to work on a concept (or type of problem, or chapter, or theory, for example) until it is understood completely or “mastered.” Mastery learning tends to be an unfamiliar notion for the majority of high school students because the traditional classroom model has catered to the average and has to maintain a pace while progressing through a curriculum.

On the other hand, a mentor can work at the student’s personal pace and employ certain teaching and learning tactics that appeal best to the student’s prevalent learning styles. Mastery learning is attainable through dedicated one-on-one mentoring.

We can think of mentoring in the context of sports. Imagine basketball is your education. Team practice is the traditional classroom and one-on-one time spent with a coach – a specialized shooting coach, for example – is time with a mentor. While team practice is a vital aspect of your success as a basketball player, it’s one-on-one time with a coach who understands you as a person and a player that will allow you to really sharpen – or master – a particular element of your game.

So, how much of a difference can mastery learning through mentorship make when it comes to academic achievement? According to educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, students accessing one-on-one mentorship for mastery learning perform “an average of 98 percent better than their peers.” Yes, 98 percent.

How high school students can use technology to connect with mentors

At the time of Bloom’s research in the 1980s, the fact that some students were performing so much better than their peers was actually viewed as troublesome. This was because only students with the time, money and access to mentors or high school tutors could take advantage of one-on-one learning. Bloom theorized that this played a central role in creating the achievement gap between top-performing students and their peers.

But 30 years later, the education landscape looks significantly different. Contemporary education-technology innovations have streamlined the process for students – especially high school students – to connect with qualified mentors. And unlike before, there are no longer large time and financial commitments, and absolutely no geographic requirements.

Mentors and tutors are now available online. But it’s important to note that not all online tutors are meant to be mentors. While the majority are able to help students academically, only some are willing and able to go the extra mile to provide genuine one-on-one mentorship.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to remember that for the student to achieve mastery, the mentor must be available to spend however much time it takes. And to be a real mentor, the tutor must pave the way for the student’s success.

For example, Wyatt is a student who came to us at Skooli in search of a tutor and found a mentor as well. He was seeking one-on-one math homework help in our online classroom. He began his journey as an unconfident and reserved low-C math student. It took a couple of sessions for him to adjust to both the online learning environment and the one-on-one dynamic but the mentor-mentee relationship grew. And that’s where the barriers began to break down. Whereas he used to be a quiet student tip-toeing on the edges of class discussions, Wyatt is now an active participant in class. His math grades jumped from low-C to high-B average. He even mastered a particular chapter so completely that he scored 100 percent on a math test for his first time ever.

Of course, Wyatt’s experience with online tutoring is not easily duplicated. Finding an academic support professional who can also be a mentor is very hard to find, especially online. But, there are some things that, as a student, you can do to develop a mentoring relationship in an online classroom.

How to develop a mentorship with an online tutor

  • Share why you’re seeking tutoring. Almost always, students seeking tutoring and/or mentors are looking for higher grades. But very rarely do they expand on this. Why do you need or want these grades? Will an A in your math class help you with college admissions? Whatever the case, communicate it with your potential mentor.

  • Share your goals. What are your academic goals? How about your career goals? Short term? Long term? The answers to these questions will give your tutor a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish and what will help you, immediately and over time.

  • Ask questions that require information from beyond your current lesson. If you’re learning math with an online tutor, you might ask about how a concept would apply in the real world. In cases where you’re learning with a tutor who took a career or life path akin to what you have in mind for yourself, ask for advice.

  • Schedule regular tutoring. If you want to build a meaningful relationship with your potential mentor, you’ll need to be meeting online on a regular basis. Start with weekly tutoring sessions and increase to two or three sessions per week depending on the demand of your current course load. If you need to miss a regularly scheduled session, be sure to keep communication channels tight by letting your tutor know in advance and confirming your attendance at future sessions.

  • Be patient. Your tutor will not become your mentor after a single lesson.

  • Don’t be afraid to use the word “mentor” with your potential mentor. You may even want to ask your tutor to mentor you if you have a particular project, assignment, undertaking, goal, or idea you’d like continued expert help with.

  • Let your tutor know how you’re performing in school. Have discussions with your tutor about your academic performance. Remember grades are important, but so is your level of engagement, in-class participation, and confidence with the material. Don’t hesitate to talk about your experience with school as a whole, including in subjects that your tutor might not even be directly helping you with.

  • Enable your camera and mic. Take advantage of the technology you have at your disposal. Without enabling your camera and microphone, you won’t be able to have a genuine face-to-face conversation online, dramatically limiting the possibility for mentorship.
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