Occam’s razor is blazingly simple problem solving. The best path to take is often the simplest. That might be the truest when it comes to traversing the trials, joys, and obstacles of university life. Connecting with a peer mentor in college makes a significant difference in your success during and after college. Why is such a simple idea so powerful?

What is a peer mentor?

mentor relationship

This person isn’t your best college friend. Those friendships are important – like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee important. A peer mentor is usually a person who is also a student but just a bit further along their university path. They can relate to the struggles and successes because they are a little closer in age, campus community and academic subject. A good peer mentor supports and offers guidance. They give advice, make social introductions and share experiences.

A peer mentor lifts you up and keeps you supported

Growth takes time. It’s messy, hard, and full of anxiety. The transition into university life is often eased by connecting with a peer mentor. A peer mentor is a leader who helps create a sense of support. It’s like a belay line on a rock wall. There is an instant catch if the maneuver is too difficult. The peer mentor helps build confidence facing the new demands of college life. Recent studies show that companion mentors help students feel more motivated and self-assured, and less anxious. These benefits are especially helpful in a learning environment. Keeping the emotion mind small and the wise mind engaged is a key to successful learning. Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup Education, summarized the benefit of peer mentors this way: “Feeling supported and having deep learning experiences during college means everything when it comes to long-term outcomes after college.”

What does a college student do in the face of a hostile environment?

Many women or underrepresented minorities can attest that those spaces are real. Nilanjana Dasgupta has identified a solution: yes, you guessed it, peer mentors! Dasgupta likens peer mentors to “social vaccines.” Peer mentors offer a form of inoculation against the hostile environments some face in traditionally white male dominated disciplines, such as STEM fields. In the study, the participants with female mentors “felt more accepted by their peers and less invisible…They were more likely to think that their ability to overcome their academic challenges outweighed the stress and uncertainty they felt.”

Becoming your best self and landing a career that gives you purpose is the college prize. If there is one simple trick to getting the most out of your university time, it’s finding a peer mentor. Connecting with a peer mentor will help improve interpersonal skills and academic performance. Becoming your best self is a lifetime journey. Connecting with a peer mentor in college can make that journey epic.