What is Peer Mentoring?
Peer Mentoring is about experienced students guiding new students to help them make a smooth transition to their degree programme and to integrate successfully into University life. New students
gain rare insights from the experiences of other students and start to feel confident in their new student life, knowing that they have someone to turn to for guidance.
While the benefits of Peer Mentoring schemes for mentees are frequently advertised, the benefits of being a Peer Mentor are not highlighted as often. Why should you be encouraged to volunteer as a Peer Mentor and what do you get out of the scheme?
1. Enhance your graduate skills
Firstly, being a Peer Mentor offers you the opportunity to learn and enhance graduate skills required by employers, such as leadership, team working, communication and problem-solving skills and planning and organisational skills.
In your relationship with your mentees, you will act as a leader and they will be guided by you, not just in terms of any study tips you share, but also by your attitude and behaviour, which will be crucial in helping your mentees to work together and develop a team spirit. Whilst you may initially take the lead role in your group, as your relationship with your mentees progresses, you will encourage them to become part of the larger University community and choose their own paths. Your mentee group may include students from a range of backgrounds and learning capabilities and your ability to recognise, work with and resolve any differences, whilst at the same time respecting them, is a key team-working skill that you will develop.
Sian, a Stage 3 Economics Peer Mentor concludes that her experience as a Peer Mentor helped her immensely during her placement year.
“As a Peer Mentor, I spoke to a lot of International students and people from a variety of backgrounds. This really helped me during my placement year as I had become used to talking to a variety of people in a professional manner”.
Having been in the same position that your mentees are in, you will also be able to relate to what they are experiencing and can share your own experiences with them. These can include the lows you overcame as well as the highs you celebrated. As there is a completely new vocabulary at university which your mentees will not be familiar with, you can offer clarity and at the same time enhance your communication skills. You may also find yourself dealing with a range of issues, some of which may be unfamiliar to you. This is where you find yourself honing your problem-solving skills, by defining problems, developing practical solutions and evaluating outcomes.
Iona, a Stage 2 Biology Peer Mentor states that the main skill she has developed as a Peer Mentor is the ability to think ‘outside the box’.
“Some of my mentees came to me with issues I had not encountered before and I needed to help them. One way I did that was by asking others for advice or doing some research myself in order to provide them with a solution”.
Being able to plan ahead and organise yourself and others is also essential as a Peer Mentor and another key skill that you will develop. As you are both a student and a Peer Mentor, your first priority must be to your own studies and commitments. It is therefore important that you are able to manage your time effectively and plan ahead, being aware of key times when you might be under pressure so that you can work around these.
2. Become a more engaged learner
Secondly, as well as transferable and employability skills, being a Peer Mentor will help you consolidate your own learning and become a more thoughtful and engaged learner. There may be times when you may be asked by one of your mentees to clarify degree material and by doing so, you will be re-learning what you have been taught as in order to explain it, you may have to go back over parts of a previously covered topic and mentally organise them again. Here you are engaging with your degree material at a deeper level than you perhaps did originally, and this will help to solidify your own understanding of it. As you prepare and present information to your mentees, you are also practising your writing and presentation skills, which will increase your confidence and have a positive impact on your own assessed work.
3. Develop your network
Lastly, and probably most importantly, one of the other main benefits of being a Peer Mentor is the social aspect of peer mentoring. Mentee groups are great for mentees to get to know and make friends with students in their year, but they are also a great opportunity for Peer Mentors to make friends with other students and to develop a social network. Peer Mentors are expected to meet up with their mentees on a regular basis, but these sessions can be as formal or as informal as you like. In previous years, Peer Mentors have organised monthly social nights for their mentee groups and other Peer Mentors in their school. These have been a great way for mentees not only to bond with students in their mentee group, but it also gave them the opportunity to meet and make friends with other students in their year, as well as other Peer Mentors they may not have met otherwise. Likewise, it also gave Peer Mentors the opportunity make friends with Peer Mentors in different years and to develop a supportive social network. I have heard from postgraduate students who were Peer Mentors as undergraduates (and even academic staff who were Peer Mentors as undergraduates in other institutions) that, many years later, they are still in contact with and have become lifelong friends with their mentees and they cannot say enough good things about their experience as a Peer Mentor. Like a ripple effect, good Peer Mentoring can improve the student experience of everyone involved.
Recruitment for new Peer Mentors for the 2021/22 academic year has begun.
If you are interested in becoming a Peer Mentor, contact your School's Peer Mentoring Staff Coordinator or email email@example.com for recruitment information. Further details regarding the scheme are also available on the Peer Mentoring webpages.