The Value of College Mentors

Mentoring is a term that is often used in the college arena.  “Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.”(1)  There is great value in college mentors.  But what kinds of college mentors are most beneficial to your college needs?

College Mentors: College Life

Many colleges are aware of the need for incoming freshman to be connected with an existing student for the purpose of adjusting to college life.  This mentoring relationship provides a vital support for new college students.  As the University of Texas Dallas mentoring program explains, “The mentors in the program are successful undergraduates prepared to engage freshmen in campus activities and refer them to resources that can help them achieve their academic and personal goals.”  The needs of every student is different, so by having an individual college mentor you are setting yourself up for success.

College Mentors: Academic

We sometimes think of academic college mentors as tutors.  But that limits the true value of an academic mentor.  Tutors are mentors, in that they guide the student in a specific subject.  However, an academic mentor is more wholistic in their approach.  They offer advice about class scheduling, particular professors, general study habits, etc.  While a student may need specific academic mentors, they may also need someone to help them adjust to college life.  Many colleges try to meet this need through freshman orientations and student services.  Don’t be afraid to use these services, as they may lead to greater success in your college endeavors.

College Mentors: Sports

Sports mentors have many different names.  These mentors are coaches, fitness trainers, personal trainers and other team members.  But their goals remain the same as any other college mentor.  Their purpose is to help the student athlete perform in peak effectiveness.  For the student athlete, much of their student life revolves around practice, training and athletic events.  Without the help of a sports mentor, many find themselves unable to balance their academic and sports schedule.

College Mentors: Financial

One of the most overlooked areas of college mentoring is the area of finances.  These mentors offer advice on a variety of subjects such as college budgeting, scholarship management, and debt counseling.  For many students, college is the first time they really  need to manage their own finances.  They may have very little money skills, which can lead to improper management and increased debt load.  Developing a college spending plan (a budget) and evaluating that plan from time to time can be very beneficial.  This is one of the many services that we provide families who partner with us for college planning.

As you can see, college mentors play a vital role in success during the college years.  However, many students do not know or choose not to use the resources available to them.  Make sure you connect with and utilize these services.  For more information about financial mentoring, contact our offices today.




College Campus Visit Strategy – Who to meet?

VISITING the college campus is the single best thing that you can do to move forward in your college search.  Absolutely nothing takes the place of being physically present on a campus, and picturing yourself as a student on that campus. There is a gut feeling that almost all students express when they visit a campus.  “Do I see myself fitting in here – in this environment and with these students?” That is the most basic thing that you want to accomplish on your campus visit.  So here is a college campus visit strategy that will help you get the most out of your visit…schedule a meeting with the right people.

When you visit the college campus there are certain people with whom you want to speak in person.  These individuals will help you gain a clearer picture of what college life will be if you choose that particular college.  So let’s identify those individuals and some of the questions that may be important for you to ask.

Meet the College Admission Representative

The importance of this meeting can not be understated.  It is here that you will find any college information that you were unable to find while researching the particular college.  You should be able to find ample college data online such as:  student to faculty ratio, Average SAT/ACT Scores, academic programs and specialties, etc.  However, any information you did not find online can be obtained by meeting with the college admission representative.  Here are some additional questions you may need to ask:

  • What does your college offer in terms of career services?
  • What types of academic assistance are available?
  • How are roommates assigned?
  • What can you tell me about job placement data for recent graduates?

This meeting will be a great place to start the financial aid conversation.  You may or may not be able to meet with a financial aid representative.  But you can certainly ask some of your financial aid questions at this meeting.  Ask what kind of scholarship opportunities are available?  What kind of scholarships may be available to your specific circumstances?  This simple question may lead to thousands of unknown scholarship funds.

Meet the Department Representative

Before you scheduled your college campus visit, you ensured that they have a major in your particular area of interest.  On your visit, you want to meet with a department representative.  It is during this meeting that you can ask specific academic questions that you may have regarding your area of interest.  Here are some questions that may be of importance during this meeting:

  • How much flexibility does this major have with upper-level courses?
  • What are the specific course requirements for this major?
  • Are there any specific requirements a student must meet/complete before they can declare this major (i.e., completion of specific courses, a GPA requirement, etc.)?
  • Are there scholarships available specifically for students in this major?
  • What kinds of jobs do students who graduate with this major typically pursue?

This information is invaluable to your college decision process.  Again, a question regarding specific scholarships related to this field of study would be appropriate to ask the department representative.

Meet with a Current Student

The timing of your college campus visit is very important.  You want to meet while classes are in session and while other students are on campus.  One reason for this is so that you get an opportunity to sit down and talk with a student.  You can learn a lot from a student’s view of their college.  Here are a few questions you might want to ask a current student:

  • Why did you select this university?
  • What is your favorite thing about this university?
  • What is a typical day like?
  • Does social life revolve around the campus or do students leave on the weekend?
  • How is the on-campus food?
  • Did you live in the Dorms? Did you enjoy them?
  • Do you feel safe? What is campus security like?

As you can tell, a college campus visit is vital to making the best decision when it comes time to choose a college.  However, to make the best of your visit, you may need to plan your trip.  These meetings that we have mentioned will help you have a great college campus visit.











Start Right

The first days of college life are just around the corner.  This brings a great amount of excitement, but also carries a small amount of anxiety.  Will I be able to handle my class load?  Will I be able to make friends quickly?  Will I be able to manage my athletic schedule or academic schedule? Where is the next party?  Each student must give great attention to starting each new school year right.  However, for the freshman class, starting right is so much more important.  So here is some advice to help you Start Right your first weeks of college.

Start Right by Establishing your Boundaries

A common struggle among first year college students is establishing good boundaries.  A boundary is simply a limit.  In high school, our limits were predefined by teacher, school administrators and parents.  But in college many of these predefined limits are removed.  It would be easy to allow your time to be given to extremes.  However, you can start right by establishing limits that govern your college life.

Many colleges have seen the need for additional training in this area, so they offer freshman orientation classes.  These classes will help the first year student adjust to college life.  They cover issues like academic planning, time management, pitfalls of college life and many other topics.  In essence they are designed to help the incoming student body establish boundaries.

Start Right by Establishing an Academic Routine

College classes are not like high school classes!  They are more difficult and require much more out of classroom work.  In fact, the average college class uses a 1:3 ratio of class work.  This means that for every 1 hour of classroom work, there is an additional 3 hours of outside classroom work.  You will need to establish a good academic routine.

Here are a few tips to help you establish a good academic routine.  Take time to read through each class’ requirements and mark the major happening of that class on an academic calendar.  If you have any questions about the class or its requirements, meet with the professor to clarify.  In fact, don’t be afraid to meet with the professor throughout the semester to help clarify instructions.  Find a great place to have uninterrupted study time.  Okay, this may be simplistic, but actually attend classes.  In other words, take the first weeks to get really organized.  This small amount of time on the front end will pay great dividends throughout the semester.

Start Right by Establishing a Financial Plan

If you’ve never had to create a budget, now is the time to do so.  Wise students find ways to stretch their money, and live more frugally while in school.  In our article First Year College Expenses we talk briefly about how much money the average college student needs each month.  Most college students need about $100.00 per month for incidental expenses.  Another article from US News and World Report shares a discussion about  college budgeting.  Toward the bottom of the report, “Lindsey” talks about the additional cost of college not found on any financial assessments from the college.  These additional costs must be considered in the financial plan.

Things to include when establishing a financial plan: coffee, snacks, coffee, eating outside the cafeteria, coffee, off campus events (like movies, bowling, pizza run, etc) oh and did I mention coffee.  These little expenses add up.  So make a plan.  You need to write down the details of your plan.  Then once a month evaluate if the plan is being followed.  You can also make some adjustments once you have evaluated the plan.  Not only will you be making sound financial judgments for the college years, but you will be establishing a habit that will help you the rest of your life.

While the first few weeks of your freshman college year may be a bit daunting, with a little planning to start right, they can also be the most productive.

First Year College Expenses

The first year of college offers a variety of challenges.  From a financial perspective, many of the challenges can be averted with proper planning.  So let’s look for just a moment at the first year college expenses and offer some planning thoughts that may alleviate some stress from college’s first year.

The first expense that must be mentioned is the overall cost of college paid to the institution.  When you received your college award letter you may have had to sit down.  But by now the sticker shock has probably worn off.  The school typically has an orientation that you can sign up for prior to stepping onto campus.  These orientations are a great way to ask any last minute financial questions.  You can even set up an appointment with the financial aid office to review the award letter, and ask if there are any additional first year college expenses that you may have not considered.

The second expense concerns the change in location.  Moving into a college dorm or apartment is an exciting time, but it can also be expensive.  Most colleges offer some advise on what a typical student may need for on-campus living.  A quick search on the internet can yield a plethora of additional lists, ideas, expenses, etc.  You can start addressing this expense now.  Go ahead and find a list, and start making small purchases each week.  This may save you some time and money.  You may even be able to eliminate some of the items that were once thought needed.

Other first year college expenses are academic is nature.  I am referring to text books and academic supplies.  Again, many of these supplies can be gathered in small increments over the summer months, but others, like college textbooks and a computer, many need greater planning.  Do some research on what may be the best computer for the student’s major.  What equipment do you need to protect that investment? (Example: backpack, back-up drive, covers, etc.)  Your class text books may be a bit more tricky, because you may not know what tests are needed until later when you have a class schedule.  But as soon as you know what books you need, check out multiple stores/sites to compare prices.  Don’t forget to check the schools classified listings for used books.

Finally, let’s talk briefly about how much spending cash one needs for the first year of college.  There are so many variables to this area such as: location of the college, social involvement, major, etc.  However, most people can live on about $100.00 per month.  There may be occasions where more is needed.  However, most students know that the occasional “shot in the arm” is just a phone call away.

These are the most common first year college expenses.  You have a few more months to plan.  So use your time wisely to reduce the stress of the first year of college.




Does the Perfect College Roommate Exist?

Choosing the right roommate is a difficult process to begin with… and maintaining a good relationship with the person you live with can be even harder! There are certainly enough things to worry about in college without having to stress over fighting with your roommate, or having other roommate-related difficulties. Every college student needs to know how to effectively choose a good, reliable (and normal?) roommate… not to mention how to live with him or her when the time comes.

The experience you have with your college roommate will have a significant effect on your initial college experience. Living with this person can dramatically affect both your study habits and your social activities. To help you choose the right person as a roommate, here are a few questions you may want to answer:

Do you share common interests?  It might make your living situation easier if you can find a common ground that connects the two of you together. Try to pick someone that you share at least one common interest with. For instance, even if you don’t like the same types of music, maybe you both like to play basketball or spend time outdoors. Having things in common will allow you and your roommate to enjoy being together and possibly make living together bearable.

Do you share the same meaning of clean?  As hinted above, it is important to select a roommate who has similar cleaning habits to your own. If you are a complete slob, then rooming with a clean freak will only cause conflict – and vice versa. (Hint: generally messy students should not view this arrangement as an ideal situation… because more than likely, your roomie will absolutely not be willing to clean up after you!)

Are you an early riser or a night owl?  If you are an early riser, it could be a good idea to select someone who also likes to get up early. This is especially important in dorms, where it is challenging to sleep while someone is getting ready for class three feet from your bed. Imagine having an 8:00AM class, but being unable to sleep because a roommate has friends over until the wee hours of the morning. Or, imagine how annoying it would be if a roommate’s alarm clock went off at 6:00AM while trying to sleep in! In a dorm room, it is generally more convenient for roommates who go to bed and arise at approximately the same time. In an off-campus apartment with one’s own room, it’s a little easier to compromise on this issue than it can be in the dorms.

Although this is not an exhausted list of every question you should ask before choosing a roommate, we hope it will help start the process.  A good roommate can really enhance your first year of college.