Over the years many of the young people have stayed in touch with their mentors as they progress beyond school. Read about Emma and Gordon’s experience.
I believe that my mentoring experience has shaped who I am today.
I am the first person in family to attend university which meant I had nobody to speak to about the application process. I also knew early on that I wanted to move away from home to study which made the prospect even more daunting. When I first met my mentor, I was in my 5th year of high school and thought about applying to Dentistry. I was paired up with my mentor on the grounds of his knowledge of medicine. We met on a weekly basis and discussed what is expected from Dentistry applicants. Unfortunately, I did not achieve the 5 A’s in my 5th year Higher exams needed to be considered for Dentistry. I was extremely disappointed and thought that this would mean I would no longer be mentored. However, I actually found my mentor a lot more useful after this news. At this point, my mentor asked if I still wished to pursue Dentistry or if I would like to explore different career paths. I decided that I no longer wanted to do Dentistry, as I was now aware of how competitive this course is. However, I had no idea what other subjects might interest me. My mentor then suggested doing some volunteering over the summer holidays and set up work experience for me with Visibility (a sight loss charity). My role was an Administrative Assistant. From this work experience, I discovered that I do not want an office job and that I loved working with and supporting people. So, when it came to choosing a subject to study I based it on what I had learned from volunteering. My mentor looked through different university prospectuses with me and I chose a few courses based on a process of elimination. My mentor then gave me suggested edits for my personal statement. It was so beneficial to have that one-to-one support and reassurance when tackling something I had never done before.
As well as supporting my transition into higher education, my mentor would constantly be sharing knowledge with me. I do not remember everything that we discussed but I do remember speaking about the Scottish independence referendum that was ongoing at the time. This discussion had a huge influence on how I voted as my mentor remained impartial and told me some facts that I was unaware of at the time. Another discussion we had was around the format of a professional email and another focused on the importance of time management. I feel that each of these discussions benefited me and will continue to benefit me throughout my academic career.
I am now about to go into my final year of Community Learning and Development at Dundee University. My mentor continues to support my learning by helping me construct a good CV and by proof reading my academic work. Over the 5 years that I have worked with my mentor I feel my confidence has dramatically increased. I have also built a strong friendship with my mentor and feel comfortable contacting him for advice on just about anything. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and would definitely recommend it.
I learned of the Strathclyde University mentoring program through the auspices of the Royal College of physicians and surgeons which had sent me the details. After having been interviewed and accepted as a mentor I attended the requisite training programme which proved helpful.
I then attended Springburn Academy where I met Emma for first time and we talked about her ambition to be a dentist. I accepted this idea on face value and spent the first academic year meeting at weekly intervals covering a wide range of topics and ideas aimed at preparing her to meet the needs of her ambition.
As Emma has mentioned, she did not attain the results in her Highers that she had hoped for which meant that we had to have a rethink together.
The second year of mentoring was much more structured. It entailed going through the wide range of university courses available that matched her exam results and her ambitions. It proved helpful to use a process of elimination until Emma reached the conclusion that the subject best suited to her education, life experiences and ambition was community learning and development.
Help was given with completion of the University entrance application as well as advice concerning studying and learning methods, and I was delighted to learn of her successful application that summer.
It is well known that a significant number of students going to university and leaving home for the first time are at risk of not being able to continue for a wide variety of reasons. It therefore seemed entirely apposite to continue to provide help and advice throughout Emma’s undergraduate education by simply being there to provide support when requested.
Emma is now in her final year, she is a confident and able young lady. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been, and continue to be her mentor.
The approach taken by Strathclyde University was refreshingly open and non-prescriptive. We mentors were trusted to get on with the job without being told what to do nor how to do it. This meant that the process for Emma and myself was fluid and adaptive and not constrained by institutional preconception. By recruiting mentors who themselves have had a university education it was assumed that they would perform efficiently and effectively when given free rein.
It is easy to be wise after an event. That said, my single criticism was that having been told that Emma planned to study dentistry I made the prior assumption that this was what would happen. In retrospect, I now know that I should have been prepared for any outcome, and should have prepared Emma in advance for any outcome too.