With term three exams right around the corner, for many of us it marks the return to the academic rat-race. That late-night essay submission, to-the-knuckle exam revision, coffee-fuelled mission to score as many points as you can to make the rest of the year feel worthwhile. This comes after spending the rest of the terms worrying about internship applications and career prospects. Yet, one thing students often forget to appreciate is the fact that they made it to university in the first place.
While all of us have gone through the application process, many of us may have forgotten how hectic it can be. Applying to one’s dream university can involve countless stress-filled hours, sleepless nights and moments of intense anxiety. After all, the task is daunting and accompanied by a huge responsibility: choosing the right subject of study, the institution itself, and then finding a way to wrap it all up with a great personal statement for your UCAS application.
Applying to one’s dream university can involve countless stress-filled hours, sleepless nights and moments of intense anxiety.
Predictably, this maze is significantly more complex for international students. While universities try their best to accommodate such applicants, such as by holding regular offer-holder events for them and explaining different processes, there remain stark limitations to the amount of personalised support offered. For example, there are a wide variety of high school testing methods–meaning entry requirements can differ on the basis of one’s nationality. English language testing and visa intricacies mean that a number of deserving students miss out on places as they never find a way over the initial hurdles to make an application in the first place.
There are stark limitations to the amount of personalised support offered.
Warwick is currently home to over 10,000 active non-UK nationality students who managed to overcome these difficulties, and hence are an invaluable source of knowledge for future prospective international students.
Warwick is currently home to 10,000 international students.
If they have younger friends and relatives who want to follow their footsteps, they might be asked to help out. Having someone ask us to review their personal statement or give admissions tips is natural: after all, as students we become something like mentees ourselves when we seek advice from upper years, asking them about interview tips, internship recommendations, and career choices.
Naturally, it is our friends and closest relatives we most often give advice to; we know them the best and we want to see them succeed. However, this leads to a problem: knowledge-sharing is limited to our network, and evades those without relevant connections. It means that people who would benefit from this sort of guidance are missing out.
This is where mentorship schemes step in. They are based on voluntary commitment between people who, prior to the scheme, usually do not know each other and hence are objective in their approach. Mentors differ from coaches, who are usually salaried and attached to corporations, and as a result inaccessible to regular people. They also differ from trainers, who work to develop specific skills and often have planned courses.
Mentoring is specifically tailored to the needs of the mentees, flexible, and focuses on developing a right mindset and boosting competencies. It can be very effective: according to MENTOR (National Mentoring Partnership in the United States), nearly all young adults who had formal mentoring relationships (95 percent) found these experiences to be “helpful.”
Mentoring focuses on developing a right mindset and boosting competencies.
One mentorship scheme is specifically targeting the problems faced by international college applicants mentioned before. Project Access, co-founded in 2016 by Emil Bender Lassen from Middelfart, Denmark, provides a free online peer-to-peer mentoring platform that helps connect mentees with college-going mentors, who help them make applications to the very best US and UK universities. After an initial screening, mentees most in need are identified and are matched with mentors. People are matched based upon their home-countries, desired universities, or courses from the organisation’s list of target universities, with Warwick being one of them. Throughout their time with the service, mentees are given access to the personal experience of their mentor alongside a comprehensive selection of learning modules, each providing valuable insider insights into a given stage of the application.
Project Accees provides a free online peer-to-peer mentoring platfrom that helps connect mentees with mentors who help them with their university applications.
Many would question just how helpful mentorship schemes are. According to the charity’s latest statistics, around 60% of surveyed mentees using the platform twice or more go on to receive an offer from a world-leading university — compared to a baseline average of around 15%. So far, about 3,300 mentees have been supported in university applications by Project Access. And unlike its competition, which includes elite private coaching agencies and Summer School placements, services provided by schemes like Project Access are completely free. This is key for empowering disadvantaged students who often lack the means to access expensive support.
Mentorship schemes are key for empowering disadvanatged students.
It seems obvious, then, that mentorship schemes benefit their mentees. However, it is easy to forget that mentoring is in many ways a mutually-beneficial relationship. Alongside contributing to the great cause of making top education accessible, Warwick students can gain a lot themselves from acting as mentors. Being a mentor requires us to be observant, good listeners, observe details, and solve problems. By guiding a mentee we can also gain sought-after leadership skills. “Alongside having an amazing impact on the mentees they are supporting, I believe our mentors grow a lot personally during the program,” says Emil, “we kickstart the learnings with a mentor training session, but being a good mentor is learnt on the job and I think the skills our mentors leave the program with will be valued highly by future employees.”
The value of mentorship schemes is increasingly being recognised and institutionalised. At Warwick for example, the SPRINT Female Development Programme, developed by the Springboard Consultancy, features a similar type of mentorship scheme. Students are linked to inspirational women, who assist them in implementing learning outcomes following the end of a 3-day long course.
The value of mentorship schemes is increasingly being recognised and institutionalised.
One can appreciate the role mentorship plays in our society, especially when it’s in the context of helping those who have less resources available. There is a desperate need to help bright, disadvantaged college applicants navigate a system that might otherwise leave them behind. Mentors can make a profound difference in someone’s life trajectory, and gain valuable skills in the process.