Peer Mentoring: Advice from a successful Covenant Scholar
Older students know. They just do. The first year of college will present a new world of possibilities. And peer mentors in the Carolina Covenant program help new students find those possibilities.
Peer mentors are older Covenant Scholars who commit to one goal: helping first-year students adjust to Carolina academically and socially. In addition to being Carolina Covenant Scholars themselves, peer mentors must have good grades and meet high standards. Volunteers who are selected participate in a training program designed to help them be good mentors. They check in frequently with Harold Woodard, Associate Dean in the Office for Student Academic Counseling, who coordinates the peer mentor program.
All new Covenant Scholars are assigned a peer mentor, either as part of another peer group, or through the Carolina Covenant peer mentoring program. Each of the nearly 90 volunteer Covenant peer mentors is assigned four or five incoming Covenant Scholars. Transfer students are matched with a mentor who transferred to Carolina. Mentors try to contact their mentees at least every two weeks during their first year at Carolina.
Some talk over coffee, at mealtime, or in a common space such as the Student Union. They don’t always meet in person—they chat via facebook, instant messaging, email, or by phone. Mentors submit a form for each mentee that informs staff members of the student’s progress and may alert staff to any concerns.
Ron Bilbao of Miami, Fla., became a mentor for specific reasons. “I wanted to relive my first year through the eyes of the mentees and give them the best advice to help them move in a really positive direction. My first year was a great experience, but I wanted them to have an even better one.”
The peer mentoring program adds a structure to the sometimes wonderfully random process of learning about college life. Alyxandra Press remembers how the program helped her. “It provides a way that when you have a question, you can automatically turn to someone who is familiar with campus. It was reassuring.”