New study of female college students highlights the benefits of mentoring

McGill, J., Adler-Baeder, F., Sollie, D.L., & Kerpelman, J.L. (2015).

Exploring the experiences of female emerging adult mentors: Building a conceptual model. Journal of Adolescent Research, 30(5), 538-564.

There has been limited research focused on the experiences of the mentor in the mentor-mentee relationship. However, mentors are likely to receive benefits as well from participating in the mentoring program due to the bi-directional nature of the mentoring relationship and the support and guidance from administrators and program directors.
The aim of this study was to understand the experiences and outcomes of mentoring for college-aged girls in a mentoring role. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 female undergraduates  volunteering as mentors in a program for at-risk middle school girls (The Young Women Leader’s Program). Interviews were conducted twice, once at the end of two different semesters of an academic year.

The students in the mentoring role reported a number of positive outcomes of their experiences including:
• Personal satisfaction from spending time with their mentees
• Greater self-awareness and awareness of the skills they use to develop relationships
• Confidence in themselves and their skills
• Greater comfort in public speaking and teaching roles due to opportunities to lead discussions and participate in group meetings
• Solidification of career goals and application of class knowledge (for the girls studying human development and aspiring to be teachers)
• Development of active listening skills
• Sympathy and compassion/ heightened sensitivity to others’ differences due to working with at-risk youth who come from different backgrounds than themselves
• Understanding and openness to differing viewpoints
• Patience and perseverance in relationships
• Learning when and how to ask for help and support
• Working as a team with other mentors

According to the researchers, “emerging adulthood may be a period in which serving as a mentor may be a particularly valuable experience.” The mentors should also be considered “participants” in mentoring programs. Developing mentor group cohesion should be built into the program for support and further growth of the mentors. Although mentees prefer mentors who are more similar to them, mentors learn and benefit more from being paired with mentees who are different, so a balance of needs should be considered. Mentoring programs should provide the support and structure necessary for the mentors to get the most positive experience.