There are many resources out there to help support students entering post-secondary education. Of those available, some of the most unique resources come from the perspective of a fellow peer, who’s been in your shoes and has the experience to support you. This often comes in the form of a peer mentor or tutor. While these are two resources with distinct differences, what they have in common is that they come from a peer. While professors try to relate to the challenges their students face, the reality is, they haven’t quite stepped in our shoes. This is why receiving support from a peer is so valuable. There is no power difference between you, and they are simply a classmate with a little more experience or expertise than you have at the time who’s ready to help you navigate post-secondary education.
A peer mentor is someone who is there to guide and support you through the challenges of post-secondary, and help you celebrate your achievements along the way. What makes them suited for the mentor role is that they have experienced what you are going through, and are now willing to share their growth with you. When transitioning into an entirely new environment, a peer mentor can be one familiar face you see on campus, and one person you can always call to have your back.
In my experience as a mentor for incoming first-year students, I’ve been able to really grow as a leader as I supported the success of my mentees. I was able to help answer the many questions they had entering a new environment and was able to connect them to resources on-campus they may have not otherwise known about. When school gets tough and overwhelming, it’s nice to know there’s someone who has your best interest in mind and who is willing to help guide you along the way. By the end of the school year, it was incredible to see how much my mentees have grown. They were thriving in their academics, connected with the community through clubs and volunteer opportunities, and above all, had developed the skills needed to continue to succeed throughout the rest of their education. For these reasons, peer mentorship is a truly valuable experience for both the mentor and mentee and really helps provide that sense of support and community as you enter a new chapter in your life!
A peer tutor, on the other hand, is equipped with the expertise in a certain subject matter that qualifies them to assist others in their learning. They may have excelled in a course in previous years, or developed helpful study strategies and skills that they are willing to share with fellow peers. They can help you build those academic skills to succeed in post-secondary coursework, and explain concepts from the perspective of a peer who has gone through the course and learned the material themselves.
As a student, I would sometimes go to class and listen to a lecture, and leave feeling incredibly confused. It’s not uncommon for a professor’s teaching style to not really match your preferred learning style, which can make it hard to grasp information coming from their perspective. I would then go meet up with some friends to study and found that when I asked them to re-explain the material, it made a lot more sense! This is simply because as fellow students, they were able to explain the material in a more straightforward manner that was easier for me to comprehend. This is also something I noticed when I was tutoring a few students in various subject manners. Oftentimes, they have what it takes to succeed and do well, it may just be a gap in the way the material is taught or explained that is making it challenging. Over time, I’ve been able to recognize common errors students make, and tips and tricks to help with problem-solving in different subject areas. Having gone through the learning myself, I am able to share my experience with others and help them see the material in another, hopefully clearer, way.
When we think of seeking support in post-secondary education, we often think of administrative offices, advisors, and counselors. The reality is, one of the most readily accessible and helpful supports out there comes from those sitting near you in the dining hall or behind you in a lecture. They are the ones who can convey information in a way that just makes sense because they’ve been there, gone through it, and now want to pay it forward. If you feel you could use the extra support and guidance, consider reaching out to peer support resources and services at your post-secondary institution.