Monthly Archives: November 2015


Happy Thanksgiving readers!

Last week I attended the 114th Annual American Anthropological Association Conference (held in Denver, CO.). It is a chance for anthropologists by training or in spirit to come together, hear new research, receive career advice, meet new people, and generally connect with people in a face-to-face context. It is quite fun. One of the panels I attended was on mentorship; the things I learned in that panel, I thought I’d pass on to you.

It is important to note that you can have more than one mentor.
Mentors may be people in your own network of people — other students, for example. Students in your major, maybe. Ideally, a mentor will be someone who has a bit more experience than you have whatever your current context is. For example, if you are a first year student, you probably want to find a mentor who is at least a year above you in school — you want to find someone who has already gone through some of the same situations you find yourself in currently and still remembers what it is like.

You may also want to find a mentor who is much older (more experienced/further along) than you. This mentor will be able to guide you in bigger picture situations. This person would be someone who is thinking more about your future career (even if you don’t know what it is going to be yet) and the future you. Maybe this person is a professor or a graduate student (if they are on your campus) or an experienced campus advisor.

Finally, you may want to find a mentor that is not in your network. This could be a former teacher (in high school?) or someone from other organizations you are connected to (church, clubs, activities, etc.). This outsider perspective can be quite handy for you as you seek advice and insight from someone who cares about you but is not in a position to need to also care about the university or the institution.

What is your role as the person being mentored?

As a mentee it is important that you keep in contact with your mentors. Depending on what is happening in your own life, it can be difficult to stay in touch; but, this is critical. A mentor needs to be able to think about you in a context: across different situations, different stages of life/student progress, and different ways of being you (as you grow into who you will become). This means you will need to be sure to reach out to your mentor consistently. For mentors who are older and/or outside your institution, you should consider connecting with them at least twice a year — at least one of which is in person, if possible. They have invested in you in the past, you want them to continue that investment (time and consideration). For mentors who are closer (someone a year older, for instance), you may connect with them at least monthly, if not more.

As a mentee you want to be sure to keep lines of communication open and easy rather than awkward. You will need your mentors for help in various times including letters of recommendation and connections to jobs or internships (for example). You should feel obligated to your mentor and to some extent s/he should feel obligated to you. This is normal for mentors/mentees.

Do you have a mentor? Did you leave one at your high school? Someone who really had your best interests in mind? If so, reach out to her/him. Send a new year’s greetings mail, catching her/him up on your situation. Keeping lines of communication open is key — not just now, but especially as you grow in your college experience and move toward graduation.

Honors Education

Last week I attended the 50th annual National Collegiate Honors Council Conference. It was four days of learning, brainstorming, and discovering best practices for college/university honors programs. Despite working in an honors program, I had no idea how mainstream honors education is in the higher education system.

Honors, in college, is much different than being an honors student in high school. At the collegiate level, honors programs at not universally designed. Each institution designs a program to meet the needs of the students within the scope of the college/university. The scope comes from the institution’s mission statement, goals, and education (major) programs. Honors education incorporates a style of teaching which is often interdisciplinary in approach and a classroom atmosphere of engagement through discussion and interaction. Needless to say, it is much more than a high GPA.

High school students, as you are exploring colleges, inquire about honors opportunities. You may be surprised to find out you qualify for an honors program or honors designed education plan. Honors programs exist at small private colleges, liberal arts colleges, large institutions, reasearch I universities and at community colleges! Most honors programs, or honors colleges (yes – some institutions have entire honors colleges on campus), take a broad view on what qualifies a student for honors. The high school GPA will be evaluated, but exam scores (ACT/ SAT) might not. AP or IB courses may be accounted for, but not always (we do not use them for course replacement at the university in which I work). For certain, an honors program is looking for students who embrace being challenged, have academic hardiness, grit, determination and motivation. Those would be excellent items to highlight in an application essay!

If you are accepted into an honors program, and you choose to participate, know what you are getting in to. Understand the curriculum, the academic requirements, extra curricular activities, etc. These programs are an enhancement to your education, but they are not for everyone – make an educated decision for yourself (not your parents)!

Registration Blues

College students, are you preparing to register for your next term of courses? If so, how many course schedules are you going to create? Of course you have your ideal schedule in mind, but what if you aren’t able to get one of those courses, or aren’t able to get the courses at the exact times you have identified? If you only create one course schedule, and it doesn’t come to fruition, how are you planning to handle the disappointment?

In the program I am associated, our students have priority registration and they almost always get their ideal schedule. However, these students must also enroll in a course within the program, and there are only 25 seats in each course. This is where registration stress comes in for them. This past registration cycle, more than 70 students, of our 380, wanted the same course, and another 50 wanted one other. These students had 18 course options, any many had to choose their second or third option. In our program, all the courses cover general education requirements, are taught by research faculty, and are a ratio of 1 to 25 or less, so in my opinion, there aren’t any bad options! But I can recall being 18 years old and stressed about registration. (Plus I live it with students all year long!)

The best way to lessen registration anxiety is to create at least three course schedules (or maybe five if you happen to register near the the last day of the registration cycle) the day/night before your registration time. The best way to do this is by knowing what courses you need in your major, or what courses overlap between majors and minors you are exploring. Doing this well requires time and effort with the course catalog and an academic advisor many days before (weeks before) registration. Why? Because outlining college courses is like a puzzle. Research your major(s), create a spreadsheet of course requirements, know which courses have prerequisites, and start planning, the more course plans the better! Create a lot of plans that will work. Unlike a 1000 piece puzzle, college is very expensive, so it is necessary to create multiple viable schedule options. Don’t let your parents or a friend do this for you – you need to take ownership of your education!

If (when) you do not get your first choice schedule during the first round of registration, figure out what adjustments you can make during the second round and during the first week of the term. Monitor wait lists, consult with advisors (again), email professors and most importantly, keep an open mind. You may have the ideal schedule, but you just don’t realize it yet! Whatever you do, do not have your parents calling or emailing your advisors, you are an adult, you are in college, you can handle this!