Finding Community on Campus, Plans for Winter Break, and Finishing Strong
A common barrier to persistence in year one of college is finding and feeling a sense of belonging within the campus community. Pairs should use this month's meeting to discuss this important topic. Additionally, it's never too soon to talk about plans for the winter break. Finally, pairs should make sure to discuss academics, including preparation for exams and finishing the semester strong.
Discussion Topic #1- Finding Community on Campus
A great deal of research on first generation college students highlights the importance of social integration to student persistence in year one of college. Particularly, for students of color, issues of racism (institutional, implicit, and blatant acts of racism), can lead to feelings of loneliness, disengagement, and a belief in imposter syndrome- the notion that they don't belong in predominately white institutions of higher learning. To set themselves up for success, particularly in year one, students should explore engaging with at least one campus organization while also cultivating a group of supportive peers with similar goals. Use this time for mentors to share their experience, followed by mentees sharing their goals and activities to be engaged in the larger campus community.
Mentors Start by sharing how you developed your community during your first year of college. Share the following with your mentee:
- During your first semester, where did you spend most of your time? Where on campus did you feel most comfortable? Why?
- During your first year in college, where and how did you establish your friends/community?
- Did you ever feel a sense of isolation or loneliness? If so, how did you respond?
- What value did you find in being engaged with your community on campus? What, if anything, would you do differently?
Mentees Start by sharing your thoughts or reflections on your mentor shared. Next, share the following with your mentor:
- So far this semester, where are you spending most of your time? Where on campus did you feel most comfortable? Why?
- Do you feel like you've been able to establish a sense of belonging on campus? Why? Why not?
- Have you explored any student organizations on campus? If not, are there any that you are interested in checking out?
- What about establishing relationships with peers with goals similar to yours? Have you found any study or interest groups that you would like to explore?
- Are there any goals you want to set to achieve before the end of the semester? What steps can you take to make sure you stay engaged on campus?
Mentors: close the discussion by reflectingon what has been shared. Share any additional suggestions for next steps, including accessing supports on campus. Remember to reach out to your program manager to request any immediate support needs.
Discussion Topic #2 Plans for Winter Break
Mentees Take the lead for this part of the meeting by sharing your goals and plans for winter break. Although it may seem like a long time away, it will be here soon. The earlier you can discuss and make plans, the more likely you are to achieve your goals and ensure you are set up for success next semester. Share the following with your mentee:
- What are your plans for winter break? If away from home, will you return home during break?
- Do you plan to work during? If yes, do you have a job yet? How can your mentor and program manager support you?
- Do you have any concerns about money or housing during break?
- Do you need to take any coursework during break? If yes, have you spoken to your academic advisor? How can your mentor and program manager support you?
- Outside of work and school, what do you hope to accomplish during your break? How can your mentor and program manager support you?
Mentors: close the discussion by reflecting on what has been shared. Share any additional suggestions for next steps. Share how you can serve as an accountability partner to help your mentee. Remember to update your program manager and/or reach out with any immediate support needs.
Discussion Topic #3- Finishing the Semester Strong
As a continuation of last month's discussion on academics, pairs should take this time to discuss finishing the semester strong. Mentees should take the lead by sharing their thoughts, goals and the steps they need to take to end the first semester successfully.
As you discuss, think back to previous discussions about accessing resources and revisit these important topics: meeting with your academic advisor, attending office hours and visiting student support services for additional academic or other support.
- How are you feeling about your most challenging class (or classes)?
- Are you concerned that you may not pass any of your classes? If yes, which ones?
- Are you concerned about any academic warnings or academic probation?
- Have you met with your professors and academic advisor to discuss your academic standing and performance?
- If you may need to withdraw from a course, are you aware of the withdraw or drop deadline? Keep in mind that withdrawing from a course may impact your eligibility for financial aid.
- What are some of your academic achievements so far this semester? How can you capitalize on your strengths to perform even better academically and end the semester successfully?
Mentors: close the discussion by reflectingon what has been shared. Share any additional suggestions for next steps and remember to update your program manager or any immediate support needs.