What determines long-term success after college? It’s not just your grades. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, mentors who encourage students as they pursue their interests nearly double the odds of those students’ later success.
If you plan to study in the U.S., follow these simple steps to find your own mentor.
1. Dine with a prof
Colleges encourage you to get to know professors in a casual context, such as over coffee or lunch. Some schools will pay the bill at a local restaurant when you host one of your teachers. Use that benefit! You will surely learn something interesting. When Jaime Castillo was a student, he took a Tulane University professor to lunch and found that the professor had competed against the famous bicyclist Lance Armstrong in a bicycle race. More importantly, Castillo connected with someone who had advice about applying to graduate school or finding a job.
2. Attend events
Networking, while unnerving at first, gets easier. Catch an evening reading, concert or lecture related to your major, and strike up a conversation with someone. To get a sense of how much is going on, look at the calendar of events on the website of any school you are considering.
When you head out to events, have a question ready to break the ice — “How long have you known about this poet/singer/expert/topic?” The ability to talk to new people will help you find opportunities throughout your life.
3. Find a friend
Many schools offer structured peer-mentoring programs for international students. At Weber State University, one student who participated reported that his mentor made him feel more like a part of the university. Another said that his mentor helped him know someone really cared about his struggle to succeed.
You might seek a mentor when you begin your studies and be ready to volunteer as a mentor to younger students during your junior or senior year in college.
4. Go to office hours
College professors are experts. And in the U.S., they are required to set aside a few hours each week to talk to students. They will announce their office hours and post them on their office doors. Go visit! It’s a great way to ask questions about the material covered in class.
The Washington Post recently reported the story of Howard University law student Rushern Baker, who went to an assistant dean’s office to ask about dropping a class. That man insisted that Baker stay in the class and encouraged him for three more decades. Today, the men are close friends and are the top elected leaders in Maryland’s two most populous local jurisdictions.
5. Connect with alumni
Recent graduates know how to market their degrees. Ask the alumni relations office to connect you with them.
There may be alumni clubs for several U.S. colleges in your home country. If not, consider starting one or using LinkedIn or other social-media platforms to connect with alumni, who will be interested in hearing from you about what is new at their old campus.