BYU is a big place. When your student arrives in the next few months, they’ll find themselves on a campus with nearly 30,000 undergraduate students, over 300 buildings, nearly 180 majors, and over 200 campus clubs. It’s an exciting place to be, but has the potential to be a bit overwhelming for even the most well-prepared student. On top of finding their way through all these students, buildings, majors, and clubs, new students are faced with other challenges, including keeping up in classes, managing their time, and getting connected socially. The good news is that there is a friendly and well-trained person here in Provo waiting to help your student navigate everything that comes with their first year on campus—their First-Year Peer Mentor.
A peer mentor’s main responsibility is to be a familiar face your student can go to, at any time during their first year on campus, with any question they might have. In addition to being warm and approachable, peer mentors are highly trained to carefully listen to your student’s questions or concerns, provide accurate and timely information to help your student make good decisions, and, when necessary, connect your student with experts on campus who can provide more specialized help. In a nutshell, a peer mentor is a friend, but a friend with training!
In fact, BYU’s first-year mentors are so well trained that BYU has come to be recognized as one of the international leaders in peer mentoring, with multiple requests each year to present and consult with other universities hoping to replicate the high-quality training provided to their peer mentors.
Your student’s peer mentor can help in many ways. Here are some examples:
Your son or daughter might want to know more about how they can join a campus club. They might know that there are various clubs on campus, but how do they join? When do they meet? We suggest that they ask their peer mentor – they can help.
Your student might be working hard on their American Heritage class, but is struggling to perform well on exams. We suggest that they ask their peer mentor. They will know your student’s teaching assistant, be aware of study helps available to your student, and be able to help them get into a study group.
While most of the challenges students face can be relatively minor, occasionally a student might find that they are battling more serious concerns like anxiety, extreme loneliness, or depression. While a peer mentor isn’t expected to be an expert in these areas, they can get your student in contact with counselors and other trained experts who can provide the professional support a student in this situation will need.
Whether your student comes to you with questions you can’t answer, encounters struggles during their first year, or is thriving and wants to know how they can enhance their experience, through things like mentored research or involvement in BYU’s student association, we hope that you’ll encourage them to talk to their peer mentor. They’ll be a friend to your student, but more importantly, a “friend with training.”
Dan Chandler is the Assistant Director of First-Year Experience.