UniversityGo Mentoring: Why you should give it a go!
When did you first start thinking about university?
I don’t mean when did you first start browsing prospectuses, or when did you first develop an interest in applying, but when did you first learn what it was actually all about?
Personally, I don’t think I really had a clue up till the end of A-levels about what being a university student meant! Videos and websites helped to some degree, but nothing would have replaced the chance to talk face to face with current students, which isn’t normally an option until you’re about 16 and ready to start attending Open Days. I think I always knew that I wanted to go to university, as it was a fairly normalised path in my network of friends and family, but many school students don’t have the same experience.
And that’s where UniversityGo comes in.
Some of the students for whom applying and going to university is the most challenging process, are young people in care. If you’ve moved around potentially multiple times and are facing complicated family circumstances, it’s fair to say that decisions about university might not be at the top of your priorities. You might not have anyone to talk to about going to university, you might be worried about the costs, and you might be unsure about where they can go during the holidays, as going ‘home’ isn’t as straightforward as it is for others.
The main premise of UniversityGo, a joint initiative run by Warwick and Coventry universities, is for young people aged 11–13 in care to get a better insight into life at university. The scheme runs on 1 on 1 informal hourly sessions between the young person and a university student mentor every three or four weeks across the school year. With my mentee who I’ve been seeing since September, I’ve talked about the fundamentals of university, such as the application process, student societies, finance, accommodation, and other aspects of campus life, using a mix of quizzes, videos and interactive games to support. However, I’ve also tailored sessions to suit her personal interests: for example, as she’s interested in teaching, during one session we researched steps to becoming a teacher, discussed ideas for the qualities of a teacher and had a go at a fun quiz to see what type of teacher we both might be! In addition to these sessions, UniversityGo holds regular Wednesday workshops (usually at Warwick or Coventry University) for all of the mentees taking part in the programme, so that they can learn more about specific subjects and degrees and get a feel for university life first-hand!
In spite of the educational focus of the mentoring sessions, an important ethos of the scheme is to simply have a friendly chat with your mentee. You might be thinking, what could an 11-year-old and a 19-year-old possibly have in common? Quite a lot, actually! Thanks to a matching process during the training session in September where all the mentors played a unusual combination of speed friending/musical chairs with the mentees (trust me it wasn’t as awkward as it sounds) my mentee and I discovered we actually have a lot in common! Discussing our plans for Christmas, singing along to Harry Styles, and practising lines for her upcoming theatre show, have also been an important feature of our hourly sessions!😂 The key is to build a strong relationship and keep the conversation going– in whichever way we like.😊
Despite only having meetings every four weeks, it’s easy to get back in the swing of things and catch up on news, and I look forward to meeting my mentee every time. Last year, I really enjoyed taking part in Academic Support Mentoring; despite how rewarding it felt to support young people from a disadvantaged background with their GCSEs, I have to say that UniversityGo mentoring feels equally, if not more, rewarding as I’ve been able to develop a more personal relationship when mentoring just one student. I’ll really miss her next year when I’ll be on my Year Abroad, and it made my day when she asked if she could see me again after I come back– I do hope that’s a possibility!😊
If anyone’s thinking of applying for this job next year or a similar one, I can’t recommend it highly enough! Feel free to comment below or message me with any questions! I’ll also be sharing some mentoring tips in an upcoming blog so stay tuned!