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Answers to questions potential mentors frequently ask

When recruiting potential mentors, we frequently encounter the following questions. While your answers may vary, it is important to expect these questions and to have your entire staff aligned on what your messaging will be. 

I didn't go to college. Can I still be a mentor?

Many people can achieve great success without having completed a degree. However, we find that our program model is most effective when a mentor can speak from experience about the challenges of matriculating and then finishing college, which are different than the challenges of succeeding without college. We’re sure you have a lot to offer and recommend looking into [insert other local mentoring program here].”

What am I expected to actually do?

As a mentor you’ll be emailing once a week and meeting once a month in-person. This will be your baseline to build a great relationship. Of course you can email more than once a week and see each other more than once a month under certain circumstances, but that's the basic requirement. You’ll use the writing prompts and receive support from our staff to help your mentee develop soft skills and get him or her ready for high school graduation and beyond.

How long of a commitment are you looking for?

iMentor partner schools offer either a 3 or 4-year match, making the minimum commitment either 3 or 4 years. All pairs will have an option to extend their match through college completion.

Note: If you offer both 3 and 4 year matches, distinguish the difference between the two and the value of each. It can be hard to think that far in the future, but you can ask potential mentors to reflect on what they consider a realistic commitment. Grad school, moving, a new baby, etc. - how likely are these things in the next few years? Most people who are considering the program will not take this decision lightly and therefore make a commitment in good faith to participate for the length of the match. If you recruit mentors who are likely to drop out, then you just create additional work for yourself later on when you must find additional volunteers to replace them.

What if I don’t know where I’ll be in 3-4 years?

That’s fine—we know no one can predict the future. What we ask for is a ‘good faith’ commitment that you believe you will be able to support this student for the entire length of match. 

I'm not sure I know enough to mentor someone else. 

We’re looking for mentors to work on building a relationship with a student in order to build soft skills (like self-advocacy and perseverance), as well as spark a college-going interest in their mentee. You don’t have to be a youth development expert. You already have the skills you need to be a great mentor and we will support you by sharing our curriculum and connecting you to a staff member to coach you through this process.

What if my mentee doesn’t want a mentor or doesn’t like me?

All mentees have a mentee orientation (just like you have a mentor orientation) in which they are taught about our program. They know what to expect, so we have very little pushback from students upon matching. Should you ever run into challenges getting to know your mentee, your designated iMentor staff member can support you through that process. 

What if my mentee doesn’t want to go to college?

iMentor’s vision is that every mentee in our program have the resources and information to successfully apply to college. Of course, some percentage of our students every year choose alternate paths, and our staff can support mentors and mentees who make that decision. 

What is your screening process?

Note: Know how much of your screening process you can share out, how much you have to retain to keep the integrity of your process, what reports are being run, etc. This is a question that each iMentor program should consider for themselves, and it is one we hear frequently.

Why do I have to get fingerprinted/give you my Social Security Number?

Because we work in schools with minors, we must make sure that all of our mentors are safe and appropriate matches for the students in our program. This includes a thorough screening process that does require a background check (and thus your Social Security Number).

Why should I apply now if I won’t be matched until the fall?

The best reason is to finish our screening process before the ‘summer crunch,’ when our screeners are managing hundreds of applicants—it’s a better experience when it’s not super busy! We also strive to match mentors in the order their applications were received, so you will be more likely to be matched, and matched early, the earlier you apply.

How do you make matches?

We have mentors and mentees fill out an in-depth application that asks about their backgrounds, academic history, interests, and ambitions. We utilize an algorithm to narrow down the number of potential matches and then have our Program Coordinators--who have typically worked with the student for 4-6 weeks by this point--read through each profile and make the best match for both mentor and mentee.

Why do you only make same gender matches?

Same gender matching is a fundamental component of our program. Initially, iMentor conducted same-gender matching for safety concerns as well as the belief that most adolescents feel more comfortable talking about personal issues with a mentor of the same gender. Additionally, families are more comfortable with a mentor of the same gender. Those who experienced adolescence as the same gender are more likely to have similar experiences and have been similarly socialized, which will lead to stronger matches.

Note: While there have not been clear research findings on the importance of same gender matching, DuBois and colleagues (2002) list gender as one of the recommended criteria on which to match. 

What are the demographics of your mentees? Do you do same-ethnicity matching?

Approximately 80% of our mentees are students of color. We match based on a number of criteria, and we can try to make a match based on ethnic background or shared cultural experience when it is something that is important to the mentee—a recent immigrant requesting a Spanish-speaking mentor, for instance. 

I'm gay. How would you match me?

We match based on what's most important to our mentees. If a mentee in our program identifies as LGBTQ+ and requests a mentor that has gone through similar experiences, we may match an LGBTQ+ mentor with an LGBTQ+ mentee if they are also a good match on personal, academic, and career interests. We will still match same-gender in these cases.

Note: Only if pressed on the issue of same-gender attraction, offer that if there is ever a safety concern regarding same gender attraction, please flag it for your PM immediately so we can determine how to proceed.

I can do more. Can I have multiple mentees?

We only match students and mentors in one-to-one relationships. Occasionally if a mentor or a mentee is without their partner at an event, we’ll have them join another pair so they’re not working through the activity alone.

Why do you do whole-school partnerships?

There are a few reasons why we partner with an entire school. Fully integrating our model into a school allows iMentor the opportunity to provide individualized support in a way that one high school counselor serving over 400 students simply can’t. Generally, students who are on either end of the academic or skill spectrum get the most attention, but with a whole school partnership we’re addressing every student's needs. 

I'm concerned about the commute and/or the neighborhood.  

Note: If potential mentors express concern about traveling to and from an unfamiliar neighborhood, encourage them to elaborate. Is it because they’re new to the city and struggle with directions? Are they concerned about their safety? Modify the below answer to address each mentor's specific concerns.

iMentor partners with schools that need support the most, which may include locations in which you are unfamiliar. It's completely natural for mentors to have hesitations about exploring a new area—just like students may feel uncomfortable about traveling somewhere they haven’t been before - and this is your opportunity to lead by example. All schools are accessible by public transportation, [check for accuracy with regards to your specific school locations] and you will be going to schools around 5PM, which means that the trains and buses will be highly populated. We encourage you to connect to other mentors in the program by commuting to and from events together. Once at the event, school staff and faculty will be present to supervise and answer any questions. If possible, we also encourage you to visit the school during the day for a classroom or lunch visit. Finally, you may be interested to know that [insert relevant positive details about the school or community - Spanish speaking, lots of community support, STEM program, etc.]

I went to school abroad. Can I still participate?

We welcome mentors who went to school abroad or aren’t familiar with the current/local education system. No matter their education background all mentors can share what their experiences were like and talk through potential differences with their mentee. For all the college specific information they need, our Program Coordinators will be able to provide additional resources, context, and support.

Am I expected to pay for events with my mentee?

If the event falls under the regularly scheduled iMentor programming, there are no fees and food is provided. If the mentor is able to initiate an activity outside of the basic program requirements, he or she is generally prepared to pay for the outing. If this is not the case, it is important to set boundaries early and discuss expectations with the mentee.

Have you heard another FAQ we should add to the list? Leave it in the comments below.