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Navigating Obstacles - 12.7.4

Grade 12 - College vs. High School

This lesson will give context to five types of obstacles presented to new college students: social and recreational; basic lifestyle; digital; personal issues; and academic immortality. 

Background Research: Regardless of a student's record in high school, attending college for the first time brings forth new opportunities and challenges. "Faced with new freedoms, some new students spend a preponderance of their "free" time engaged in social or recreational activities, much to the sacrifice of their studies. We put "free" time in quotes because most of that time isn't really free. Just because an assignment isn't "due" the next day, doesn't mean there isn't anything to be done. Composition instructors encourage the submission of rough drafts, history instructors tend to have extensive reading to be done to keep pace, science and math classes often assign online problems, speeches require research and outlines, etc." Source.

Lesson Overview


Mentees will:

  • Read an article on common pitfalls and traps for new college students
  • Define the five categories of challenges in their own words and list examples
  • Create a solution and a sticky way to remember it

Guiding Questions:

  • What are the most common obstacles for new college students?
  • What can I do now to avoid or resolve these obstacles?

Lesson Resources:

Non-cognitive Connections: For a full list of non-cognitive skills covered in the iMentor curriculum, click here.
1. Growth Mindset
2. Social Capital

Entry Point

  • Staff will display quote and image.
    • For each quote and image, staff will facilitate a discussion on what mentees think the quote means.
  • After displaying and discussing all three quotes, staff will facilitate discussion on how the three quotes are related:
    • How are the three quotes related?
    • What do all three of the quotes say about knowledge?
    • How do these three quotes relate to college?

Keystone 1


In order to avoid obstacles in college, mentees need to be aware of them and how they can potentially impact their college experience. This activity has mentees read an article, explore five common obstacles, and then identify three examples of each type of obstacle.


Chunk One: 5 Common Pitfalls and Traps

  • Staff will divide mentees into groups.
  • In groups, mentees will:
    • Read the article
    • Define each trap in their own words
    • Give two examples of each trap
  • Staff will facilitate share-out.

Chunk Two: Challenge Accepted

  • Staff will assign each group one pitfall or trap.
  • In groups, mentees will do the following:
    • Create a solution for their assigned trap
    • Create a slogan or motto (sticky 1-liner) for their solution
    • Create a visual (optional)
    • Create a hand gesture (optional)
  • Staff will facilitate share-out.
  • Through share-out and discussion, staff should ensure that mentees have at least one idea of how to address a specific challenge.

Chunk Three: Making it Personal

  • In a pair share, mentees will:
    • Select which of the five traps they are most worried about
    • Select which of the five traps they are least worried about
  • Staff will facilitate share-out.
Facilitation Note: There are many other challenges a new student might face during their college experience. Other common challenges for first generation college students specifically include self-doubt, culture shock and stereotype threat, guilt, and the social stigma associated with being first. 

Keystone 2


Mentees will share what they learned about the common pitfalls and traps, and the solutions they created for the obstacle they were assigned. 


Chunk One: Reconnect with Mentor

  • Mentees will:
    • Read and respond to their mentor's letter from last week
    • Comment on their mentor's biggest obstacle when they were in college
    • Share their solution
    • Share which of the five traps they are most concerned about
Facilitation Strategies:  For a complete list of facilitation strategies and descriptions, click here.

Exit Ramp

Participant Responsibilities

Mentee Deliverable

  • Respond to mentor
  • Share their solution
  • Share which of the five traps they are most concerned about

Mentor Deliverable

  • Read article
  • Complete end of unit reflection