Alumni Mentoring Program Frequently Asked Questions

Alumni Mentoring Program Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply for the program?

This program is for the following Smeal students:

  • Undergraduate students in their second, third, or fourth year.
  • Undergraduate students who are in the Division of Undergraduate studies tracking for Smeal.
  • Undergraduate students who are at a Commonwealth Campus tracking for Smeal.
  • Graduate students who are in a One-Year Residential Master's Program.
  • If a student will be studying abroad or doing a co-op, they are still eligible to apply to the program, however, they should indicate this at the end of their application, and alert their mentor of the unique situation when chatting for the first time. 

How do students benefit from the Mentoring Program? 

The Mentoring Program provides students with an invaluable complement to their academic coursework and extra-curricular activities. Students apply to the program to learn about building their network, to identify academic and career plans, or to refine certain skills. A mentor can act as a sounding board for decisions and milestones they might experience during their college career. The purpose of the program is NOT to gain an internship or job. That may be an outcome, but it should not be the main reason a student participates. 

Who are the mentors and what is their role?

Students will be matched with a mentor who is an alumnus/a of Smeal. The mentors range from recent graduates to those with many years of working experience and come from various academic programs with experiences and careers in a wide range of industries. Alumni decide to be mentors because they want to give back by sharing their expertise with current students. Mentors serve as role models to the student protégés by providing advice and guidance and sharing personal experiences. Mentors are approachable and willing to give constructive feedback to students, in an effort to help identify goals, develop strategies, and instill confidence.

What types of topics do pairs discuss?

Some areas where a mentor can be of assistance are guidance in selecting a major (for undergraduate students) understanding career paths, discussing a professional area or a specific industry, refining leadership skills, building a professional network, resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn support, interview preparation, negotiating job offers, transition to the workplace, workplace experiences, and considering an advanced degree.

How are the matches made?

The matches are made by the Smeal Alumni Relations Office, based on answers provided in the mentor and student applications. Similarities in a mentor's career expertise and a student's industry interests are the top criteria taken into consideration. Also considered are similarities with each person's academic program, how long since a mentor graduated/student's class year, location, and hobbies. Unfortunately, not all criteria can be matched perfectly, so we ask students to keep an open mind when working with their alumni mentor.

What is the time commitment?

The formal program lasts through one academic year (late Aug.- early May). Each pair determines the time commitment based on their goals for the year. It is important that pairs engage in consistent communication, and have mutual expectations for the frequency of interaction (about once a month is recommended). If they choose to, pairs can continue their relationship beyond the school year, outside of the formal program. 

Do alumni return to campus to participate in the Mentoring Program?

Some alumni are able to travel to campus, however, it is not a requirement to participate in the program. The majority of conversations will take place by phone or virtually (e-mail, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.) Technology allows for very successful mentoring relationships to take place!

What resources are provided to students?

  • A Program Guide, which includes some discussion topic ideas.
  • An e-mail template that can be used to reach out to the mentor for the first time.
  • Periodic (about monthly) e-mail reminders are sent and typically include a reference to a relevant topic in the Program Guide
  • Two Mentoring Program Lunches are coordinated throughout the school year if applicable, which offers an optional opportunity for the pair to meet in person. 

How many students and alumni typically participate in the Mentoring Program?

Last year, there were about 375 pairs participating in the Mentoring Program. We anticipate that the program will continue to serve additional students and involve more alumni over time.