Mentors: who needs them?
By Saritha Teralandur
Graduate school applications: A time of wondering if all those years spent as a research assistant with a 4.0 G.P.A will finally pay off. Then, you get a letter of acceptance from a program that you were holdi
ng out on other offers for! Once you start graduate school, you realize that you have to worry about research deadlines quickly approaching, conferences, papers that require constant attention, and the occasional class or two. How does one ever balance this out, while maintaining sanity? A good mentor.
How successful would you find yourself if you did not have the emotional and mental support of your friends and your cohort? A good mentor is not only a person who you report to in your lab, a good mentor i
s someone who helps you handle all of the stress that comes with being a graduate student and all of the stressors that come with having everyone expect you to be a superhero. A good mentor should be someone who you can consider your parent away from home. They are the person who pushes you beyond your comfort zone in order to better yourself as a researcher/student, while also being there through the occasional emotional breakdowns. They help you collect yourself when you feel like you are loosing control over your life and think that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Confidence in your abilities academically and as a future researcher tends to be challenged when you start to work actively in your lab with your mentor and other advanced students. This is not abnormal, but it won’t last forever if you can remember why you were accepted to the program in the first place. A good mentor will also help reassure you of your capabilities and this is one of the most crucial things on the days where you have been in your office/lab for 12 hours. When you feel as though you are forgetting your goal of getting a graduate degree, your mentor can be your personal cheerleader and remind you of your goals. Remember that graduate school does not last forever and you will eventually graduate. Do you want to graduate feeling as though you were able to really push the limits of knowledge or just cruise by? On the days when I wonder why I chose to attend a rigorous program, I remember my mentor and how she is able to manage multiple research studies and still make time for me to vent. Then, she tells me that I chose graduate school to become a better clinician and researcher that has every potential to contribute to Psychology in ways that I previously had not imagined. As a first year student, I would never have seen myself implementing cognitive-behavior strategies to young children facing community violence on a daily basis or presenting at national conventions.
A good mentor can be the difference between dropping out of a program or succeeding within it. I owe all my successes to my mentor and hope that you, as the reader, also recognize the importance of having a good mentor in graduate school. No one said higher education was easy, but the right people in your life can make an impact on your mental health and your life as a whole.