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The First Gen Mentoring Program​​​

The purpose of the First Gen Mentoring Program is to help First G​en students create connections inside and outside of the classroom during their​ time at The Chicago School. The program provides opportunities for current First Gen students to pair up with a mentor to expand their knowledge as well as mentors enhancing their mentoring and leadership skills.

This website serves as a resource to learn more about the program and support current participants to navigate their experience.

If you have specific questions regarding the program​, please contact Student Success at [email protected].​

What is First Gen (first generation)?

At The Chicago School, a first gen​eration undergraduate student is defined as a student whose parent(s)/legal guardian(s) have not completed a bachelor's degree in the United States. A first generation graduate student is defined as a student whose parent(s)/legal guardian(s) have not completed a master's or higher degree in the United States.​

 Program Overview

​The First Gen Mentoring program matches mentors and mentees for a volunteer, two-semester commitment. Applicants accepted to the program must:
  • enter a voluntary mentoring relationship that aims to be mutually beneficial.
  • maintain communication at least once a month for at least two (2) semesters.
  • practice good judgment and be considerate of each other's time. 
  • utilize time together to focus on enriching experiences through activities and dialogue.
  • maximize open communication and transparency to minimize confusion and frustration.
  • mutually challenge and support each other to build trust and respect while maintaining confidentiality.
  • provide feedback to enhance and evolve the program for future community members.

Mentoring pairs should meet monthly (in person, on Zoom, etc.) to check in, discuss goals, and seek advice.​

 Eligibility and how to apply

A mentee must be a current Chicago School student in any program. Mentees should identify as First Gen.

A mentor must be a current Chicago School faculty, staff, or student in any program. Chicago School alumni are also eligible to apply. Mentors should identify as First Gen or a First Gen ally.

Application for Fall 2024​ - Spring 2025​​​

Applications are open on a rolling basis



 Mentorship Tips

  • ​​​Be available to your mentee via whatever means of communication you establish
  • Practice your communication skills: active listening and open communication
  • Have an open mind, be approachable and flexible
  • Honor your commitment - be transparent with your mentee when life gets busy
  • Utilize your resources and ask questions when needed
  • Provide honest feedback to your mentee​
  • Have fun!

Ultimately your role as a mentor is to

  • Help students navigate their way through The Chicago School's academic policies and procedures
  • Refer students to appropriate services
  • Support your mentee's academic, vocational, and personal goals

 How to Build Mentorship Relationships

​Active Listening
Active listening is defined as not only hearing those you are communicating with but understanding them and their situation. Sometimes when people are listening to others, they think about how they will respond or other things on their mind and end up missing an important aspect of the conversation. To ensure you are actively listening you can respond to your mentee by saying “What I hear you saying is that you feel _____________. Is that correct?
Active listening involves:

  • Paying attention
  • Holding judgment
  • Reflecting
  • Clarifying
  • Summarizing
  • Sharing

Listening blocks include:

  • Mind reading
  • Comparing
  • Rehearsing
  • Filtering
People communicate with each other to share thoughts, views, feelings, needs, and preferences. Active listening and communication complement each other because if someone is not actively listening, there will be a break in communication. It is important to understand that communication can be both verbal and non-verbal.

Active communication involves:

  • Observing: being aware of how you and your mentees are presenting messages through body language or how tone of voice changes based on the subject
  • Body language: understand that how you present yourself affects your interaction with others. For example, if your arms are crossed that may seem like you are not interested in the conversation.
  • Asking questions: Ask your mentee open ended questions (what, when, how, who) to gain more insight into the subject you are talking about
Time Management

One of the biggest issues your mentee may face is time management and handling the multiple commitments in their life (school, work, family, etc). Managing time is something most people deal with and everyone deals with differently. Below you will find tips to discuss with your mentee, as well feel free to share your own tips with your mentee

Time Management Tips:

  • Have your mentee keep a log of how they currently spend their time as well as identify where their time is wasted and where they need to allocate more time to
  • Encourage your mentee to keep a master schedule of activities that occur every week (school, work, family events)
  • Have your mentee invest in a calendar and map out when different assignments are due. As well, have your mentees list what homework they have for the week at the beginning of the week
  • Encourage your mentee to stay as organized as possible during the semester
More resources for time management: 

 Ethical Considerations​

As a First Gen Mentor, you may be exposed to confidential information regarding the student's academic and personal situation. You expect to keep the information shared between you and your mentee private unless you feel you have a duty to report important information to an appropriate party.
Below are some guiding principles to consider when interacting with your mentee

  • Ensure that you are acting in a way that benefits the students
  • First Gen Mentors will avoid acting beyond the scope of their service and not attempt to offer professional services requiring more extensive qualifications and training
  • Consult Student Success if you face a situation that makes you uncomfortable or when you experience a conflict or dilemma

Common Issues
Students face different academic, personal, physical, and vocational challenges when adjusting to a new environment and way of life. Some students may be coming straight out of undergrad while others may have not been in school for the past ten years. Not all students will face these issues, but it is good to be aware of common occurrences with incoming students.

Academic Challenges

  • Managing course requirements and schedules
  • Transitioning to academic writing, researching, reading, etc.
  • Determining effective ways to study for class
  • Feeling anxious about tests
  • Registering for classes
  • Communicating with professors and classmates
  • Utilizing new technology: Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc.
  • Balancing academics, work, and a personal life
Personal Challenges
  • Relocating to a new environment
  • Meeting new people
  • Juggling different demands…family, friends, work, social life
  • Managing relationships
Physical Challenges
  • Creating positive wellness habits
  • Eating healthy and well-balanced meals
  • Maintaining appropriate weight
  • Managing stressful situations
  • Becoming involved with hobbies and activities
Vocational Challenges
  • Deciding on practicum or internship opportunities
  • Unsure about what area within the field to focus on
  • Creating resumes and cover letters
  • Understanding job opportunities once a program is complete