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Student Connections to Advisors and Mentors

Insights from the OUE Research Team

Advising and mentorship are crucial to student adjustment to college, providing a trusting relationship with an adult on campus who can serve as a thought partner and provide guidance, help, and even emotional support as students navigate college life.

In our Duke Undergraduate Check-in Study (DUCkI), we ask several questions about student relationships with academic professionals on campus from the more casual to the more in-depth. A good-news note from these data is that approximately 90% of respondents indicate that they have at least one formal or informal advisor at Duke who they seek out for advice about academics, research, career plans, and/or general life plans. Turning to mentorship, significantly fewer respondents (approximately 50%) indicate that they have someone at Duke who they consider to be a mentor. Although the proportion of students who have a mentor increases from the first- to fourth-year, even in the senior year, only about 60% of respondents have a mentor.

Data from the fall semester highlight the centrality of OUE programs and services in fostering advising and mentorship. Students who engaged with OUE across Experiential Education, Intellectual Community, and Student Success were consistently more likely to report having a mentor and having at least one person they sought out for advice.

But do these relationships really matter? Although we can’t draw causal conclusions from our data, our results indicate that students who have at least one advisor or mentor are also more enthusiastic about their academic work, have more social support on campus, and feel more like they belong at Duke.