- Oct 14, 2021
Starting university can be overwhelming, especially in changing times. But a group of Ivey and Western University students is lending a helping hand through a free mentorship service for those entering university.
Komal Patel, an HBA ’22 and Medical Sciences candidate, founded The Mentorship Spot in 2018 during her first year at Western. Patel was the first person in her family to attend university and wished she had someone to turn to for advice.
“There were so many things that I found out in first year that I wished I had known beforehand,” she said. “I started sharing what I had learned with people from my high school and then decided to formalize it and make it into an organization.”
The Mentorship Spot pairs students who are entering university or in high school and applying to university, with university mentors who offer personalized guidance and support. It also offers resources, such as articles, professional development advice, career pathway podcasts, and virtual seminars.
Helping students through the pandemic transition
When starting the organization, Patel had no idea how critical its services would be. Fast-forward two years, and news of COVID-19 was breaking. As universities pivoted to virtual learning, The Mentorship Spot was in high demand. In 2020, the organization had approximately 48,000 engagements as prospective and current university students sought information on how university procedures had changed during the pandemic.
“It has become a lot bigger than I ever imagined. Especially when COVID-19 hit, people were really confused about the application process because they couldn’t access universities to ask their questions,” said Patel. “We ended up bringing in representatives from pretty much all of the Ontario universities, as well as University of British Columbia, for virtual sessions so students could ask questions.”
As university programming pivoted, The Mentorship Spot adjusted its content. During the pandemic, it focused on resources to help students with online learning. Now that universities are returning to in-person programming, content has shifted to topics such as the best places to eat or study on campus.
“We tailored the content to what the school situation was,” said Patel. “We also opened up new streams of content because we recognized that people learn in different ways. Some people prefer reading, others learn by listening, and others prefer to talk to someone directly.”
One example is a biweekly podcast featuring graduates from a variety of universities sharing how their careers have progressed. The goal is to give students a sense of the career opportunities arising from specific programs.
Ivey student to lead the program
Now that she is in her last year at Ivey, Patel will be passing on the baton to other student leaders. This fall, she will step down as president of The Mentorship Spot and serve in an advisory capacity instead. Arya More, an HBA ’23 candidate, will take over as president.
“I’m excited to see where Arya takes the team. It has been exciting to see it [The Mentorship Spot] grow,” said Patel. “The biggest personal satisfaction for me is not necessarily the number of students paired, it’s when students say, ‘This has helped me.’ That’s what really makes my day. That’s why I do it. I’m the type of person who will pick up the phone if you have a question or want to talk. That’s the type of environment and value set that we’ve tried to instil at the organization.”
More about Komal Patel
Passionate about helping people, Patel has been involved in a variety of initiatives, including a project focused on encouraging undergraduate medical students to gain clinical experience in rural or northern communities to address the low-resource issues in those areas. She was also a youth advisor for the Canadian Council of Young Feminists.
Although it can be difficult to juggle volunteer activities with school, Patel encourages students to get involved in their communities as much as possible.
“Giving back to the community has really broadened the way I think about things and helped me with problem-solving. I feel like everything that I’ve done has given me more skills to add to my toolkit and has also exposed me to a lot of diversity of thought and opinion,” she said. “It’s important to have this exposure, especially if you want to be a future business leader.”