What is the Role of a Mentor in an Academic Internship?
An academic internship is a great way to explore your career options while gaining valuable experience for your university applications. The key to maximising the benefits of your internship is to make the most of your Mentor!
This guide will explain your Mentor’s role, and give you some handy tips on how to take advantage of all they have to offer your personal and professional growth.
What Is a Mentor in an Academic Internship?
Each academic internship is different, but most offer the opportunity to work on a research project with a team of other interns, led by an expert Mentor. The Mentor’s role is to guide and support the interns based on their own professional experience, expertise and passion.
By sharing first-hand insights into their field, and helping interns create professional connections, Mentors can play an important role in an intern’s future career.
How Do I Choose a Mentor?
Mentors are appointed through a rigorous selection process to ensure they’re experts in their field and committed to sharing their knowledge and teaching others.
When pairing an intern with a Mentor, the intern’s personal goals, interests and desired areas of growth are all taken into careful consideration. For the most fulfilling experience, it’s essential that you match with a Mentor based on shared interests and expertise. This means the more information you provide on your application – like your future goals and what you hope to gain from your internship – the more likely you are to get the perfect pairing!
Why Do OxBright’s Faculty Make Great Mentors?
The faculty at OxBright represent a high standard of academic excellence. OxBright Mentors are all current academic researchers with a passion for their subject.
All of them have studied, are studying, or work at top universities around the world like the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, and are committed to maintaining the high academic standards that have made those institutions famous.
Our faculty are in a position that many interns are looking to be in a few years, so who better to help them? Chatting with your Mentor about your next steps will lead to some great advice and insights that you can’t get from a prospectus!
Please note, the Oxford Scholastica Academy has no official link with the University of Oxford.
What Are a Mentor’s Responsibilities in an Academic Internship?
Mentors have some key responsibilities in shaping and guiding interns throughout their academic internship:
1. Setting expectations
The first of these is setting expectations for the internship. It’s the Mentor’s responsibility to define the scope of the internship, its objectives and desired outcomes.
For an OxBright academic internship, this includes setting up research groups, designing the topic of the paper(s) and establishing the structure each will follow.
2. Providing guidance and advice
The largest part of a Mentor’s role is offering guidance and advice throughout the academic writing process. They can help interns to navigate challenges, develop problem-solving skills, and make informed decisions by offering their expertise.
In particular, our research internships – covering subjects from Economics and Business, to Literature and Law – offer interns the opportunity to co-author a research paper with their Mentor. This is a rare opportunity to gain experience in professional academic writing, and to have a piece of work published on OxJournal!
3. Offering constructive feedback
Mentors are also responsible for offering feedback on their interns’ writing and overall development. This kind of constructive criticism on writing style, structure and analytical thinking can help interns to improve their skills and build their self-confidence.
This feedback is offered throughout the internship, so interns can see their academic writing and research skills develop across the programme.
4. Sharing knowledge and insights
Mentors are a great source of experience and expertise, which they’re keen to share with their interns.
They have great insights into their chosen subject, how the university application process works, and what the related employment prospects are like, offering some inside knowledge to help you on your journey!
5. Networking assistance
A Mentor can also help interns to expand their professional networks. Mentors are well-connected in their fields, and can introduce interns to industry professionals, provide networking opportunities and recommend relevant events and conferences.
All of these are a great place to start when building up extra-curricular engagement with your subject area and looking ahead to your future career.
6. Offering emotional support
Academic internships are intended to be challenging as well as fun, and interns can sometimes feel overwhelmed at first.
Mentors play a supportive role in providing emotional guidance and offering encouragement. They foster a positive learning environment, and help you to develop the confidence and stress-management skills to face future challenges.
7. Encouraging reflection
Interns are encouraged to reflect on their own experiences and learning during an internship. Mentors can help with this process by providing opportunities for discussion and maintaining accountability.
Having this kind of structured reflection can help interns gain skills for independent self-assessment and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
8. Maintaining regular communication
Mentors maintain regular communication with their interns during the programme, to monitor their progress and tailor support to their individual needs. It’s the Mentor’s role to schedule check-ins, meetings or virtual sessions to discuss progress, address questions and provide ongoing support.
During an OxBright academic internship, interns meet with their Mentor once a week for three hours, with plenty of opportunities to chat one-to-one in order to discuss progress or concerns.
9. Acting as a role model
At the core of the Mentor’s role is their position as a role model for interns. The Mentors have a responsibility to show professionalism, set an example for ethical conduct, and demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning.
What Happens After an Internship?
A Mentorship has lasting impacts that go beyond the duration of the academic internship – Mentors can continue to provide guidance and support as interns transition into their careers.
Maintaining these relationships can have long-term benefits, like access to a professional network, or further work experience opportunities.
Mentors are at the centre of a successful academic internship! They’re able to help you improve your academic and personal skills, while boosting your confidence and contributing to future study and career opportunities.
To make the most of your academic experiences, be sure to seek out opportunities to work with a Mentor – you never know where it could take you!
By Alice Spiers
Alice is an historian at St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she teaches undergraduate history (predominantly medieval history and historiographical theory). She is also a freelance writer and editor, and a research assistant at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Studies.
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