The Aachen Mentoring Model

  Diplom-Ingenieurin Mei Zhou (right) is mentor to Karin Loth, answering many questions about studies. Copyright: © Peter Winandy Diplom-Ingenieurin Mei Zhou (right) is mentor to Karin Loth, answering many questions about studies.

Jan, who is in his third semester of studying electrical engineering at RWTH Aachen, also found the necessary help here: "I'm the first in my family to go to university. I had no idea what was awaiting me at university and had no relatives, who could have advised me." In the beginning, everything seemed to go smoothly. But then his performance started to decline even though he was working hard: "My fellow students had just as little experience as I did. No one could give me advice on what to do differently."

He went to the office hours of a mentor in his subject area. Together they analyzed where the problems were. Among other issues, he had underestimated the amount of material and had big problems with time management. Jan created a schedule with his mentor. He received assistance with selecting lectures and seminars and also got tips on how to prepare for an exam as effectively as possible and still have free time.

"The earlier we can offer advising, the smaller the problems are later on." Mei Zhou, a mentor in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, experiences this again and again. She and her colleagues view themselves as guides, who professionally lead students through initially unknown terrain.

Aiming for a Higher Number of Graduates

"JEach student should be supported with regards to all their questions and systematically advised," explained Kerstin Thöing from the Aachen Mentoring Model Coordination Office. This includes course material, personal time management, the compatibility of studies and a side job, or recognizing potential early on, for example in particularly talented students. They need to find other challenges to maintain their interest in studies. The University aims at improving its number of graduates with the mentoring model through the concept "Students at the Focus of Excellence" and the "Teaching Quality Pact."

In the Faculty of Medicine and Mechanical Engineering alone, there is potential to mentor one thousand students. "The need for advising sessions is great. This is whay we are now offering workshops on certain topics, such as promoting the best students in a cohort or conversations with professors." Concrete assistance and advice is also provided so that students can learn about scholarships and make appointments with other advising offices that are more familiar with financial aid and other social problems.

High Demand for Advising

Advising has been offered in all of the faculties since 2011. In 2013, 2,430 initial sessions were held, with almost 2,000 follow-up conversations. Target groups include all students, especially those who have not acquired two thirds of their credit points, new STEM students, students taking exams for the third time, and the best ten percent of a class cohort.

Mentors posssess a wide array of knowledge about studies. They are supplemented by student mentors, such as Philippe Recker. He is in his seventh semester and is now advising new students. "Computer science here is particularly unique, because mentoring is required during the first semester." Some students may not want it, because straight A students often think they don't need advising. "But many soon realize that university is different from school and the demands here are much higher," emphasizes Recker.

Source: Press and Public Relations


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