The Power of Milken Scholar Mentorship

Published 10/27/2022 in Program Updates
Written 10/27/2022

“…becoming a mentor for Jiyoun was one of the best ‘accidental’ or ‘coincidental’ things to happen to me. The friendship that grew out of my and Jiyoun’s mentor-mentee pairing greatly improved my college experience — she is someone I know I can call a friend for the rest of my life, beyond college. And I use the term of being Jiyoun’s ‘mentor’ loosely, because she has equally given me so much advice and support. From talking about the course curriculum or social scenes specifically at Princeton, to discussing personal challenges and career goals/motivations, and anything and everything in between, our mentor-mentee relationship has been an integral part of my college experience.” – Jamie Kim, MS ‘18

From the moment incoming Scholars are invited to the Milken Scholars Program, they join a network of Scholars, staff, and Alumni ready to support their success. One way Scholars are immediately connected to other Scholars is through the mentorship component of the Program.

Each year, Milken Scholars eagerly express interest in serving as mentors to the incoming class of Scholars.  The campus mentor is ideally an older Scholar who shares the same academic interests and/or attends the same university as the new Scholar.  However, when these common factors are not possible, mentors are selected based on similar backgrounds, high school attended, or as Alumni Scholars who attended the same university in years prior and who are eager to provide support during the transition into college life.

The summer prior to their enrollment in college, Scholars attend the Milken Scholars Annual Summit.  Each new Scholar is matched with a Summit mentor and a campus mentor.  At the start of the Summit, mentors and mentees attend a special breakfast where they get to meet and connect with each other. Throughout the 3-day Summit, mentors help mentees form new friendships, navigate sessions and workshops, and reflect on their future careers and personal growth. New Scholars benefit immensely from the opportunity to spend time with their Summit mentors and learn from their experiences.  An introduction to their campus mentor at the Summit, allows them to begin developing a relationship that will grow throughout the first year(s) of college, and beyond.    

Milken Scholars will often find themselves far away from home and being the first in their families to navigate a transition into college.  Jiyoun Roh, MS ‘20, could not have found a better mentor than Jamie Kim, MS ’18, when she arrived to Princeton University. “We have a lot in common (our interest in medical school, our Korean heritage, our love for LA, similar interests in food and exercise), and being able to meet regularly in-person (especially when we were both on campus) and online to catch up about our lives strengthened our bond,” Jamie shared. Jiyoun found these similarities were helpful and said, “When picking classes for the semester, I always ran them by Jamie, since she had taken the same prerequisites. Jamie also supported me through summer internship applications, introducing me to places that she had worked at before, and gave me study resources for the medical college entrance exam. Without her, I wouldn’t know this much about Princeton and the medical school admissions process.” 

The Milken Scholars Program asks both mentors and mentees to touch base at least once a month. To assist these check-ins, the Program reimburses mentor-mentee meals up to once a week. At the University of Southern California, Brigitte Rodriguez, MS ’19, and Enrique Cabrera, MS ’21, made good use of this resource and met up frequently on campus, which helped Enrique see his mentor grow from a mentor to a friend and someone he can count on.

“Coming from a Milken Scholar class that was unable to have the summer Summit and the Recognition Ceremony [in-person], it felt hard to really feel connected to other Scholars because I had only ever connected with them through a screen. Being a mentee made me feel like I had a physical support team around me when I needed it,” said Enrique.

Along with guiding mentees as they adjust to college life, mentors can also give the inside scoop on campus life and offer personal support. “My mentor [Brigitte] also gave me great pointers on smaller things, such as great places to study, where to find free printers, and where to find good food on campus,” said Enrique, knowledge he now plans to share with his Milken Scholar mentee.  It is common for one mentor-mentee relationship to sprout into a lineage of mentor-mentee pairs. Jiyoun is now a mentor herself, too. She’s excited to support her mentee, and said, “My experience with Jamie has provided a blueprint of what a mentor-mentee relationship should look like. Just as Jamie reached out to me over freshman fall, I do the same for my own mentee, answering all of his questions and connecting with him over our shared background. Most importantly, I feel much more comfortable as a mentor.”