Mentoring for freshmen at CTU
The current coronavirus pandemic and strict lockdown is probably the most difficult for freshmen. While older students already know how the university system works, it can be challenging for new students as they didn’t have time to properly adapt to academic environment and get to know their classmates and teachers.
To help their freshmen, Czech Technical University in Prague launched a unique mentoring system that enables new students to get guidance. This initiative was started by Ing. Petr Kavka, Ph.D. when it was decided that students won’t be able to attend university conventionally. “I don’t know how I would have finished my studies if it wasn’t for useful information from my classmates,” he remembers his own student years.
The idea of mentoring met with enthusiasm and the programme started by the end of October. “We managed to establish twenty teams consisting of one teacher and one student who divided all freshmen according to their study programme. The freshmen can then change circles to see what fits them and get as much information as possible,” explained prof. Zuzana Pešková who is also leading one of the teams.
Meetings are organized via MS Teams and older students play an important part. “Freshmen ask me how the credit system works, how to sign up for an exam, how to prepare for it and how it all works overall because it’s very different from secondary school,” said Jakub Holan. “We also help new students to communicate with their lecturers when there’s a problem. Moreover, we try to show them that university isn’t only about studying,” adds Patrik Kučera.
In the beginning, the biggest obstacle was shyness. “We had to teach our freshmen that it’s important not to be afraid to ask. In that aspect, a team combo of a teacher and an older student proved to be very efficient,” comments doc. Eva Vejmelková.
Reactions are overwhelmingly positive. “It’d be very time consuming to manage on my own without any guidance. I’d definitely make lots of mistakes before figuring it all out. I really appreciate that older students are willing to help and even try to solve problems we encounter,” said Vojtěch Hart who studies architecture.
“The hardest thing for me was looking for information; I was afraid not to overlook something important. But then I contacted my mentor and she explained everything to me and the problem disappeared. I realized that all you need to do is ask. Nobody will laugh at you that you don’t know these things,” confided Dominik Harnach and Eliška Fukalová added: “I really appreciate that our mentors have time for us because online learning is very difficult for them as well.”
The positive influence of mentoring is also reflected in good study results. Even though students didn’t have to pass the math entrance exam this year, the dropout rate of freshmen is only 2,5% higher. The university uses also other support methods such as individual consultations with lecturers and various study courses and videos were created.
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