Keep Calm and Get Peer Support!

Posted by clivane on April 9, 2015

York & U

I have a confession to make: I am a third-year student, but I only recently discovered the various peer support services available here at York. As a Glendon student who works at Vanier College, I only knew of the peer mentorship programs offered at those two colleges! I was pleased to learn, however, that York values students helping students; each of the 9 colleges offers at least one type of academic peer support program! So, future Lions, before you get to third year like me, read on to learn more about how your peers can guide you on the path to success!

Who Are the “Peers” in Peer Support?

Peer leaders are academically successful third- and fourth-year students eager to share their experience and insights with you. These student leaders are enthusiastic and friendly individuals dedicated to providing you with the assistance you need to succeed in your studies. Often, they draw on their own first-year experiences, so they know exactly what challenges you may be facing. Students who become peer mentors complete mandatory training, so that they can provide you with accurate information and helpful support.

You will be able to drop in to meet peer mentors or you can contact them through email with any questions or concerns you have as you begin your university career. You may meet with peer mentors in a one-on-one setting, or you may be part of a study group of 10 to 15 students from one of your courses.

Bethune Peer Mentor Image Source: bethune.yorku.ca/mentoring/%5B/caption%5D

Advantages of Peer Support:

  • It’s FREE and voluntary!
  • Learn effective academic habits and study secrets: how to write an essay, take effective notes and study for midterms and exams.
  • Gain insight and honest advice about academic and social experiences from upper-year students.
  • Become familiar with your college and the student spaces available to do homework and hang out with friends.
  • Build friendships and develop connections with fellow students in your program.
  • Stay up to date on extracurricular and recreational opportunities on campus.

Different Types of Peer Support:

Peer Mentoring – Founders, Vanier, Glendon, Winters, New College

Peer Mentors can inform you about the various on-campus resources at York. Typically, you will interact with peer mentors who have the same major of study as you, but you can also speak to mentors with different expertise and areas of study.

Peer Advising – Bethune College

Don’t know what you can do with your degree? Peer advisors can assist you when you are deciding on and preparing for your future career. These peers lead seminars about prerequisites and admission requirements for professional schools like Medical, Dental and Physiotherapy. They can also offer information about exchange programs, research and volunteer opportunities.

Peer Tutoring – Bethune College

With peer tutoring, you have access to one-on-one drop-in tutoring for core courses in your major. Peer tutors are students who have excelled in their classes, so they can help you better understand difficult concepts and course material.

McLaughlin Academic Life Line (M.A.L.L.) – by McLaughlin College

M.A.L.L. is the McLaughlin Academic Life Line. As a first-year student, you can call a number and speak directly to knowledgeable senior students five days a week. You can ask them questions related to all aspects of York: from switching programs to where to pay for parking tickets.

Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) – New, Bethune, Stong, Calumet College

PASS are regularly scheduled, informal study groups. You can compare notes, discuss readings, develop study habits and predict test items with an upper-level student in your program. These groups are arranged according to specific courses, including Administrative Studies, Kinesiology, Psychology, Biology, Chemistry and Math. In PASS, you will be assisted by students who have previously done well in the course.

Image Source: http://stong.yorku.ca/files/2012/09/PASS-WINTER-2015-Schedule-final-page-001.jpg Image Source: stong.yorku.ca/files/2012/09/PASS-WINTER-2015-Schedule-final-page-001.jpg%5B/caption%5D

Other Peer Support Programs:

YU START

When being admitted to York, you will probably come across another type of mentor: a YU START leader. YU START is a summer-long transition program designed to help you succeed as a first-year student. Your YU START leader will help you enroll in courses online, connect with your peers, inform you about on-campus services and show you around campus in September.

I chatted with two Peer Mentor Coordinators from Vanier College: Sara Quintero, a fourth-year Classical Studies student, and Johnathan Czerniawski, a fourth-year Business & Society student. Sara was also a YU START leader last year.

1) Why did you become a YU START leader / Peer Mentor?

Johnathan: I became a peer mentor because I wanted to get involved with my community. Having worked for Vanier College’s Master’s Office facilitated my decision to become a peer mentor, because I was already comfortable with the environment and was already familiar with the faculty and staff with whom I would be working.

Sara: Honestly? I needed a job. But once I found out exactly what YU START was, I became interested. Within a few weeks of school, I knew how scary and stressful it was to be a first-year student, and something in me wanted to help incoming classes the way I would’ve liked to be helped when I was starting out at university.

2) What did you enjoy the most about being a YU START leader / Peer Mentor?

Johnathan: I enjoyed meeting new people and gaining insight from a wider range of perspectives, which I otherwise would not have had the chance to do. Oftentimes, when I was in the office, I would be engaged in discussion and building a relationship with the other peer mentors (an unexpected benefit), and I encouraged students who stopped by to join us in a friendly conversation.

Sara: I enjoyed sharing my experiences, my tips and the things that took me three years to learn. Sharing my mistakes, so that others didn’t make them, I suppose. Also, I learned a lot of things about York, so that was cool too. I learned where buildings were located, like Schulich, and what made the new Life Sciences building different from the old!

3) Do you have any suggestions for first-year students regarding peer mentoring services?

Johnathan: The peer mentor services are at first-year students’ disposal. More experienced students are always willing to help first-year students transition and prepare for university life. That the peer mentors provide their services for free should be another incentive for new students to seek help from them. In short, I would suggest any first-year student visit the Peer Mentor Office for in-person help, or email if you have something more specific that a peer mentor can help with.

Sara: Use them. They are helpful and, honestly, you are not as superhuman as you wish to believe. Peer mentors have some experience and they can help. Also, you don’t have to go through the nerve-wracking first year at university alone.


Sara is right! Your first year of university will be a roller-coaster of new experiences, but you don’t have to endure the ride alone. It might seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry; peer mentors are approachable, patient and encouraging. Take advantage of peer support programs at York and you will thank your first-year self later!

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