What Is It Like To Be A Peer Advisor

“Are you a TA?” people would always ask me. Many people don’t know what a PA - Peer Advisor is. So am I a peer or am I an advisor? Don’t these two contradict each other? Yes and no. That’s the beauty of a Peer Advisor. 

As Peer Advisors, we are responsible for co-teaching UNIV 100 - Introduction to Mason, a 1-credit course for first-year students, introducing them to college life, specifically, college life at George Mason University. 

Peer Advisors co-teach with a faculty member and we do what we can to provide first-year students the resource and support they need when it comes to transitioning from high school to college. Every upperclassman has something in mind that they wish they knew when they were first-year students, and being a Peer Advisor gives us the opportunity to pass down our wisdom to people who are following our footsteps. 

The beauty of being a Peer advisor is that we can serve as both a peer and an advisor/mentor to first-year students. This is also the reason why each UNIV 100 class has a faculty member AND a Peer Advisor. While faculty members are wise and experienced, being able to provide great insight into college and life in general, they cannot relate to students on a personal level like Peer Advisors can. We are students ourselves and were in the first-year students’ shoes just a year or two ago. A lot of the struggles first-year students are going through right now, we’ve gone through them...or in some cases, still are going through. We have the ability to give them relevant advice in ways that faculty members cannot. 

Whenever first-year students are struggling in certain things, they don’t really know who to talk to. Oftentimes, students don’t feel comfortable enough to talk about their situations and problems with an actual adult. Sometimes students feel like they might be judged and misunderstood by adults since they don’t “get” what they’re going through. However, being a Peer Advisor co-teaching UNIV 100, we are able to act as a peer, someone who they are comfortable to share their feelings with, we are also able to act as an advisor, helping them out. 

In the meantime, in UNIV 100 class, we share important resources and opportunities on-campus students would find useful throughout their college career, setting them up for successful college life. Introducing things to them that we thought would be useful for first-year students to know right at the beginning of their first semester, instead of finding out later on randomly halfway through college. 

Being a Peer Advisor is an incredibly rewarding job, however, it’s not always rainbow and sunshine. Being a Peer Advisor and being a teacher is not an easy task. Being a Peer Advisor is not a formula. There is no standard way to do it. Things that worked for a class or a student might not work for another class or student. Being a Peer Advisor is about being flexible and accommodating. We have to be able to know how to treat different students in different ways in order to celebrate their strengths and help with their weaknesses. 

This is my fourth week of being a Peer Advisor and it has definitely become less frightening co-teaching in front of a group of students.  It’s very rewarding, knowing you are helping out first-year students during this transition period of their lives. However, it is also really difficult, since I have a rather quiet class. It is really hard to get them to engage in conversations or ask questions. Sometimes I question myself, whether I am doing a good job. Sometimes, I question if they even care about what my faculty and I are teaching. And this challenge is both stressful and thrilling. I hope my faculty and I will soon be able to feel the rhythm and able to reach our students in better ways and have them interact with us. 

The first month has passed, a few more to go. I am sure things will turn around and great things will come through. 

Collegiettes, never let a slight obstacle frustrate you or make you question your goal!