A mentor can be a wonderful and helpful guide in many areas of life and graduate school is no exception. Some of the specific things that a mentor can be a resource for as a graduate student or potential graduate student are: getting into graduate school, successfully getting through graduate school (with your sanity intact) and finding a job after graduation.
A mentor who has been through the graduate school admissions process before can help you by being a sounding board and providing advice when choosing a school and a program, be a second set of eyes for your Statement of Purpose and help you choose the right people to ask for references. A mentor can also help you throughout graduate school by helping you choose the internships and projects that will have the most positive impact not only on your career but also on your graduate school experience, they can be a shoulder to lean on when you need to vent about the stresses of school, provide advice on how to deal with difficult situations and help by providing you with perspective that all of your dedication and hard work will be worth it in the end. A mentor can also help you network by giving you tips and introducing you to people in your industry. Networking is a crucial step in finding the post-graduation job that is the right fit for you. They can also provide you with interviewing tips for the industry you are hoping to get a job in and possibly even help you land interviews. Choose the right mentor and you’ll have the benefit of their experience and knowledge at your fingertips as well as a shoulder to lean on through a time that will likely be stressful.
There are a number of ways you can find a mentor. Some ways are to ask people that you know if they could recommend anyone, seek out alumni from the university you are hoping to attend or you could find a mentor through a formal mentoring organization, such as StudentMentor.org. A mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be someone who is local to you. Look for someone who has insight into your graduate program of choice, university of choice, target career or all three. Choose someone who is a good personality fit for you and has a passion for mentoring. If the person is not local to you, email, phone and programs like Skype will still enable you to have a beneficial and fulfilling mentor-mentee relationship with them.