Hello, Incoming freshmen to University! I know it seems like a scary time, and that you want to find someone to help you through this college experience, as did I when I was in your shoes. So if you don't mind, I would like to give you some advice from the little wisdom I have gained in my college experience so you can find someone to help you through college and beyond!
In all honestly you are most likely going to want more than one person to help you navigate college, but there are basically two types of people you should look for, a mentor and a sponsor. A mentor for you might be a teaching assistant (TA) or professor you like, or one you like talking to and want to learn more from outside of a classroom. A sponsor can also be a TA or professor, and it is okay to like them, but you are more interested in their work, being able to get experience, skills, and the ability to apply knowledge with them. It is nice to have more than one person on your team and mentors and sponsors can help you in different ways!
Why would you want to find a mentor or a sponsor? Basically, they are good references because they have seen you in action and can vouch for you and help you find the knowledge and experience you will need to push yourself forward. A sponsor is going to be a person who helps you find and gives you opportunities, such as a chance to work in their lab. They love to help you, as it often helps them. They are great because they see you perform and come through for them by doing good work, so in the future when you need a good word or need a place or skill to do what you want; they are likely the person you will want to turn to. Mentors, on the other hand, might not be able to give you opportunities, but they will be good for gaining knowledge and for advice. If you need to know what to do for your major or what to do even after college, a mentor is a great person to talk to. Mentors will be thinking about what is best for you. While sponsors are great, they are somewhat like a boss. They have an interest in you because you are connected to them. Mentors, on the other hand, should be interested because they like you, and want to help you. This way they can give more honest thoughts on what they think you should do for your benefit.
Now the big question and the hardest is how do you find these mentors and sponsors? This is a hard and simple answer. As mentioned above look for people who fit the description of mentors and sponsors, like professors, TAs, and more who can help you. I would say one of the things you should truly look for is connections with people. Such as professors in fields you want to be in, doing what you want to do, and who you like as a person and as a professional. Then talk to these people!
It may sound stressful, but truly being honest and just saying you are interested can lead you to some great mentors and sponsors! If you are looking for more a mentor personality, I would suggest asking this person about their life and how they learned things and then mentioning what you were wanting to do and how that is similar or different than what they are doing. Then towards the end of your talk just asks if they had any advice for you. A sponsor, I find focusing more on what you would like to do for them is useful, because usually, you want to work with this person in some capacity. Mention why you are interested and what you might be able to do to help because you are interested in this field. It shows them what you are willing to be helpful while learning from them.
Hopefully, this will help guide you towards the mentors and sponsors in your life! Look for people who can help you and take the time to have a chat with them. It is an opportunity for you to find someone to guide and help you to learn and have a great experience at college. Good Luck!