How to Run a Student Ambassador Program: 7 Keys to Success
The key to making peer-to-peer a success are the student ambassadors that represent your institution. Your ideal student ambassador team will be passionate, proactive and fun – but finding the right people, training them, and keeping them happy can be a challenge.
You may be completely new to the ambassador game. You might have some students you use for campus tours, but no regimented ambassador program. Maybe you already have a structured ambassador program, but are looking to turn it virtual for the first time. Whatever your case may be, we have some key points to help you develop and run a successful student ambassador program.
What is a student ambassador?
A student ambassador is the voice and face of your institution, someone that prospective student enquirers can turn to for information about applying to your school: both the practical, and the experiential.
They aren’t an enquiry hotline or a chatbot. They might not be able to tell you the visa requirements at the drop of a hat – but they can tell you what it’s like to be a South American student studying in New York, or where the best place to eat is near the dorm rooms. Or a top tip for getting free pizza during orientation.
Student ambassadors are a direct representation of your school, so it’s important to choose these students wisely and have a developed ambassador program to uphold standards.
Here is how you can run a successful student ambassador program
While it may seem overwhelming to develop a student ambassador program, Unibuddy is here to help! We have worked with over 400 ambassador programs at colleges and universities around the world – and we’ve learned a lot. For example, we know that the average ambassador program consists of 81 student ambassadors, and at an average university 70% of student ambassadors will be undergraduate. 78% of schools recruit their student ambassadors to work both in-person and digitally – while 22% recruit digital ambassadors only.
We’ve taken all those lessons about what works, and compiled them into our brand new guide: Getting Started with Ambassadors. Whether you’re putting together your first ambassador team, or just want some ideas to make your existing program more successful – here are some of the ideas that we have found to be the most successful.
1. Create a student ambassador rubric
Do you know what you’re looking for when it comes to the perfect student ambassador?
It will depend on whether you are recruiting digital ambassadors, in-person ambassadors, or student ambassadors who will do a bit of both.
But in any case, it’s important to assess potential student ambassadors against a rubric of key skills and qualities they should possess.
For example, you could consider an interview stage where you act out a scenario as a prospective student. Or, you might ask them to submit a written answer to a common question.
2. Ensure ambassador diversity
When choosing your ambassadors, we recommend selecting a broad range of passionate and proactive students from across the university.
Language, course, nationality, hobbies – all of these can influence a prospect and encourage them to start a conversation. Ultimately, prospects are looking for someone they have something in common with, so the broader the range, the better.
The overall ambassador total will depend on how many different courses you have, how many key audiences you are looking to engage with and whether you cover all levels of study. Remember though, quality is just as important as quantity.
Ambassadors who are proactive and confident will excel, and make a real impact on the prospect journey. If you do not have a large, diverse group of ambassadors when you launch your platform, that’s not a problem.
You can always start with a smaller number (around 10-15) of really good, well-trained students, and scale from there. However, be prepared to increase your ambassador count as soon as traffic increases.
3. Host a student ambassador training day
Host your very own student ambassador training day on campus or remotely. Like any other training day, this is a way to prepare your future student ambassadors for the expectations of their role and support them with the materials they need to succeed.
You could start off by dividing everyone into small groups and perform ice-breakers or creative get-to-know you games that help ease tension and well, break the ice.
This will provide more opportunities for the ambassadors to interact with one another, allowing the ambassadors to get to know each other a little better.From there, you can ease into the logistics of how to be a great ambassador, from the important information they need to know regarding the school, topics to avoid, who to report to, how to respond to a question you’re not certain of, etc.
Student ambassador training will ensure that everyone is on the same page and that clear guidelines and expectations are in place.
4. Reward good work!
The job of an ambassador is tremendously rewarding. Nothing is better than seeing a nervous, uncertain prospect leave as a confident and reassured future student. But good work is often unsupervised: out on a tour or in a private conversation.
So when an ambassador gives an amazing answer to a difficult question, a university supervisor will often have no way of knowing. Sharing visitor feedback with ambassadors is a great way to show that you recognize their good work.
When working on your own all day, it’s difficult to see the impact of your work on the wider picture. Even some positive feedback on the impact they are making goes a long way.
By sharing some top-level statistics with the student ambassadors, they can start to understand and see the impact they’re having. You could try sharing weekly or monthly statistics on how many conversations have been had overall.
Or, if you can, how many of the students they spoke to accepted their offer.
5. Performance Metrics and Evaluation
Let student ambassadors in on the inside game, and help them have an understanding of what the goals of recruitment are, how to achieve them and how well they’re currently doing. No one wants to work in a vacuum, completing tasks with no idea of how well they’re performing.
Performance metrics can be motivating to ambassadors, and you can let them know how they’ll be evaluated. This can look like sharing the number of tours that need to be hosted, the amount of prospective students that have been engaged by their service, the kind and quality of feedback received, or even the amount of positive interactions that occurred because of them.
Unibuddy even has a way to measure conversational metrics from Unibuddy Chat, as we’ve integrated OpenAI with our service so that you can get a synopsis on the chats without having to comb through the entire interaction. This is a great way to see how conversations trend, and sharing that data during feedback can help ambassadors tailor their approach to improve or continue doing great work.
6. Feedback and Two Way Listening
In addition to looking at your metrics to see if you’re meeting your recruitment goals, it’s important to hear from your student ambassadors who are on the ground-level making a lot of connections to prospective students.
Making sure that your student ambassadors are happy and informed is key to performing well and getting those warm connections happening between your school and incoming students. Give your ambassadors space to share with each other and with you; they have a lot of valuable feedback about the program and even ideas of how to improve. Ambassadors can chat together on how they all handle the challenges that come with the program, and you can get insight on what kind of support they need to thrive in their role.
Checking in with your ambassadors ensures that the program is running well, and gives them a chance to discuss issues they’ve encountered, and lets you update them on how their performance is and what goals they’re helping your teams meet. Providing recognition for a service well done shouldn’t be underestimated either.
7. Implement a Mentorship Program
Creating a mentorship program can provide important training and incentives for all levels of your student ambassador program. Long-term, you’ll be setting up a program that allows students to grow, take on more responsibility and build a portfolio and resume as they hone necessary student ambassador leadership skills. It gives students a chance to become recognized in the ambassador program, and have something worth striving for.
Matching a seasoned ambassador with new recruits to the program lets ambassadors have a go-to person. When a new ambassador is stuck in their interactions, or experiencing a frequent challenge, or can’t answer a question that keeps coming up, they can take these concerns to an experienced ambassador who can walk through their process, and essentially guide the new ambassador to success with prospective students.
Starting a student ambassador program with Unibuddy
If you’re feeling like you still need a bit more help in starting your student ambassador program, have no fear. Unibuddy has a free guide that covers it all, and these are just four ideas of the many that are featured in our jam-packed guide to student ambassadors.
Unibuddy highlights ideas for training ambassadors, from making sure they are empowered with the right knowledge, to giving them the skills to effectively use any digital tools they might encounter. In addition, our guide will help identify the key qualities to look for within your student ambassador search.
Starting a student ambassador program or even establishing new student recruitment strategies can be intimidating. But we are here to help! The Unibuddy platform offers an easy-to-use platform that reimagines the entire student recruitment process. By enabling chat between prospective and current students, and easily hosting virtual events, Unibuddy enhances the student experience and improves conversion at every stage of the student journey.