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What is a student ambassador?

man leaving building wearing backpack

More and more universities are utilizing their current students as their best advocates and ambassadors. But what is a student ambassador? And how can they help boost your enrollment?

When you’re booking a holiday or deciding where to go out for dinner, you often go online and read reviews of people who have been there recently.

And when your prospective students are deciding where to study, they want the exact same thing! They want to speak to students who are currently there, studying their degree and living the experience. 

That’s where student ambassadors come in. 

A student ambassador is your on-campus advocate, living the experience right now, who can share that with prospective students considering studying at your institution. 

So, what does a student ambassador do?

A student ambassador is the voice and face of your institution, someone that prospective student inquirers can turn to for information about applying to your school: both the practical, and the experiential. 

They aren’t an inquiry 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. 

The key role of a student ambassador is to engage with inquirers, answer any questions they have around joining your institution, and reassure and guide them in their journey.

They are, in essence, fostering a sense of belonging amongst prospective students, sometimes before they’ve even applied! 

What makes a good ambassador? 

There are plenty of qualities that you are used to looking for in your student ambassadors, but if you’re new to digital student ambassador programs you might be unsure of to be looking for.

Digital ambassadors must be great communicators – but they also need to be digital natives. Being a great communicator online means writing in a clear and concise way, coming across as open and friendly, and maybe even using emojis.

Digital student ambassadors tend to work more independently from other ambassadors or student roles. Whether they are creating content, working on social media, or chatting on an online platform like Unibuddy – a lot of this is done in the student’s own time.

Does it work?

Student ambassadors are enormously influential in the student decision-making process! Research by Unibuddy and Intead found that 57% of college applicants found the input of student ambassadors to be the most helpful part of the application and admissions process. 

At St. John’s University, more than 100 students act as ambassadors, using the Unibuddy platform to connect with applicants and admitted students. 

Speaking to University Business,  Laura Fcasni, an admissions counselor at the university, said: “The last few weeks, students have been asking what online learning looks like for our ambassadors. That is something they anticipate they will experience in the fall.” Plus, 28% of applicants that chat on Unibuddy go on to place a deposit compared to the 16% institution average – showing the significant impact that those interactions have on student confidence. 

Technology and Enhancing Student Ambassador Program

When prospective students want to understand what your higher education institution can offer, many of them will turn to social media platforms to hear from others who have been in their shoes. They’re looking for an authentic and honest assessment of another student’s experience, and Gen Z, in particular, is very good at spotting impersonal marketing. Social media, with its ability to directly connect peer-to-peer, is seen as more trustworthy with 92% of students saying connecting with peers is an important part of their search process.

With Gen Z spending a lot of time online (8 hours a day), reaching them means connecting on social media. However, marketing on platforms like Reddit, BeReal, Instagram or TikTok have their own challenges for your higher ed team, including not being able to control the environment or view metrics on a campaign. With Unibuddy Community, you can not only address the issues above, but also have student ambassadors with valuable lived experience who can connect directly with prospective students and welcome them into the community, easing what is a top concern for Gen Z students–social belonging. Unibuddy Community makes managing marketing easier with trained ambassadors in a safe, digital environment that offers students real-time support for their questions and concerns.

Student Ambassador Programs and Inclusivity

Being able to reach your target audience of prospective students where they are is a formidable challenge, but still only half the battle. Once connected to prospective students, your marketing needs to emotionally resonate with them and they need to be able to see themselves in the content you’re providing, showing that your higher ed institution is the right fit

What does that look like? A diverse and inclusive group of student ambassadors who show your students that they can thrive as a person of color, queer person, person with a disability, international student or whichever part of the identity spectrum they land on.

With Unibuddy Community, prospective students have a chance to start building their community in an accessible way (as not everyone can visit the campus or meet in-person), knowing that when they arrive for their first day, they’re already part of a group.

How to Measure Student Ambassador Program 

Integrating Unibuddy Community or Unibuddy Chat means getting to assess metrics that aren’t available in traditional social media campaigns. Student ambassadors provide a lot of engagement for prospective students, and the conversations that come out of these interactions have a wealth of data for your marketing and recruitment teams.

You can view key themes of student concerns from Unibuddy Chat, and get even more specific by filtering what your target audiences (e.g. STEM students, international students) want or think. With AI Integration, chats can be summarized into 1-3 sentences to give you a quick glance at what issues are trending with students. Further, you can create informative student profiles from this that can be integrated seamlessly with your CRM.

Built-in Unibuddy feedback metrics can also segment your prospective student population by what stage of the funnel they’re in, like marketing, recruitment or admissions, and then tailor messaging to meet their needs where they’re at, so your engagement attempt is less likely to go ignored.

The Future of Student Ambassador Programs

Part of the effectiveness of student ambassador programs is that experienced students have the most current ideas of what is most important to a prospective student, having been recently in their shoes. 

Gen Z is tech-savvy, and particular about the marketing they receive, able to spot inauthenticity from a glance, and their needs in higher education are often focused around wanting assurance that they belong here, they’re welcome and they’ll be set up for success, both academic and personal. With Generation Alpha, however, we’ve yet to learn what it is they’ll respond best to–meaning that marketing techniques will shift over time. 

The technology available to us, including AI, has already changed how higher education institutions recruit. Being able to use AI to summarize Unibuddy Chat content and get a snapshot of what matters to students is just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t know how much further it can take us, and what’s coming next.

Download our free guide to starting your student ambassador program. 

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