When candidates and their families begin evaluating schools, they often focus on a wide range of criteria. Of course, people want to send their children to an institution where they’ll receive a high-quality education. They also want to ensure it’s a positive and encouraging culture filled with opportunities to explore interests, make new friends, and feel accepted.
As an admissions and marketing professional, you focus on providing the best and most accurate representation of your school and ensure prospective families feel welcomed on your campus. But while you manage your school website, try to increase inquiries, applications, and ultimately enrollment, sharing the thoughts and experiences of current students is just as essential. In some cases, the perspective that students provide is more convincing than any SEO or PPC campaign you can conjure.
Student ambassadors can be a powerful asset to your school, and crucial in helping you increase student enrollment. Here’s what you need to know about creating an admission ambassador program, how to ramp up your current program, and how it will benefit your institution:
What are admissions ambassadors?
An admissions ambassador is a student (or parent!) chosen to represent your school to prospective students and their families throughout the admissions process. As a student ambassador, these pupils act as liaisons between the school staff and current student body, and those considering attending.
Ambassadors often help in a variety of efforts — such as calling or emailing candidates, assisting with campus tours, offering Q&As with candidates and their families, and staying in touch with newly admitted students throughout the enrollment process. They’re often present during open houses, campus tours, and orientation events. Additionally, candidates may partner with an ambassador during shadow days.
What are the benefits of an admissions ambassador program?
Developing a student ambassador program will provide numerous benefits to help your school reach its admissions and enrollment goals. Here are three things a well-designed program can do:
1. Build trust
Ambassadors add a layer of authenticity to your admission efforts. While staff members are seen as authority figures, students often see ambassadors as peers and equals. They may feel more comfortable asking them pointed questions about day-to-day campus experiences.
2. Foster relationships
These representatives provide candidates and their families a window into the reality of your school. By opening up your program to students from various backgrounds and with various strengths, you can make sure your entire student body is represented. Their honesty and unscripted viewpoints will help prospective students (and their parents) feel more connected to your institution. Additionally, they can act as another personal point of contact.
3. Provide leadership opportunities for exceptional students
Acting as a student ambassador offers students a chance to grow their leadership and communication skills, and inspire other students to take a more active role in representing the school. Eager prospective students might also be interested in joining the program. This offers yet another incentive for students to apply to your institution. It can also add value to your current students’ experience.
While it can take time to build your program, it’s often well worth the effort and can drive fast and measurable results.
Bishop O’Dowd Catholic College-Preparatory High School, in Oakland, CA, launched a successful student ambassador program, and with nearly 400 volunteers, or as Moiré Bruin, director of admissions recruitment and outreach admirably calls them, "dragons."
"Our Ambassador Program has been transformative for the campus culture itself," Bruin said in a Q&A on building an impactful ambassador program.
"When a hundred ambassadors are telling their own story and really thinking about what their story is, it engages them more within the community...they’re looking at things from a positive perspective and with the thought of 'I want to be able to capture this' or 'I want to be able to share this with people visiting.' So I think it has made a huge shift in our campus and created a culture of positivity and a willingness in students to truly engage."
How to choose student ambassadors to represent your school
Your admissions ambassadors will only be successful with full support from your school, and a great program starts with a clear selection process or goal in mind. Here are several things you should look for when choosing students to represent your school:
1. Positive attitude
Student ambassadors should be friendly and maintain a warm, approachable personality.
2. Extracurricular involvement
Consider students who are already involved in a variety of clubs, sports, volunteering, or other extracurricular activities. This way, they can collectively speak to what your school has to offer.
3. Accepting of others
Make sure the students you choose are committed to your school’s dedication to diversity and inclusion. They should be ready to answer all questions with compassion, patience, and genuine interest.
Ambassadors act as representatives and, as such, should be able to maintain professional composure when the time or event calls for it. But this doesn’t mean they need to be stuffy or bland! Showing their personality and passion for extra-curricular programs, student life, and school culture is a good thing.
5. Communication skills
Student ambassadors don’t necessarily need to be outgoing or extroverted. However, it’s essential that they are comfortable and skilled in one-on-one communication situations.
6. Interest in leadership
Look for students who have expressed an interest in leadership. Or find students who exhibit strong leadership qualities — such as integrity, self-discipline, and the ability to empower others. You can encourage these students to join your student ambassador program as a way to build or strengthen their leadership qualities if you see the potential.
It’s important to mention that while you want to select student ambassadors with strong moral character and positive attributes, you may not want to choose only your “highest performing” students. Choosing ambassadors simply based on their GPA, AP courses, or the number of extracurricular activities involved in will likely not create the strongest program. After all, you want these students to be relatable and represent your entire student body. Ultimately, it’s each student’s unique story, personality, and interests that create a genuine and authentic student ambassador culture.
Furthermore, you’ll want to choose ambassadors from diverse backgrounds. If you have little-to-no diversity within your ambassador group, it may dissuade families from attending — particularly if they don’t feel seen, understood, or welcome. Conversely, a highly inclusive school with a varied student body and student ambassador program will attract families from different backgrounds and help you build an increasingly diverse environment.
Offering experiences with a student ambassador
Once your ambassador program is ready to launch, connecting prospective students and families with ambassadors will be your next step. Campus tours and shadow days are great opportunities for your ambassadors to show families your campus.
Make submitting an inquiry, scheduling a tour, or requesting more information easy with an embedded inquiry form, right on your school website with Finalsite's enrollment management system, SchoolAdmin.
On the Breck School's admission page, parents can register for an open house, a campus tour, information sessions, or even a shadow day using SchoolAdmin's convenient calendar scheduling. With a few clicks, they're off on their enrollment journey!
Additionally, while ambassadors are crucial throughout the admission process these students can also provide value year-round. Not only can they answer questions throughout enrollment and orientation, but they can also assist new students in feeling comfortable on campus. Furthermore, they can play a key role in promoting a positive and caring culture at your school and support your marketing and admission strategy.
As you select and train your admissions ambassadors, remember their greatest value lies in their ability to create genuine connections with prospective students. While it’s important to put parameters in place, don’t restrict your ambassadors to a purely promotional role. These students can and should provide an authentic insight into why your school is the best option for your candidates.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.