Admissions professionals: How’s your student ambassador program going?

Student ambassadors – those active, enthusiastic members of your student body who make ideal representatives of your school – can be highly effective partners in your recruitment efforts. 

But what’s the best way to channel their enthusiasm? What does a successful student ambassador program look like in the 21st century?

Let’s explore the basics and one exciting tool that can help you streamline your current ambassador program or jumpstart a brand new one: Unibuddy.

Student Ambassador Program Basics

Here are the basics.

Why Student Ambassador Programs Work

Some prospective students are eager to attend your school based on the official information you provide. 

Your school offers the programs, athletics, clubs, etc., that they’re looking for. Maybe it’s not too far from home. The financial aid package is great. That’s good enough for them.

But many students want the unofficial story. They want to get an authentic perspective from actual students who can offer details from their personal experience that administrators can’t.

They understand that student ambassadors are positively biased, with an “official” role to represent the school well, but that’s okay. They’re not looking for dirt. Just perspective.

Ambassadors help prospects imagine themselves on campus. They build trust and help foster the prospect’s relationship with admission counselors. That’s what makes them so valuable.

Who Student Ambassadors Are

The ideal ambassador is a student who:

  • Is active in athletics, student organizations, study abroad programs and other opportunities prospects might be interested in.
  • Has experienced support from faculty and/or staff that has helped them grow academically, socially, emotionally, etc.
  • Has strong leadership qualities such as communication skills, infectious enthusiasm, an inclusive spirit, and an interest in service.
  • Shows professionalism in their approach to work, volunteering and academics, demonstrating determination to meet goals.

They’re not necessarily top athletes, straight-A students or your student body president. Ambassadors can be “average” students; in fact, they’re more relatable if they are. 

They only have to be motivated to connect with incoming freshmen and transfer students and willing to step into the role of a friendly guide.

It’s also a good idea to get as much diversity in your pool of student ambassadors as possible to represent the diversity of your student body. Any prospective student should be able to find an ambassador who looks like them (in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, etc.).

What a Student Ambassador Does

Ambassadors are like volunteer support staff for your admissions department. You can assign all sorts of tasks to them:

  • Writing blog posts and posting content on social media.
  • Contacting prospects by text or email (not so much making calls anymore).
  • Leading or co-facilitating campus tours and other events.
  • Participating in a Q&A panel for prospects and their families.
  • Nurturing leads by keeping in touch with applicants throughout the enrollment process.
  • Hosting an applicant on a shadow day.

This is why student ambassadors are not only effective for relationship building, they can offer practical help to keep all your plates spinning!

How to Train Student Ambassadors

It’s important for your ambassadors to understand the concept of your school’s brand. They need to understand that their goal is to convey that brand.

Authenticity is good. It just needs a little direction.

Student ambassadors need to bring more than knowledge of their own experiences into their interactions with prospects; they also need to understand how those experiences represent your school’s unique benefits.

Read more about training student ambassadors here.

The Modern Student Ambassador Program: Introducing Unibuddy

I’ve written before about training your ambassadors to utilize digital platforms to connect with prospects. I’d like to introduce you to another tool built specifically to support student ambassador programs that I think you’ll find impressive. It’s called Unibuddy.

The Unibuddy platform is designed to facilitate connection between prospects and student ambassadors at all types of schools, from small institutions (private colleges and community colleges) to specialty schools (medical, business, arts, etc.) and departments within large university systems.

I believe any admissions team can benefit from this. Here are some of the highlights.

Unibuddy Brings Every Student Ambassador Function Together

From what I’ve seen, Unibuddy has left no stone unturned when it comes to facilitating every step of the prospect-ambassador relationship virtually.

Discovery

With a simple snippet of code, Unibuddy can enable the chat function asking the visitor if they want to connect with a student ambassador to be prominently displayed on your website.

The visitor is then able to select from filters to help them choose an ambassador, or “Unibuddy.” These filters might include:

  • Area of study
  • Student life activity
  • Athletics
  • Nationality
  • Other custom filters

The prospect can look over an ambassador’s profile before filling out a request to chat form. (This form can be integrated with Slate CRM for automatic lead capture.)

As a result of this automated process with no staff referral process required, the ambassador receives the request and can respond according to the prospect’s communication preference.

Unibuddy - desktop view

Unibuddy - mobile view

Outreach

Unibuddy also gives ambassadors a platform to post blog and vlog content, which they can then share on your school’s website and on social media.

The content is connected with the author, so a prospect consuming the content can follow a link to request to chat with the ambassador.

By the way, this is a great way to connect with today’s traditional students. Gen Z has grown up with YouTube and the direct access to content creators it gives them. 

Content is connection, especially video content. The idea of connecting with student ambassadors via content like this isn’t novel for your prospects. It’s practically innate.

Events

Within the Unibuddy platform, you can convert just about any in-person, on-campus event into an online format that’s really superior to a basic webinar.

Your student ambassadors can use it to conduct or participate in virtual campus tours, open houses, live Q&A sessions, shadow days. You name it, you can stream it.

This module also supports multiple streams at once to mimic the experience of a family visit day or new student orientation. There might be a “main stage” stream featuring a presentation from the president, for example, while your ambassadors occupy other virtual “rooms.” 

These “rooms” allow you to add a degree of personalization to the event, offering sessions beyond what you might offer at an offline event.

Nurturing

The Unibuddy app provides the ambassador with suggestions for engaging with prospects as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

Admission counselors have access to the platform as well. If the ambassador doesn’t know the answer to a question, they can toss it to your team to step in.

The platform will even notify you automatically if the ambassador takes too long to respond to a query so you can keep up engagement. (And check in with your ambassador.)

Enrollment

From the beginning, admissions staff and student ambassadors work together within the platform to nurture leads and guide applicants through the enrollment process. 

You can even set up the platform to allow prospects to interact and chat with staff the same way they do with ambassadors.

Since some may prefer to connect with staff first, you can set up the initial chat box to ask, “Who would you like to speak with?” The visitor can select “staff” or “student.”

With both ambassadors and staff available through the same platform, the prospect can have a seamless experience. They use the same chat function to connect with students that they do to get help with the more technical aspects of the enrollment process down the line.

Other Reasons to Love Unibuddy

In addition to a dynamic platform that can manage every aspect of your student ambassador program, there are more reasons I’m a fan.

Partnerships Extend Your Reach

Unibuddy partners with third party organizations to connect your ambassadors with prospective students who may not have even heard about your school yet.

One of these partnerships is with Study in the USA, an organization that provides helpful information for students interested in going to college in the U.S.

There’s a prominent “Chat!” option in the top menu on both the desktop and mobile versions of the site that connects visitors with Unibuddy partner schools.

As a partner, ambassadors from your school would be available to chat if the user’s filter selection (e.g. region, desired major) matches your school. This is a really neat way to be discovered by prospective international students – through your ambassadors first.

Training

Unibuddy partners get ambassador training support from their customer success team so you’re not on your own.

This kind of support is useful for any school moving an existing ambassador program to the platform, and a fantastic benefit for schools getting a brand new one off the ground.

This is a big part of why I’m confident in recommending Unibuddy to my clients. I know they’ll be taken care of.

Return on Investment

Here are some of the impressive aggregate stats from partner data Unibuddy shared with me:

  • 15% of all visitors go on to “sign up” (request to chat) – a strong conversion rate.
  • Schools have reported 1,000s of new leads from 100+ different countries.
  • 67% of Unibuddy users deposited.
  • 63% of admitted students that used Unibuddy went on to enroll.

There are some impressive case studies on their site you could look at, too.

I won’t get into the details about cost, because I don’t know if the information provided to me will be accurate for your school at the time you read this.

However, I will tell you I was impressed.

Their current pricing structure offers a flat annual rate based on school size, not based on the number of ambassadors on the platform or any other metric, and all services are included. 

I work with many small schools of under 1,000 students. If yours is this size and you’re wondering about cost, think four figures annually, not five. Even as the rate goes up for larger schools (3K, 13K, and so on), I would say cost remains reasonable at all levels.

Let’s talk about launching your student ambassador program – or updating your existing program for the 21st century.

Unibuddy is a strong platform I’m really excited about. 

If you’re interested in a demo, let me know. I’d be delighted to connect you with them.

And of course, if you’d like to broaden the conversation to utilizing other tools to modernize your approach to enrollment marketing and admissions, let’s talk about that, too.


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Featured image by New Africa via Adobe Stock
“Chat to our Students” images used with permission from Unibuddy

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