Most people know them as student Ambassadors. Here at Warwick University, the yellow T-shirt clad students ready to sell the University to other prospective students as the place to study are known as the Warwick Welcome Service.
At a time when competition between universities to attract students is so fierce, the role of student Ambassador comes into its own. More and more universities rely on existing students to say why their university has the most to offer, and at Warwick University, we take the role extremely seriously. Selection, interviews, training: we put the students through their paces.
These students give their perspective and that counts for a lot. Anyone can read our prospectus or visit our website, but what do our existing students think? If Ambassadors can sway decisions, then why wouldn’t we value them?
It’s not only Open Days. Warwick run flagship outreach programmes where second year students train to be part of a much wider initiative to address access and social mobility. The students are out there in the community either mentoring, or participating in events and talks, in schools and colleges. We engage our student Ambassadors too on our residential summer school programmes – if we can involve them, we will.
We believe we have a brilliant working relationship with our Ambassadors. For Open Days we employ anywhere up to 160 Ambassadors. The role is flexible, and comparatively well paid. There are Senior Ambassadors too, so there is opportunity for progression. Of course we understand that students are there to study so the role is flexible – do as much or as little as you like, working around your studies.
So what’s in it for them? Aside from the pay, graduates need to be able to stand out in a crowded market place and the role equips them with skills and experience that other more casual jobs may not. It’s about employability. “I enjoy working as a student Ambassador because my job is essentially to talk to people about a place that I really love; it never really feels like work. The role is very flexible because you can work if and when you’re available and often it’s a fun and welcome break from your studies. Through working as a student Ambassador, I’ve improved my confidence and communication skills and had a lot of fun at the same time,” says Mai-Linh Nguyen, Biomedical Science, Year 2.
‘Choosing a university, a place to spend the next three or four years of your life, can be a stressful experience. When I went through the process myself, I felt that all I was getting was university publicity, with no indication of how it actually felt to be a student. That’s why I enjoy working as an Ambassador so much, because now I have the opportunity to help people with this decision and to tell them what university life is really like. Being able to see these young people go from scared to dangerously excited over the course of a single campus tour is massively satisfying. Demystifying university, and helping people to see that it is indeed an option for them, is something I am proud to be able to do,” says Thomas Bray, History (PhD), Year 3.
The investment appears to be high, but the return is excellent. If we get more students enrolling, then they have proved their worth. That is why our application process is challenging – we test their knowledge, their confidence, we throw them curve balls to see how they cope, and we assess them on their ability to listen, to think on their feet and to improvise.
Simon Fairbanks is the University of Warwick’s Events Recruitment Officer.