Cornell University's Graduate School is discovering the power of student ambassadors. In an article published in the Cornell Chronicle, some of the key players driving this recruitment effort shared their experiences about the new program.
Oftentimes students can gather most of the basic information they need to decide if they're interested in a school from the website and course catalog. After that initial interest is piqued by the engaging courses and beautiful campus, their decision making becomes more critical, and more personal. At Cornell, they're finding that the best person to give a prospective student an idea of what their college lives will be like is a current student. And their enrollment numbers back up that idea.
Student ambassadors are an incredibly powerful recruitment tool. Anitra McCarthy, the Graduate School’s Director of Recruitment, finds that ambassadors can "connect with prospective students by sharing their personal experiences directly and honestly." Prospective students want the "inside scoop," not a canned response about how great a school is. They want to know about a real experience from a real student.
Student ambassadors are an amazing resource beyond the recruitment stage into yield and retention. Ambassadors Katherine Herleman and Aaron Joiner have found that they "often develop ongoing relationships with prospective students and serve as informal mentors," helping prospective student become current students, and making them feel welcome and wanted beyond their initial deposit.
Ambassador programs also help ensure the quality of applicants and enrollees. Barbara A. Knuth, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, said that "recruiting and retaining the most talented and diverse graduate and professional students is critically important to the overall success of our graduate programs.” From the initial inquiry to graduation day and beyond, making students feel not just admitted but accepted and supported increases the caliber of your student, and alumni, population.
And the benefit does not just lie with the prospective students. Ambassadors at Cornell have “the opportunity to have ownership over how the graduate community identifies and cultivates relationships with talented prospective students." Being involved with the process of recruitment, enrollment, and retention leads to a partnership between ambassador and administration that helps create a unique college experience, and successful alumni.