Made up of some 40 enthusiastic current students from across varied year groups and subject areas who have a shared interest in widening access to the College, Wadham’s student ambassadors provide an excellent source of first-hand information about making applications, the admissions process and studying at Oxford University.
Twice a year volunteer ambassadors undergo thorough training to prepare them for visiting schools and colleges.
Access and Outreach Officer Emily Cannon describes the purpose and content of the training. “Firstly we ensure our ambassadors understand why access is important to Wadham – the importance of our student population reflecting wider society and the necessity to have a diversity of perspectives in the academic world. We offer advice, guidance, and reassurance to students from all backgrounds, many of whom belong to groups that are underrepresented at university level, for example young people from low income backgrounds, those who have been in care, students from black and minority ethnic groups, and disabled people.”
The training also focusses on the individual qualities that student ambassadors need, such as friendliness, empathy and a sense of humour as well as the need to give an honest insight into university life and provide support and guidance to school students.
“Ambassador training is vital because you can never predict what school students might ask” said Emily. “Ambassadors need to be up to date with the admissions process and able to answer questions about such issues as application deadlines, how the college system works, student finance and how and when you repay student loans. Most importantly, they need to give an honest insight into what studying at university – and Oxford – is like so that the young people that we work with can make informed choices about their futures.”
How to choose your subject and university, understanding the difference between school and university and the university workload are all questions which regularly come up for student ambassadors. School student concerns about the cost of higher education, getting the necessary grades and fears about moving away from home and fitting in are also common.
From acting as tour guides on open days to delivering presentations to schools about their experience of life at Oxford, the role of a Wadham ambassador is varied and interesting.
Two days after their training some of Wadham’s newest ambassadors are leading school groups around College. “It’s fun, and I’ve had lots of great questions from the schools,” said one ambassador. “Mostly they want to know what my experience of Oxford has been like, what the social life is like and how hard you have to work. I went to a state school and I understand why you would want to know that you’d find people like yourself here.”