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Student mentoring

With Downing College, University of Cambridge

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Introduction

Downing College is one of the 31 colleges that are part of the University of Cambridge and one of the many Oxbridge colleges that use The Ambassador Platform to reach students from widening participation backgrounds digitally and provide them with an authentic insight into what it's like to be studying at University of Cambridge. 

They decided to run their mentoring program online and enable year 12 and year 13 students from different link areas to get support pre and post-application as well as to share general tips and advice about studying at the University of Cambridge. The team at Downing College thought that there is no better way to run this project than by working with their ambassadors and The Ambassador Platform provided the ideal set up for them to run this program in a safeguarded environment digitally. 

The challenge

The college was keen to find a way to keep the students they were working with engaged with their ambassadors throughout the year and for them, having the mentoring program as a continuation of their online and in-person residentials seemed like the ideal solution. The challenge they faced was to find a way to keep their mentees in touch with the ambassadors throughout the year and The Ambassador Platform was chosen for this purpose. However, the team at Downing College did a fantastic job embedding the platform and its different features in their residentials which enabled them to see the continuous engagement on the platform once the mentoring scheme was launched. 

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Easy Ambassador onboarding

The admin team created a separate Feed that was hidden from the public and was advertised only to a dedicated audience who took part in this program. Some of their ambassadors were already trained and active on their public-facing Feed, so it was really easy for them to set up a second account for the mentoring program.

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1-2-1 and group conversations

The platform offered the ideal setup for the mentoring program as it allowed the mentees to reach out to their mentors to ask for guidance and feedback for their application. They could also participate in group conversations and stay in touch with the other students who were part of the program. 

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Safeguarding by design

Our ‘safeguarding by design’, including automatic keyword detection and conversation flagging, offers a safe space for messages to be exchanged on the platform.

How is the program run?

The mentoring programme was set up after the Summer Residentials where the mentors were initially introduced to the mentees. The Ambassador Platform was used both during the online event as well as during the in person sessions and provided a great digital environment for the prospective students to meet the ambassadors and stay in touch with them. 

The Summer Residentials played a key part in this project as they enabled students to meet the ambassadors and interact with them both in person and virtually. The admin team have done a fantastic job setting up private group chats for the online Residential where participants could ask questions and this really helped them bond. After the virtual residential, the students had to work on a project which provided a great incentive for them to reach out to the ambassadors with questions and this helped them stay in touch until they met in person during the second residential. 

The second phase of this project was after the residentials, when the team matched the students with an ambassador they met before or had something in common with and put them in touch via email using a link to the ambassador’s profile. 

Lastly, the mentoring program was officially launched online in September and each mentee had to set goals and make a plan to achieve them with the help of their mentor. The ambassadors went above and beyond to provide support and share their experiences and advice with their mentees. Some of the topics that came up in their conversations were about: Tips, Applications, Courses, Social life, Entry requirements, Learning Experience, Accommodation, How to apply for scholarships and much more. 

 

The impact

Downing College has already been seeing the huge impact of working with digital ambassadors on The Ambassador Platform:

  • The mentoring program involved 125 year 12 and year 13 students and 14 mentors. Out of 121 students, 60% of them have a heat score above 20, meaning that they are highly engaged in their conversations with their mentors.
  • From September until December 2021, the mentors and mentees had 59 conversations and have exchanged almost 1,400 messages.
  • On top of structuring the program incredibly well and keeping both the ambassadors and the mentees engaged on The Ambassador Platform, the admin team at Downing College has also done a fantastic job at embedding group chats in the activities run as part of the Residentials.

"One thing that was interesting was that when we asked the participants for feedback after the residentials, some of the students said that they wouldn’t have considered joining the in-person residential had it not been possible for them to take part in the online event."

Katriona Budenberg
Access and Widening Participation Manager
Downing College, Cambridge

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