“Thank you so much for all your advice! You were a great ambassador!”
I received that text message after my ambassador meeting with Melissa Garcia, a student from Los Angeles, visiting Albion through the fly-in program. I smiled at my phone for five minutes because I couldn’t believe I actually made an impact on someone.That was the first time I was ever thanked for giving someone advice.
The Albion Ambassador Program is part of the recruiting process for out-of-state students that come in for fly-ins. The fly-ins are paid by the college. Students are picked up from the airport and dropped off at the college to stay on campus for a few days. The students have overnight hosts that they stay with for their time here. The Ambassador Program is a way for currently enrolled students to help those out-of-state high school students adjust to the possibility of attending a college so far away from home.
“The main goal of the program is to take that fear and tension out of a visit for prospective students but also to help show the prospective students a very authentic and genuine campus visit,” says Molly Thompson-Vander Heyden, the program’s founder and Albion’s assistant director of admissions.
The purpose of the fly-ins is to get the students who attend them to really figure out if Albion is the place they want to call home for the next four years. As ambassadors, we try to develop a small relationship with the students in hopes that if they do decide to pick Albion College, they could at least know a familiar face that has been in a similar situation as them.
I received the email informing me that Melissa was going to be the person that I was mentoring for the March fly-in. I was matched with her because we were both interested in being English majors. I connected with Melissa right away. I was able to fill her in on what life is like here on campus as an out-of-state student and gave her as much advice as I could.
I had a very similar experience with Melissa as well as the other students that came in for this past March’s fly-in. I attended a fly-in last year myself while I was a senior in high school. I came all the way from Houston to visit a city I never knew existed. It was a scary and overwhelming experience to have, so I knew how uncomfortable some of these students were. My whole life I wanted to get out of Texas and live somewhere else. I saw college as my chance to go anywhere I wanted. It wasn’t until I visited Albion that I really felt what it was like to be far from home. Visiting campus gave me more to think about especially when deciding where I wanted to continue my education. When I attended my fly-in to Albion, the college had just started the Ambassador Program so I didn’t have that extra mentor with me to give me the kind of advice I needed.
I volunteered to be an ambassador for Albion College because I know what it’s like to be an out-of-state student and I know all the struggles that come with it. I didn’t get to develop a relationship with an ambassador during my fly-in, and that meant I missed out on a lot of advice and information that I could have benefited from.
Going to college in a different state is a difficult thing to do. There are a lot of adjustments and you have to be willing to give something new a try when deciding to leave to a college so far away from home.
“It doesn’t have to be as scary as you make it out to be,” Thompson-Vander Heyden assures.
The last fly-in of the year will occur from April 7 to April 10 and will be the largest group of high school students ever from out-of-state visiting campus from Texas, Tennessee and California.
Photo by Beau Brockett Jr.