By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There is a new trend on college campuses, students volunteering for companies in exchange for references and a mention on their resume. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan tells us about what are being referred to as “Student Ambassador Programs.” They’re popping up at colleges and even high schools across the country.

College sophomore Christi Williams may look like she’s just passing out flyers but she believes she’s building her future in the fashion industry. Christi works as a student ambassador for a start-up fashion site. She doesn’t get a salary or college credit but she says, “I’m learning a ton and I’m definitely gaining a lot of leadership experience, and I’m gaining lots of stuff to put on my resume.” 

Experts say tech companies are flocking to college campuses, recruiting students to help them spread the word about their businesses in exchange for gift cards, t-shirts, and that all important resume building. Higher education consultant Eric Stoller says, “Students have access to places that companies and marketing and marketers don’t have access to. And so, for example, in a residence hall, students can promote things to one another in ways that companies could never do.”

Companies ranging from Nascar and Microsoft to Barnes & Noble are also in on the action. Student ambassadors do everything from handing out flyers to creating Facebook pages and producing YouTube videos.

The majority of students aren’t part of the company payroll. But Christi believes it’s well worth the effort. She says, “I’m growing a lot.  I’m gaining a lot of leadership experience.”

These student ambassadorships aren’t necessarily meant to replace traditional internships and some companies are expanding to include high school students as well. Do they give the students a jump on the competition? Only time will tell.

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