Working With Your Alumni Association

Most college students are aware that alumni associations exist, but they might not understand what the associations actually do. Most students know that these organizations head fundraising drives after graduation. However, the breadth of other services they provide may surprise you. Membership in your college's alumni association delivers perks that can help you save money, develop your career, enhance your social life and more.

By aligning yourself with your alma mater, you also increase the value of your education and that of your fellow alumni. Many organizations that rank the quality of colleges in the United States, including U.S. News and World Report, use alumni involvement as a measure of a school's worth. A large, active alumni association automatically increases your school's prestige; this prestige reflects back onto you and your resume.

While it may sound like an oversimplification, the power of networking shouldn't be ignored by anyone, whether a new college graduate or seasoned executive. Making new contacts and nurturing the connections you make is crucial for career development and can potentially have unexpected payoffs in other areas of your life. Your school's alumni organization provides a unique opportunity to foster relationships with people who share your personal or professional interests.

As a member of this organization, you have exclusive access to events and promotions intended for you and your fellow alumni. Because your enrollment fees in the alumni association fund crucial initiatives like scholarships, your school is heavily vested in helping you maximize your involvement. This translates to opportunities to form connections with people you might not otherwise meet, such as those working in different industries or living in other areas. It can also extend a social safety net in a new city or produce introductions to established movers and shakers in your field. Over the long haul, you may even make contacts that benefit your family; if nothing else, your membership will be considered if your children apply to the same college.

One of the most popular alumni association perks is the alumni directory. A well-maintained directory can help you track down old classmates, former professors or the contact information of someone you chatted with at a homecoming cocktail hour. If you're considering joining a new company, the directory may reveal whether any alumni are affiliated with it. Alternatively, you might use this directory to begin your search for new vendors for your business. The numerous ways an up-to-date alumni directory can benefit users are a main reason many alumni maintain their memberships.

You spent your time in school pursuing the degree you needed to begin your career. As you approached graduation, you may have taken advantage of resources offered by a career counseling center, like a job fair or resume building workshop. The support doesn't stop there, though; after graduation, there are innumerable ways your alumni association can help you boost your career growth.

Members of alumni associations are generally eligible for any services a school career center might offer, and they can be accessed at any time. If you are considering changing careers, the same counseling services offered to students can be tailored to fit your new needs. Resume review services, mock interviews and personalized coaching can help you prepare for the process of changing jobs. Services for alumni are often provided free of charge.

It's a safe assumption that association members are fans of the school. It stands to reason that these individuals hold fellow alumni in high esteem, which can come in handy when looking for a new career or searching for a new employee. Membership in your school's alumni association provides opportunities to connect with hiring managers and job-seekers. Many schools have created a direct pathway for this purpose; for example, the University of Michigan has created the #umalumjobs hashtag for easy identification. Alumni, therefore, may receive early access to job listings, which can put them at an advantage in the competitive job market.

Considering a career change? Your alma mater is a great place to explore your options. A career coach can assess your marketability, identify new industries where your skills are useful and get you up to speed on current hiring trends. If you want to brush up on older skills or explore new ones more deeply, your membership may allow you to audit courses on campus or take continuing education classes for little or no cost.

Perhaps you're thinking of pursuing a graduate-level degree to advance in your current career. Most schools offer a discount to students who earned an undergraduate degree with them, and membership in an alumni association can further reduce the price. Stanford, for example, offers its alumni deeply discounted executive education courses. If admission requirements for graduate school in your field include an exam like the GRE or LSAT, association members often have access to discounted or free training materials, exam preparation classes or tutoring.

As college graduates begin their adult lives, taking on greater financial responsibilities is expected. Membership in your alma mater's alumni association can put a sizable dent in these expenses. College credit unions, a popular choice for undergraduates unfamiliar with commercial banking, deliver significant value after college. Such credit unions usually offer mortgage and auto loans at lower interest rates than other entities, besides charging lower fees. University-branded credit cards may also be competitively priced for alumni.

Alumni associations usually include insurance plans in their benefits packages. Enrolling in the association's plans may be a viable option if you're still searching for your first job, considering changing jobs or attending grad school full-time; it may also be a better choice for you than what is already available. Group health insurance plans provide comprehensive coverage and can be more affordable than single-payer plans. It's not uncommon for alumni associations to offer discounted automotive, pet, property and life insurance policies, or to insure against disability or long-term care needs.

Many alumni associations offer members the opportunity to participate in fully-coordinated, domestic and international trips that range from a few days to a few weeks in length. Faculty members serve as instructional guides, but you're free to branch out on your own if you like. Most schools that organize trips for their alumni require membership in the alumni association in order to participate; as an added incentive, some schools offer discounted prices to its members. These trips appeal to all ages and activity levels, and they offer a networking opportunity you won't find anywhere else.

Independent of organized trips, domestic travel may also be available through alumni associations. Many schools own properties throughout the country and regularly allow eligible alumni to use their facilities. For example, the University of Michigan's Camp Michigania-Walloon is a popular destination for the school's alumni; it operates year-round camp retreats for families, children, couples and single adults.

Perhaps the most recognizable figure in college alumni circles is the sports enthusiast. College sports fans are some of the most ardent school supporters, and free or discounted game tickets are popular features of an alumni association membership. College campuses also routinely host cultural events that present theatre, music, dance and other performing arts pieces, and student art is on exhibit year-round at most schools. Alumni often receive free or discounted admission to these events.

Access to campus buildings is also a fringe benefit for alumni association members. Many schools, especially those with well-developed sports programs, have state-of-the-art exercise facilities, and association membership often gives you the opportunity to use the fitness centers at a discounted price. Those with alumni association member status may also use their schools' libraries and research materials.

Standard benefits of alumni association memberships also include discounts on apparel and other bookstore purchases, access to campus dining facilities, parking passes and golf club memberships. Many schools also allow members to rent spaces on campus for personal events like weddings, or to use conference space for business purposes.

Off campus, some alumni associations partner with local entities to offer discounted products and services. These benefits vary from school to school, but they commonly include items like:

  • Discounted admission to museums, theaters and local points of interest
  • Member rates on rental cars, lodging, flights and other travel expenses
  • Alumni discounts at local retailers and restaurants
  • Purchase incentives at local businesses, like the auto dealership that gifts a free car to a lucky member of the University of Maryland alumni association
  • Discounted pricing on moving services

Alumni association memberships offer a wealth of benefits. And while the costs may seem high at first blush, consider how much you stand to receive in return for your investment: immediate and long-term financial benefits can save you cash, while you have the chance to develop priceless personal relationships. Many alumni association members also appreciate the ability to give something back to the school that was a stepping stone to bigger and better things; along with membership fees and financial gifts, these alumni often enjoy volunteering on campus and mentoring students.