As a college student, what can your school's alumni association offer you?
Alumni associations provide a variety of services for students after they graduate, but they can also benefit students while they're in school. From money for college, to a welcoming greeting, to the power of networking, school alums can help you throughout college and beyond.
Benefits During College
Alumni associations often have scholarship programs for incoming students. Donations and fund-raisers provide the cash, and awards are typically based on academic performance rather than need. For example, at Xavier University in Ohio, the alumni association runs a collegiate license plate program. For $35, alumni can purchase Ohio plates with the Xavier logo, and $25 of the proceeds fund university scholarships.
Some schools give current students the opportunity to work with the alumni association. At Xavier University, current students participate in alumni event-planning. "They learn how to work with alumni and they have their own fund-raising events," says Joan Thompson, coordinator of Xavier's National Alumni Association. "They are trained to get skills and hopefully transition into leadership in one of the chapter associations when they graduate," she says.
Orientation for Freshmen
Before the school year begins, regional chapters often host get-togethers for incoming freshmen and their families from the area. "It gives students the opportunity to meet each other," says Sarah Weeks, a program director for the University of Tennessee Alumni Association. "They can organize carpools or just have someone from home to touch base with on campus," she says.
Early Career Networking
Students can get a jump-start on job-hunting by contacting alumni around the country. Campus career centers and alumni association offices usually keep lists of alumni, detailing where they live and what they do. Alumni can also help students find internships or part-time jobs during school or after graduation.
Benefits After College
"One of the main benefits is career contacts in all different states," Weeks says. Alumni associations can usually supply a list of alumni (often free) according to location, graduation year or profession. The alumni connection can often provide the "in" you need for job and career assistance.
Many alumni associations cut deals to save members money - and provide a "kick-back" to the school. For example, members of the Stanford University alumni association get discounts at both Avis and Alamo, as well as thousands of hotels worldwide. Another perk is the college credit card. Typically, the cards come with a low introductory annual percentage rate, and sometimes give a percentage of purchases back to the alumni association. Many associations also offer group insurance programs.
Keeping in Touch
Alumni associations are great for helping alumni stay tuned in to the happenings back at school and with other alumni. Some schools like Xavier give their alumni free e-mail accounts for life. "It allows us to follow them after they graduate," Thompson says. Most schools publish college magazines and alumni directories.
Even if graduation's years off, you should to take advantage of all your school's alumni association has to offer. Check out what the association at your school - or prospective school - has in store for you.