Before you are ready to graduate from college, you probably don’t think about the alumni association at your college. Even then, it could be an afterthought during the excitement of graduation. Yet this group can provide contacts, mentorship, and opportunities to benefit your whole career and life. Choosing a college with a strong and active alumni network can be life-changing, depending on your major and life goals. Colleges with the best alumni networks can help you as you transition into your career with job offers, help finding an apartment, and so much more

As you pick where to enroll for your college degree, consider whether the alumni networks at colleges on your “possible” list will help you with your future life. Even though the alumni associations in colleges may not be on your radar yet, we think it is a factor that can make a difference for many students.

We know you have unique priorities and needs for your education. That is why we bring you articles and resources to make your college enrollment journey more manageable and smoother, with ideas that can help you sort through your options and make the best choice for your future.

Though the benefits of a strong alumni network primarily help you once you graduate from college, there are many ways that your college’s alum association can help you while you are a student. Here are a few:

  • Campus Activities: As a student, you can participate in college alumni association activities, from dances and parties to sports teams and singing groups. Colleges often rely on alumni donations to help sponsor some of the most popular student events and programs.
  • Community: Some colleges have student alumni associations where you can interact with and get to know alumni. These slightly older–or even much older–members of your college’s community, alumni can give you guidance and fellowship that helps you feel more at home on campus. As part of this, there may be opportunities for mentorship by an alum–whether formal or informal–that can help you be more successful in school. 
  • Mentoring: Formal mentoring programs can be especially helpful for first-generation college students, as they may have few role models in their families or communities to help them adjust to and excel at college. Alumni love to help students like themselves succeed, and it can be extraordinarily beneficial if you are struggling in college or your major. Mentoring programs are some of the most popular alumni association activities in colleges. 
  • Internships: For many subjects, getting an internship before you graduate is almost a requirement for getting a job. Computer science and business are two majors where internships can be invaluable, but psychology, health sciences, and criminal justice majors also commonly perform internships during school. And for any major, internships during college can help you figure out what classes to take next, gain industry experience, and meet potential future employers. Alumni are some of the best resources to help you find an internship in your area of interest. 
  • Bringing Expertise to Campus: Alumni often visit classes and events for students pursuing degrees in their industry. Alumni speakers bring real-world experience to campus to help students understand and prepare for the professions they hope to enter when they graduate. While professors know tons about their subjects, they need to see the conditions in the work world as directly as an alum from the field.

Put very simply; an alumni association is an organization for graduates of a specific college. It is usually run from campus and helps keep graduates in touch with the college. Some colleges with the best alumni networks require you to formally join the organization when you graduate and possibly pay dues. But most alumni associations colleges, and universities have offered you automatic membership as a graduate of the institution. Interestingly, some famous and successful artists and athletes may not have finished their degrees but still feel very close to their alma mater, so they are active members of the alum association. But for most people, life success is easier with a degree–so don’t think dropping out will make you famous! Instead, complete your degree, possibly with support from the student alumni association, and wait for your chance to join with your degree in hand.

Being involved with your alumni association in college can be great, but the real fun–and help–begins after you graduate. At every stage of the rest of your life, involvement with the alumni network from your university can have measurable benefits to you, the college, and the current students at the institution. But being an alum isn’t just about contributing money to your school, although that is a critical way to support the institution when you have become established in your life and career. Getting involved in the alumni association colleges and universities can boost your career, change your trajectory, and give you a professional network even before you enter your profession.

  • Job Opportunities: This is one of the first and best uses for the alumni network—finding a job. It’s no secret that people like to hire people like themselves, and alumni are predisposed to consider hiring you. Even if they don’t have a job open at their company, they may know other positions in the industry and help connect you to their contacts to apply. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know!”
  • Real Estate: Alumni networks and bulletin boards are some of the best places to find great apartment rentals and sublets. When you are just starting out, this can be invaluable, as it can be tough to find a place in a new city–especially one you can afford.
  • Community: Even if you don’t have close friends in the alumni network, the ”weak ties” of acquaintance give you enormous psychological and career benefits. You are more likely to find jobs through your outer circle of friends, and casual and infrequent social engagements can benefit your emotional health.
  • Finding Services: Have you ever tried to find a new dentist or car mechanic? If not, you are in for a difficult ride unless you can get recommendations from friends and acquaintances. For everything you need in a new city or at a change in your life, alum connections can help you find it. Good preschool for your toddler? Check. Accountant or lawyer? Check and check. Maybe none of your close friends has experience with the particular service you are looking for, but put it out into the alumni ether, and you will get several great suggestions.
  • Giving Back: Studies have found that giving and volunteering are some of the most beneficial activities for your mental health. Giving money or time to your college can be a way to stay connected to an important time in your life and give to the next generation. Getting involved in giving is of enormous benefit to you and others simultaneously.
  • Lifelong Networking: You may think you need a professional network most when looking for that first job, but actually, it is crucial to career success throughout your life. Staying in touch with people who graduated from your alma mater can give you a broader set of business contacts than just the people you work with, and this can help you find resources and new jobs throughout your life.
  • Discounts: Your alumni network may give you access to discounts on travel, entertainment, restaurants, sports tickets, or other things you already want to purchase. You will also likely get a discount on any continuing education or graduate courses you wish to pursue at your alma mater. 
  • Career Services: Some colleges offer alums access to career services throughout their lives. And the networking benefits of being a part of the alumni association are certainly a career benefit, but the career center at your alma mater may have programs that specifically link you to helpful services later in your trajectory–not just when you first graduate.

As you choose the college to attend, think about picking one of the colleges with the best alumni networks. Even if you are attending online programs, getting a professional certificate, or doing your graduate degree, the alumni association can benefit you from your college degree.