Between renting a gown, ordering graduation announcements, and buying a fancy frame for your diploma, paying dues to the alumni association is probably the bottom of your priority list.
However, joining an alumni association can pay off in big ways. Many alumni associations offer unique perks. For instance, Washington State University hosts an alumni wine club, while Berkeley alums can visit the Cal Alumni Association's camp in the Sierra Nevadas. Alumni association members can also request a specialized license plate or buy discounted college merchandise.
But those aren't even the biggest perks. Alumni association membership benefits can include discounts, networking opportunities, and professional resources. Here are the ten best reasons to join your school's alumni association.
Alumni associations offer networking opportunities, which can connect recent graduates with established professionals and help people pursue career changes.
Networking can take many forms. Alumni associations might offer online career fairs or host virtual networking events with tips for job interviews. Many alumni networks also maintain LinkedIn groups or connect alumni through member databases.
But what if your school has tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of alumni? Where do you start? Check out chapters and groups within your alumni association. For example, Indiana University has over 160 groups, organized by interest, location, and career.
From alumni lectures to game day pep rallies, alumni associations often host social events. At Stanford, alumni can create their own clubs and host events through more than 500 groups. These events help alumni build a community and stay connected with friends from college. Alumni events are also a great networking tool.
Alumni associations typically plan the biggest alumni event, too: reunions. If you've always dreamed of planning a college reunion, join the alumni association and volunteer for the reunion committee.
Alumni benefit from all kinds of discounts through their schools, including cheaper tickets to football games and discounts on continuing education classes. At Stanford, alumni get free bike rentals when they visit campus. Alumni also often have access to their university library systems or even fitness centers.
Other campus privileges can include access to university museums, on-campus performances, and the faculty club. Alumnus often receive discounts at the campus bookstore, too, whether they're stocking up on books or buying college apparel.
Alumni associations often partner with businesses to offer discounts for members. Arizona State alumni, for example, receive discounts on auto insurance, health insurance, cell phone service, and computers. The University of Michigan offers alumni discounts on apparel, restaurants, financial services, and Detroit Pistons tickets.
How much can you save with alumni discounts? That varies by university, but the savings can be substantial. For example, members save 15-50% on jewelry, art, museum tickets, food, and apparel through the University of Washington alumni association. Many other colleges offer similar discount programs.
Since each alumni association negotiates unique discounts, you should check out the options specific to yours when deciding whether to join the alumni association.
Here's another major perk of joining your alumni association: travel discounts. From cheaper hotel rates to discounted airfare and travel insurance, members can save on all kinds of travel expenses.
Take a boat cruise in your college town or travel around the globe with your alumni association. Many alumni associations even offer their own guided tours. For instance, gold-level alumni at UCLA can schedule their own travel consulting sessions to receive a personalized itinerary.
Alumni associations offer career support for recent grads and longtime alumni. Career services can help professionals choose a career path, transition into a new field, and explore career opportunities.
What kinds of career services do alumni associations offer? Indiana University provides career coaching and hosts professional development events to help alumni advance their careers. The University of Michigan alumni association offers self-assessment tests, a job board, and regional career programs. Alumni can even apply for a scholarship to cover the cost of career searching.
Alumni career services also help graduates return to school to pursue an advanced degree, and many alumni associations offer discounts on test prep services and graduate school application fees.
Many alumni memberships come with permanent access to a university-affiliated email address — usually the one you got while you were a student. Alumni can use this email address to show affiliation with their schools and connect with other alumni.
University email addresses come with their own perks, like access to discount programs. Plus, maintaining your student email address can prevent you from losing access to emails received during school.
Alumni can participate in a variety of volunteer opportunities through their alumni associations, helping them give back to their communities. Many schools offer virtual volunteering events, rely on volunteers to staff committees, and invite alumni volunteers to guest lecture.
At Berkeley, for example, alumni volunteers interview applicants, score scholarship applications, and meet with student groups. Berkeley also recognizes volunteers with awards. The University of Michigan also offers awards and badges for volunteers, as do many other universities.
Colleges rely on their alumni to help current students and graduates. Alumni can give back to their communities and help current and future students in several ways. First, many alumni associations fund scholarships for incoming students. Indiana University offers scholarships to students who have an alumni connection, and Berkeley's alumni association awards more than $2 million in scholarship funds each year.
Alumni also give back by participating in the student admission process. At Princeton, alumni interview potential students and make admission recommendations.
Joining your alumni association offers all kinds of perks, like discounts and networking opportunities, but above all, an alumni association keeps you connected with your alma mater.
Whether you graduated decades ago or you're still in college, an alumni association helps you maintain a link with your school. Many alumni associations welcome members back to campus regularly, including for events like reunions and even weddings.
Alumni associations typically cost $20-$100 per year or $500-$1,000 for a lifetime membership. While the cost might sound like a lot at the end of four years of tuition bills, investing in an alumni association membership can pay off for decades.
And alumni associations aren't just for recent graduates. While most do offer extra discounts for new alumni, they also welcome alumni of all ages — and many even offer a senior discount. So whether you graduated in the 1950s, the 2020s, or any time in between, consider looking up the alumni perks at your alma mater.
Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. After earning her doctorate in early modern European history, Carlton worked as an assistant professor of history at the University of Louisville, where she developed new courses on the history of science, Renaissance Italy, and the witch trials. Carlton has published five peer-reviewed articles in top presses and a monograph with the University of Chicago Press. She also earned tenure with a unanimous vote before relocating to Seattle. Learn more about Carlton's work at genevievecarlton.com.
Header Image Credit: Siriwat Nakha / EyeEm, SilvanBachmann | Getty Images
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