We all love bragging about our universities. But, as current students, what many of us don’t realize is that this pride and the concept of “My school is the best in the UNIVERSE” stays with us for life. Think about your parents. Your dad might be in his 50s or 60s, but aren’t you always bombarded with his “When I was in college…” stories? It’s almost like he never left.
One thing we often overlook as collegiettes is how helpful it can be to connect with our alumni network. Alumni love to give back to the university that helped them succeed. These people can give us advice and—most importantly—help us find jobs, internships and other opportunities that we otherwise wouldn’t have without our university affiliation.
If you haven’t started connecting with your school’s alumni, don’t worry—many students haven’t. But in the meantime, HC has some helpful tips for connecting with these proud graduates both during and after your college years so you can begin building those professional relationships today.
As a student...
Sign up for your university’s mentorship program
Many schools have mentorship programs set up to connect students with alumni who work in their field of interest. For example, Cornell University has a well-established program called the Cornell Alumni-Student Mentoring Program (CASMP) that asks students and alumni mentors to speak to each other once or twice a month and meet in person at least once a semester.
These types of programs are also common at other universities. "Last year, I signed up for a mentorship program at my school. My mentor taught me so much, not only about her industry, but about the struggles and perks of having a full-time job right after college,” said Laura Escobar-Vallecillo, a senior at the University of Southern California.
Many times, schools will send out emails to students informing them that they can sign up for these programs. However, if you haven’t heard of any mentorship programs at your school, the best place to start looking would be by stopping by your university’s career center or asking your academic advisor.
Apply for alumni association scholarships
One of the biggest sources for scholarships is your university’s various alumni groups and associations. Many schools separate the scholarship categories based on geographic location, ethnicity, major and campus affiliations.
But the best perk of winning an alumni scholarship is that there is almost always an awards banquet to attend, where you can meet and network with the alumni who granted you the scholarship. Western Illinois University, for example, distributes its alumni scholarships at the school’s annual Fall Scholarship Banquet.
Your school’s financial aid website should contain information and links to any school-related scholarships. If this search leads to a dead end, try contacting your alumni association office directly and ask about scholarships for current and continuing students.