When you’re researching colleges, it makes sense to focus on the college experience. After all, you’re considering where you’ll be living and studying for the next four years. So it’s important to find out things like what majors are offered. Can you study abroad? What is the area surrounding the college like?
But what about after you graduate? Because as important as your college experience is, it’s meant to be preparing you for life AFTER college.
One great way to get a sense of how a college or university prepares its students to succeed is by learning about its alumnae/i.* What kinds of careers do graduates pursue? Do they hold leadership positions? Do they claim their schools with pride on their LinkedIn profiles or Facebook posts?
Here are three easy ways for you to learn more about the graduates of schools you’re considering:
Most colleges and universities produce some kind of alumnae/i magazine. Generally, such publications are available in some format on the college website. Also, if you know someone who graduated from the college she or he may have print copies to pass share. You can also ask the admissions office if they have magazines available.
These publications often include stories about graduates including individual profiles of alumnae and feature stories that focus on a particular aspect of their careers or lives.
Meredith Magazine routinely features all of these types of stories. For example, a recent issue included a feature story about successful Women in Tech who are breaking boundaries in male-dominated fields, a story about an entrepreneurial alumna whose education prepared her to pursue her dream of starting her own business, and several short profiles like this one, about a graduate who is making a difference in public schools.
LinkedIn offers another easy way to learn about graduates of schools you’re researching. To find them, just do a search on “People,” and select “All Filters.” This will allow you to add the name of the school(s) you’re considering. If you wish, you can further refine your search to focus on professional fields you’re thinking of pursuing. Reading through profiles of alums can give you a sense of how graduates are faring professionally – both recent and more established grads.
In addition, some schools have college-specific online platforms to help graduates connect with each other professionally – Meredith’s is called Meredith Mentors. If you know someone who attended your school of interest, ask if they are active on a school-specific platform. Which brings us to our next tip …
You know more people than you think – especially if you consult members of your family as part of your search. If you’re interested in a college, ask your family and friends if they know anyone who attended that institution. You can extend your network further by asking people you are connected with through school (teachers, staff), places of worship, and places you volunteer or work. Our world is surprisingly small at times, especially with social media, and you may be surprised by the number of connections you can make.
Once you have a name, be thoughtful in how you proceed. If it’s a more distant connection, a professionally-worded email asking a few purposeful questions might be the way to go. If it’s someone within your circle, ask if they might be willing to meet you for coffee to answer a few questions about their experience. Most people are generally happy to share their thoughts, especially if it will benefit their alma mater.
Learning more about college alumnae/i is one easy way to explore whether a college will be a good fit – and whether it will prepare you for the career and life you hope to lead after you graduate.
*Note: Because Meredith is a women’s college, we refer to graduates of our undergraduate program as alumnae. At the graduate level, we refer to them as alumnae/i, since we have both male and female students.