Why You Should Use Alumni
For prospective students, a person who has already attended your school is a powerful resource. Alumni can not only give general information, but insider information like “why did you come here,” “what classes did you like best,” and “which dining hall has the best food?” Alumni offer real, tangible testimonials that impact a student’s decision to inquiry, apply, and eventual enroll.
There are benefits for the prospective students, as well. Bringing alumni and prospective students together can set the latter up for success–by networking with alumni early on, new students can form important mentoring relationships that can carry through their time at school and beyond.
1. Bring Alumni to Your Campus
The calendar of most colleges is packed with opportunities to greet prospective students in person–campus tours, college fairs, sporting events, preview weekends, and many other events take place throughout the year.
Alumni volunteers should be an important part of each event, lending a hand to recruits and making them a part of the group. Whether it’s staffing a booth at a college fair in their own town, or guiding a tour group around campus, alumni offer students an approachable ambassador to connect with.
Providing volunteer opportunities to alumni also gives them more ways to participate, especially for those not able or inclined to contribute financially. Show alumni that they’re worth more than just donations, and you’ll be surprised at how many will give freely of their time.
2. Feature Alumni on Your Website
When it comes to online presence, your brand is fighting for recruits’ attention with countless other voices. Authenticity is a key factor in whether Millennials embrace a brand or not, and the first-hand experiences of alumni serve as an authentic, evidential voice.
Take advantage of your own social media outlets to engage both alumni and prospective students with your message. Your social presence is primarily where today’s teens are going to form that first impression of you. With alumni adding a genuine perspective, that opinion is more likely to be a favorable one, with an emphasis on tradition, connectivity, and success after graduation.
There are plenty of other ways to incorporate alumni with your online presence, as well–for example, if you take the Savannah College of Art and Design’s virtual tour, you’ll be led around campus by an avatar of a real-life student. You might also consider a blog series the chronicles alumni who’ve just graduated.
3. Don’t Forget International Alumni
Word of mouth has always been a key element in reaching prospective students, but it’s not limited to your own region. If given the proper support, your university’s alumni can become powerful ambassadors.
The University of York in the U.K. did just that by creating a team of alumni ambassadors to reach overseas markets, providing them pre-graduation orientation, rehearsal presentations, and a secure web site with support services and additional training.
“The programme is beginning to add significant reach and impact to international recruitment in key markets,” a report commissioned by The Higher Education Academy (HEA) stated. “It is also helping to address the challenge of engaging international alumni based in cities where mainstream events and activities are not usually focused.”
4. Support Them, and They’ll Support You
It goes without saying, but the alumni who give selflessly of their time and resources should be recognized for their efforts. If you want them to continue to volunteer and participate in the future, you’ll have to earn it.
“So much of what we sculpt as our alumni engagement initiatives requires operating under the paradigm that your alumni owe the institution something,” Longwood University’s VP of alumni and career services Ryan Catherwood writes on Higher Ed Live. “They do not… You must continue to earn their (engagement) by giving something.”
A good way to accomplish this is through your alumni magazine and alumni groups on social media. Keep up on their accomplishments, and share their successes not just with other alumni, but with your general audience as well. Become the same kind of ambassador for your alumni that you would like them to be for your university.
Recognize your alumni publicly and often, and you will give the (correct) impression that your institution is proud of those who have already walked its halls. That kind of genuine, positive message is something next fall’s class should be seeing regularly in their news feeds.
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