Whether it was five days or five years ago, the day you got your diploma was probably the last time you thought about what your university could do for you. But, not so fast. No matter where you want to college, your alumni association likely offers all kinds of benefits, discounts, and opportunities that could pay dividends on your degree—for life. Here's an overview of the most common resources you should be tapping back into.

 

1. A (Huge) Network

Your alumni association is an immense network of professional contacts—all with whom you already have one thing in common. Need to get a foot in the door for your next job, or curious if an organization that’s pursuing you is the right fit? Use your online alumni directory to connect with people who could be great resources for informational interviews or introductions. You should also attend events and join professional groups to build relationships over the long-term.

 

2. Career Services

Whether you’re making a career change, positioning yourself for that next promotion, or looking to hire for your own company, your university career center can help you. Alumni are usually offered exclusive job postings, resume reviews, webinars, networking events, and a variety of online videos and resources—often free of charge. More in-depth services, like career counseling or alumni-only career fairs, are likely also available, sometimes for a small fee.

Additionally, if you’re thinking about transitioning to a new field (or just want to brush up on those accounting skills), you can take advantage of continuing education classes, certificate programs, or course audits—usually offered to alumni at deeply discounted rates.

 

3. Lifelong Email or Email Forwarding

Want to ditch your cutegirlz2cool42008@yahoo.com email for a more professional replacement? (Hint: You should have done that a long time ago!) Find out whether your alumni association offers lifelong email addresses. This can come in particularly handy if someone has already used up your name on Gmail.

And if you’re a recent grad, ask if your university can forward your student email to an alumni account, so you can keep all those messages from the last four years.

 

4. Travel Benefits

Whether for work or pleasure, I’d be willing to bet that your feet rarely stay grounded for long. So, as you’re crossing off those 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die from your list, take advantage of your alma mater—it may surprise you, but most alumni associations offer discounted rates for airport parking, rental cars, and perks at hotel chains.

Better yet, find out about travel programs sponsored or hosted by your alumni association. Schools often provide opportunities that can range from weekend ski trips to family excursions to big adventures like attending the London Olympics. Trips frequently include faculty members who’ll act as educational guides, a specific focus (anything from history to Italian to literature), and—most importantly—trip coordination, so you can just show up and enjoy.

 

5. Financial Service Benefits

College student or not, many universities offer discounted rates on car, home, and health insurance. Some schools even offer pet, travel, disability, or long term care insurance, too, which can be particularly useful if you’re looking for a bundled deal. And if you don’t have benefits from your employer or you’re starting a business of your own, a group plan on these financial services can ensure that you get the coverage you need.

 

6. Banking Services

For financial services beyond insurance, university credit unions can provide you with a number of advantages over your standard bank—fewer fees, lower car and mortgage rates, more personalized service. All of which can be available to you through your university’s credit union, even as an alum.

And, not that any of us are all too desperate for another credit card, but schools often offer competitive interest rates on university branded cards that allow you to sport your school spirit while securing the financial flexibility you need.

 

7. And So Much More

In addition to all these perks, be sure to check out what else your alma mater has to offer. Many schools also provide alumni discounts on movie tickets, amusement park fees, and retail and restaurant establishments—especially if you still live within your school’s region. And hey, it can’t hurt to ask. These perks can seriously cut down your entertainment budget.

And on the educational front, seek out lifelong learning lectures and events online or on iTunesU, find out what campus library access you have (either physical or digital), and use your alumni discount at the campus bookstore, as well as at sporting events, museum openings, and theatre performances throughout the year.

 

Don’t assume that the benefits of college end when you walk across that stage—the power of community could pay you more in lifelong dividends than you ever knew.

 

Photo courtesy of Eli Christman.