Nine years post-college and nine years into loan repayment, watching hundreds of dollars each month disappear, my memories of college are sadly checkered. It’s been long enough to grow into a completely new phase of my life, but the sting of loan repayment can still leave a bad taste in my mouth thinking about my four expensive undergraduate years. Sadly, I now think of college more as “that really expensive thing I did,” and less as “four years that helped to shape my future and my life with unparalleled access to information and resources.” Also easy to forget: the many ways in which fellow alumni can help you succeed — thanks to the shared experience (including the financial aspect), they’re perhaps the most valuable resource.
When you’re feeling similarly as large chunks of cash fly out of your bank account each month, don’t forget that your college is a resource — not just four-plus years of life experience. Here, a few ways you can take advantage of your school’s network long after graduation:
Use Alumni Services
Colleges and universities have entire staffs devoted to the care and maintenance of their alumni at all stages: recent graduates to decades-out. Check out their website (most have an easy-to-find link directly from the school’s homepage) for a list of services and benefits.
Contact actual alumni
Facebook isn’t just for planning reunions; there’s a reason it’s so easy to find fellow alums. As a recent grad, reach out to alumni you admire for help and general career advice. Don’t forget that years later they can still be a valuable resource, especially when you have work experience and more confidence under your belt. Join Facebook and LinkedIn alumni groups — and post in them when you have something to say!
Become (or stay) an active member of your school’s community
Even small schools have alumni groups or meetups in different locations around the country. Go to them. Talk to fellow alums. Occasionally you’ll hear of an exciting famous or notable person that attended your school (last week I found out Lana Del Ray went to my school!) — talk about them, online or off! You never know where you’ll find fellow alums. Example: my husband attended an itty-bitty Midwestern school, and never thought he’d meet a fellow alum in our city. Imagine his surprise when he found out a good friend also attended the same small school.
Don’t discount other majors, schools, and careers
I attended a private Jesuit college in New York City, whose most famous alum is the namesake of the Super Bowl trophy. It’s famous for its law and business schools, so I rarely associate it with assistance in my chosen creative career field. But as technology takes over and traditional career lines turn from black to gray, jobs and skill sets overlap. You might be a creative with no interest in big banking, but you might find a spot when they’re looking to hire talent for a new, small creative project, you could be the first call they make.
College is formative and life-changing (and costly) — but it doesn’t have to end when you receive your degree. If you’re going to spend years of your adult life repaying the debt you owe for education, being able to take full advantage of every single helpful opportunity that degree brings can offer some mental relief.
And if you need assistance with student loans, make use of our Student Loan Resource Center, which has information about federal loans, private loans, and the ways you can solve most common student loan problems.
Image Credit Luiz Gustavo Leme