If you get the opportunity to ask an alumnus about the school they chose, definitely take it!
The chance may come during a college interview or you may know a neighbor who attended the university that’s on your shortlist. You might even want to reach out and ask questions to college alumni online through LinkedIn or a social media group. However you talk to them, here are a few questions you should be asking.
10 Questions to Ask College Alumni
1. Why Did You Choose This School?
This is one of the first questions you should be bringing up. If the alumnus had the same priorities you do now, this can provide plenty of insight into the college and their own thought process. See what they have to say about their major, the location, and maybe even things they heard about the college before they submitted their application.
2. What Did You Think of the College After 4+ Years?
You know why they attended the college, but what were their impressions of the school after they graduated? Do they wish they attended another school? Or were they satisfied or even thrilled with their experience?
What’s the reasoning behind their answer? (And if they were unhappy with their decision, don’t rule it out for yourself just yet! It may still be the perfect choice for you. You might want to consider talking to more alumni!)
3. What Were Your Favorite Classes?
If you’re planning to major in the same subject the alumnus majored in, this is a great question to bring up. This provides them an opportunity to go into depth about their favorite classes overall but also the courses that helped them most in their career or may have been the most enjoyable.
4. What Did You Think of the Campus and Extracurricular Activities?
The campus and surrounding city are nearly as important as the courses. After all, you might not be happy if you love the feel of a small town and the school you’re considering is in a big city. Get the alumnus’s opinion on all aspects of campus life, the town, and any activities or clubs they participated in. Also, ask if they recommend any clubs.
5. How Did The School Prepare You For Your Career?
This question could have several answers, such as talking about the courses in particular that helped them get where they are today or the resources on campus that help seniors find positions right after graduation. The alumnus may also want to talk about how connections and networking on campus with both fellow students and faculty helped their careers.
6. What Did You Major in, and What Did You Think of the Program?
It helps to talk to an alumnus that majored in your intended area of study, but this isn’t always the case. You might, however, be able to find a major-adjacent person to talk to. This student could have taken classes that are relevant to both areas of study.
Even if the former student you’re talking to has no relation to your major, though, you can still ask questions. Why did you decide to major in that area of study? What did you think of the overall program? Would you recommend that program to another student?
Did your academic advisor help you make informed decisions about your schedule, and aid you in graduating on time?
7. How Were Your Professors?
Getting an idea of the professors at a college, both in your major and out, can help paint a bigger picture of the school. Were the professors kind, helpful, and knowledgeable? Were they mean, condescending? Did they assist with assignments or were they completely hands-off? Easy or tough? Did they have a good handle on the subject material, or did they seem to be floundering?
Of course, this is only one person’s take on a professor and may not be 100% accurate, but they may be able to suggest teachers that helped them on their journey, professors that made an impact, or even ones that they fully recommend you steer clear of.
You can then take advantage of online resources to see if the student consensus meets your alumnus’s description!
8. What Advice Do You Have if I Attend This College?
When it comes to college, lessons may not be learned until you’re actually at the campus – but since you have an alumnus in front of you, you may be able to learn those lessons a little earlier! Ask them what general (and in-depth) advice they would have about attending this college.
It could be as simple as what classes you should take for your general education requirements, what dorm rooms they recommend, and where the best food can be on campus!
It can help to leave this as an empty-ended question as this allows the former student to think outside the box, too!
9. What was the Campus Culture Like?
The environment that you will be living in for the next four to six years is important. So asking alumni firsthand about what the campus culture feels like will help you find out if it’s a fit for you. Do people play frisbee on the lawn on the first warm day of spring?
Is there sledding down an icy hill after good a snowstorm? Know what kind of college lifestyle you a looking for. If you like what you hear about the way of life from an alumni’s view, you’ll probably enjoy campus life at that school.
10. Ask Anything Else that is Important to You
Maybe the alumnus majored in the same program you intend to. Or they didn’t quite tell you enough about what to expect in the dorm rooms. You should be taking this time to ask them the questions that matter to you most. After all, this is your future!
You want to be sure you’re making the right choice. What questions are important to you that we didn’t list above?
Finding Your College Match after Alumni Interviews
Talking to alumni can bring a lot of outside perspectives to a college. You will get a more in-depth look into the school than you would with an official tour – and many college employees simply don’t have time to answer these questions or don’t have the experience.
And you only have so much time to talk to an official tour guide, and you likely won’t get the answers to all of your questions. Meeting with an alumnus over coffee, over social media, or in your community can definitely give you the insight you need to choose a college!