smart spending

Snare alumni perks from your alma mater

Access to tons of books, DVDs and CDs

Even if you never set foot in a library during your college days, you may find that it now has exactly what you need. Don't think dusty tomes of heavyweight academic research. Most libraries have extensive media collections so you can pick up CDs, DVDs and consumer magazines. At the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, alumni can check out up to 10 videos, DVDs or books at a time.

Many will also provide alumni with passwords so they can do research, using fee-based services such as data merchant LexisNexis. Some even have inter-library loan programs which gives you access to library collections across the country. At Ohio State University in Columbus, for example, alumni association members can check out any of the 6 million volumes owned by the school -- and can access a total of 38 million through linked libraries.

Classwork for a nominal fee

Looking to brush up on your Spanish skills before taking a vacation to Mexico or yearning to tackle a few Shakespeare plays? Your alma mater may allow you to audit a class for free or for a fraction of the full price.

"If alumni are thinking of going back to class but they just want to explore it first, they can audit it first for a small fee," Pappas says. At her school, alums pay a $15 processing fee to audit a class.

Career assistance for the asking

Think your alma mater's career assistance ended once they helped you land your first job after graduation? Think again, says Nichole Hall, programming and internship coordinator at the Mansfield University career center in Mansfield, Pa.

"Many larger universities have people dedicated specifically to alumni career development," she says. They may offer everything from practice interviews, job search strategies and in-person consultations.Some colleges have organized free or inexpensive networking events for alumni or will allow alumni to attend job fairs hosted by the college.

At Mansfield, Hall says alumni can take advantage of several free career services, including career exploration activities, access to graduate school information, and access to a career resource library. For $40, alumni can attend a “Career-Day Mini-Conference” that includes four workshops, or pay $20 for any of several workshops offered throughout the year.

Even if you live hundreds of miles from your alma mater, they may be able to help, says Toni McLawhorn, director of career services at RoanokeCollege in Virginia. "With technology today, it's easier to provide direct assistance," she says, noting that she can review cover letters and resumes and connect job seekers with other alumni who may be able to help -- all online.

To find out what your college offers its graduates, check in with the alumni office. Many have benefits pages on their websites. Others can answer your questions with a quick phone call. If they're not sure about a particular service you're interested in, call the specific office to get more detailed policies.

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