Earning a degree requires a substantial commitment of time and money, and students deserve support from a strong network of peers and mentors, comprising both graduates and current students. Many schools encourage current students to participate in networking events, and encourage active alumni to continue giving back to their alma mater.
Students attending schools with built-in professional networks can focus their energy on coursework, incorporating mixers, guest speaker engagements, and volunteer opportunities through their alumni association, as time allows. The colleges with the strongest alumni networks often tailor career-building programs to students approaching graduation, ramping up networking opportunities and peer support to provide a seamless transition from college to the professional world.
The schools on the list below rank among the nation's best for their alumni participation rates, continued support from alumni throughout their careers, and average graduate earnings.
With a network of more than 35,000, Wellesley created its Alumnae Association in 1916 in the tradition of the Seven Sisters colleges. Wellesley's formidable alumnae system comprises three types of members: active (graduates of degree programs at Wellesley), associate (non-degree candidates), and honorary (nominated and elected by the board of directors).
Wellesley boasts a three-year average alumni participation rate of 53%. The college hosts more than 100 clubs and group chapters of alumni worldwide, and organizes multiple alumni events during the academic year, including an annual reunion and awards ceremony. The school recently implemented the Wellesley Hive, an online platform designed specifically to connect mentors and mentees, and strengthen resources for future and current alumnae of the college.
Wellesley College alumni typically earn an average salary of $55,500 within five years of graduation, with the potential to earn more than $105,000 per year by mid-career. Alumnae donate an average of $17,451 over the decade following graduation. More than 57% of Wellesley alumnae claim a sense of fulfillment in their career. Famous alumnae include Hillary Clinton and Diane Sawyer.
Home of the nation's oldest university alumni association, Williams established its Society of Alumni in 1821. The society's governing body includes an 18-member executive committee, five elected alumni trustees, a president and vice-president, and the chair (or co-chairs) of the Alumni Fund.
Williams invites its alumni to participate in a broad variety of eye-opening experiences, including an annual reunion, fall weekends, and alumni travel study trips. Study trips take place nearly monthly throughout the year, traveling to locations including Antarctica, Morocco, and the Galapagos Islands. The school is currently three years into a major funding campaign that aims to grow the student endowment and the Alumni and Parents' Fund. This "Teach It Forward" campaign has already raised $635 million, and was financed in part by nearly 24,000 Williams alumni.
On average, 51% of Williams graduates participate in alumni events over a three-year period, with alumni donating an average of nearly $23,000 over the decade following graduation. James A. Garfield, Madeleine Albright, and Stephen Sondheim rank among Williams' many distinguished alumni.
With its alumni association dating back to 1826, Princeton alum James Madison (class of 1771) became the first alum elected president of the association, and the fourth president of the U.S. -- a singular distinction among comparable universities on our list. Woodrow Wilson, Michelle Obama, and Frank Stella join Madison as notable Princeton University alumni; at least 17 Princeton graduates have won the Nobel Prize.
Princeton serves an alumni membership of more than 93,000, hosting more than 26,000 alumni at its annual reunion. The Princeton Alumni Association comprises 165 regional chapters around the world, organizing events including alumni conferences, football weekends on campus, and extensive travel and volunteer opportunities. The school especially caters to its online alumni membership through TigerNet Services, promoting free networking opportunities, discussion boards, and the latest news from the Princeton community.
Princeton alumni rank high for giving back to their alma mater, with donations averaging $29,330 per student over the 10 years following graduation. Alumni also claim an average participation rate of 47%, with more than half reporting that they feel their work helps improve the world that surrounds them.
As the alma mater of more than 23,000 living alumni, Amherst focuses on providing pathways for alumni to find each other, continue their education through lifelong learning opportunities, and teach current students through mentorships and volunteer events. The college hosts more than 3,500 volunteers and hundreds of mentors each year, with a 70% annual alumni engagement rate.
Amherst's alumni can update their profiles, search listservs for fellow former classmates, and access exclusive career services from professionals, former students, and peers online. The school features an integrative approach to networking for alumni, welcoming them to all milestone events on campus, including homecoming, family days, and commencement, in addition to alumni mixers, the "Amherst Today" series, and the annual reunion. Regional alumni can meet up online roughly once a month, through the school's virtual networking platform.
Alumni of Amherst earn an average salary of $62,400 in the first five years after graduation, increasing to nearly $130,000 by mid-career. The average donation of an Amherst alumnus over a 10-year period exceeds $21,000. The college counts Calvin Coolidge and Albert II, Prince of Monaco among its esteemed alumni.
Bowdoin's Alumni Council oversees the organization of key mentorship, fundraising, and networking opportunities within the college's alumni membership of more than 20,000. The college counts Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Alfred Kinsey among its distinguished alumni.
Established in 1914, the council precipitated the development of Bowdoin's Alumni Fund, the alumni relations department, and the Cram Alumni House. The college funds seven prestigious awards to faculty and staff, educators, and both longstanding and recent alumni, through distinctions such as the Foot Soldier of Bowdoin Award and the Young Alumni Service Award. Bowdoin alumni can participate in events including video lectures, athletic events, and alumni career services.
The average donation of a Bowdoin graduate to its alma mater over 10 years remains on the high end of the spectrum, exceeding $22,500. The college boasts an average three-year alumni participation rate of 45%, with 51% of graduates reporting fulfillment in their career.
Supporting a collective membership of more than 25,000, Davidson's Office of Alumni recently reformed as the Office of Alumni and Family Engagement, designed to promote more inclusive opportunities for connections between current and former students and their families. Not surprisingly, events organized by this department encompass new student admissions, family weekends, and volunteer week on campus.
Davidson's comprehensive support network for students, parents, and alumni emphasizes career development, volunteerism, and scholarship and endowment giving. Programs include job shadowing and exchange student hosting opportunities, and nonprofit or community mentorships through the Davidson Career Advisor Network and Center for Career Development. Alumni may also give to The Parent Fund for Davidson.
A high percentage of Davidson graduates (58%) reported that their work seems to help benefit the world around them. Of a Davidson alumnus' average salary of $122,100 at mid-career (with 10 or more years of experience), the average donation over this same period exceeded $19,700, per student.
College of the Holy Cross
Among the nation's oldest and most prestigious liberal arts institutions, College of the Holy Cross hosts a substantial network of more than 37,000 alumni around the world. Of these alumni, nearly 17,000 donate more than $10.4 million to the Annual Fund.
The college manages 25 active alumni clubs, promoting lifelong learning, alumni retreats and travel, and career development. Alumni can access the Crusaders Connect online system to view the alumni directory, access exclusive job boards, and find mentorship opportunities. Holy Cross alumni can also participate in multiple volunteer-based projects, or join in fundraising efforts for the Holy Cross Fund or the "Become More" campaign, the most ambitious in the school's history. The college ranks fourth in the nation for alumni satisfaction.
Holy Cross boasts an average three-year alumni participation rate of 45%, with graduates earning as much as $127,300 by mid-career. Timothy Leary, Vito Acconci, and Chris Matthews top the list of notable alumni of this alma mater.
Some of the nation's most scholarly alumni attended Carleton, and more than 80% of baccalaureate alumni continue to earn their graduate degrees within 10 years. Of these graduates, 20% return to school immediately following graduation. The college ranks second in the U.S. for alumni retainment for bachelor's through doctoral degrees.
Carleton alumni have raised more than $8 million through the Annual Fund, through contributions from nearly 12,000 alumni, or 45% of graduated students. The school welcomes alumni to its annual reunion, plus sporting events, career-oriented guest speaker engagements, and volunteer weekends on campus. Members of the Alumni Council include elected alumni and nominated and approved student representatives.
Alumni of Carleton boast a 44% three-year participation rate, each making an average donation of nearly $15,000 to their alma mater over a 10-year period. More than half of Carleton alumni feel their career work helps make the world a better place.
Bates College takes a comprehensive approach to supporting alumni, offering dozens of ways for them to connect and give back to the school and its programs. Recent reports recorded contributions of more than $7 million, made by more than 8,000 alumni to the Bates Fund.
Bates' alumni council governs the college's many alumni events and programs. Member alumni can access the directory of former Bates students, the Bates Fund Volunteer Club, and the career development center online, or keep up with the latest news through Bates' . Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter alumni pages. The council organizes alumni meet-and-greets and receptions in various cities around the U.S., and hosts alumni and parents on campus for an annual reunion, athletic events, and guest speaker engagements.
Bates graduates earn an annual salary of nearly $126,000 by mid-career, with each alumnus donating an average of $6,855 over 10 years after graduation. The college's three-year average alumni participation rate is 44%.
With one of the largest alumni memberships in the Ivy League, Dartmouth supports more than 81,000 alumni around the world. The college's alumni relations department serves more than 73 graduated classes, hosting an average of 4,000 alumni at reunion events each year.
Dartmouth alumni play a critical role in building the college fund, mentoring current students, and even assisting in the admissions process. Alumni relations maintains nearly 100 regional chapters and affiliation groups for alumni, and promotes global education and mentoring through its alumni travel and Dartmouth on Location programs. These programs make at least 40 trips per year. The college hosts a mini-reunion leading up to its annual reunion and homecoming activities, which include an open house, a tour of the campus, and athletic events.
Donations from Dartmouth alumni help fund the college's large endowment, reaching an all-time high of $5.5 billion this year. Graduates earn an average of $150,800 by mid-career, donating an average of $28,695 per person over a 10-year period.
Offering diverse alumni services to its graduates in the U.S. and around the world, Haverford facilitates a wealth of opportunities for alumni to connect, engage, and make charitable contributions to their alma mater. Haverford even offers affinity groups for graduates, individually tailored to each career sector.
Haverford hosts an annual reunion, encompassing an entire weekend of alumni award ceremonies, athletic events, guest speakers, and receptions. Alumni may also join the ranks of Haverford's 1,000 volunteer alumni, or join an affinity group. These groups cater to professionals in fields including law, education, finance, and public health. Haverford also features an employee-sponsored gift-matching program, which allows alumni to give online to one of four designated areas of enrichment.
Haverford graduates with at least 10 years of professional experience boast an annual average salary of more than $130,000; they donate an average of $15,182 per person over that 10-year period.
As the alma mater of more than 33,000 living alumni, Colgate promotes career, volunteer, and giving opportunities for former students around the world. The university maintains its scholarly and service-oriented traditions of more than 200 years through programs organized by the alumni council.
Alumni of Colgate can access staff and alumni directories, plus professional networking and student mentoring opportunities, online. The school also hosts an annual reunion, homecoming events, entrepreneur weekends, and college admission workshops for alumni and parents of incoming students. Colgate encourages students and alumni to participate in events sponsored by Mosaic, the university's multicultural services branch. Additional alumni events include an upcoming bicentennial kickoff and a celebration of "Colgate Day."
Colgate alumni boast an average annual salary of nearly $62,000 in their first five years after graduation, which increases to $136,100 after 10 years. These alumni donate an average of $11,075 per person over the decade following graduation.
Founded in 1780, Transy represents Kentucky's first university and the 16th oldest college in the U.S. Its unique mentoring program, 100 Doors to Success, stands out among historic institutions for the one-on-one guidance it provides, pairing current students with successful alumni.
The university's 100 Doors program encompasses the complete transition from college to career. Alumni can volunteer to mentor a student, guiding them through their entrance into the workforce with marketing advice, job interview practice, graduate school application assistance, and job search help. The university also manages career services and study abroad opportunities for active alumni.
Transy boasts an average three-year alumni participation rate of 41%, with graduates donating an average of $4,696 in the 10 years following graduation. 56% of Transy alumni report a feeling of fulfillment in their career.
Hamilton alumni total 22,500, and rank in the top 1% nationwide for giving. The college's alumni association supports an enduring community of Hamilton graduates through charitable giving opportunities and a variety of volunteer and lifelong learning events.
Hamilton's online network features exclusive career, internship, and scholarship opportunities for alumni. Its community of former students maintains a lively social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Alumni can participate in dozens of fallcoming and family weekends, plus "welcome to the city" events. Alumni seeking giving opportunities might consider joining the 1812 Leadership Circle or the Honor Roll of Donors.
52% of Hamilton graduates express feeling that their work helps improve their world. Donors give an average of $11,426 per person over 10 years after graduating. Hamilton alumni include Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel Prize winners, Fortune 500 CEOs, and current and former members of Congress.
Established in 1820, Centre College focuses on building its operating endowment through the Third Century Campaign, with a goal of raising $200 million through charitable donations to improve student and faculty services and facilities.
The college invites nearly 12,000 living alumni to a roster of unique social events, including game-viewing parties, sporting events, reunions, homecoming parties, and family weekends. Alumni may take courses on campus through the alumni college program, and the alumni association offers awards honoring distinguished alumni, young alumni, and notable athletes who are also Centre graduates. Donors may give their time or money through volunteerism or a planned giving or charitable contribution.
Roughly 57% of Centre alumni believe they are making the world better through their work. The college reports a three-year average alumni participation rate of 39%. The average alumnus donates nearly $9,400 over a 10-year period.
Representing more than 19,000 alumni worldwide, Spelman alumni hail from 23 countries and 44 U.S. states. Founded in 1881, Spelman upholds its honored traditions in both academic offerings and alumni affairs operations.
The college welcomes alumni to events including Founders Day, Day of Service, homecoming, and its annual reunion. Spelman graduates and current students alike must uphold the "white attire tradition" at Founders Day. Alumni may also join the Granddaughters' Club, reserved for students and graduates whose mothers, grandmothers, sisters, cousins, or aunts attended the college. The school also features a Sister 2 Sister mentorship program, and a global travel program for alumni.
Spelman alumni earn an average of nearly $87,000 per year by mid-career, and make average donations of nearly $5,000 per person over the 10-year period following graduation. The average three-year alumni participation rate is 39%.
With a robust online community of former students, Swarthmore is the alma mater of more than 19,000 living alumni, including more than 700 individual and 675 corporate donors. The college offers a variety of giving options for alumni looking to donate to the endowment, first-generation college students, or summer programs.
In 2017, Swarthmore launched its "Changing Lives, Changing the World" campaign, in which alumni lead an effort to raising $450 million for the school. Swarthmore also welcomes alumni to participate in its lifelong learning, travel abroad, and volunteer and service opportunities. The Swarthmore Alumni Council hosts its alumni weekend, regional discussion groups, a book club, and the affiliated black alumni network.
Swarthmore alumni earn an average salary of $61,300 in their first five years after graduation, with earnings reaching nearly $131,000 at the 10-year mark. The average Swarthmore alumnus donates nearly $15,000 to their alma mater over the same 10-year period.
Claremont McKenna College
Established in 1948 by CMC's first graduating class, the college's alumni association serves a membership of more than 10,000 around the world. The association features regional chapters in 10 U.S. states, and more across Europe and Asia.
CMC caters to both alumni and the parents of current students through events sponsored by the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations. Members may attend the alumni weekend or five-year reunion, or participate in alumni-oriented travel programs or athletic events. Parents of CMC students may attend orientation, family weekends, and commencement exercises. Alumni can also take advantage of lifelong learning opportunities and career services.
CMC's average three-year alumni participation rate stands at 38%, with alumni donating on average $23,276 per person over a 10-year period. Alumni with 10 or more years of professional experience post-graduation typically earn $139,200 per year.
Washington and Lee University
Encompassing 77 alumni chapters around the world, W&L caters to its distinguished alumni through a variety of special events and programs. The university's Office of Alumni Affairs hosts alumni weekends throughout the year, as well as the annual Five-Star Festival and Affinity Reunion.
W&L boasts a 50% alumni giving participation rate, with funds contributing to the school's goal of more than $11 million for the current academic year. The university's many alumni chapters organize events including volunteer opportunities, "welcome to the city" tours, and the Alumni Fancy Dress Ball. Alumni may also enroll in lifelong learning coursework, and explore W&L's extensive alumni career resources, offered through the Career and Professional Development Office.
Alumni's average annual salary reaches $136,700 within 10 years of graduation, and the average alumni donation typically exceeds $17,000 during that same 10-year period. Meriwether Lewis and Tom Wolfe top the list of notable W&L alumni.
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A fixture among the Ivy League, the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) first assembled 200 years ago. It has since achieved the longest period of alumni activity in American college history. The AYA serves its constituents through a variety of networking, volunteer, and learning opportunities.
The AYA welcomes alumni to attend reunions, the Day of Service, and the AYA Assembly. The school also maintains a strong volunteer network and encourages mentorship through its Alumni Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, and the Yale Alumni Service Corps. Alumni can take advantage of the university's online alumni college, educational travel opportunities, and immersive "Yale for Life" seminars.
Of Yale alumni, 53% report a feeling of contributing to the greater good through their work. They earn an average of more than $132,000 per year within 10 years post-graduation, and donate nearly $32,000 per person to their alma mater over that same 10-year period. Eli Whitney and Paul Newman stand among Yale's many famous alumni.
With one of the world's largest college alumni networks. Duke serves nearly 160,000 alumni in 162 countries, from graduating classes ranging from the 1950s to the 2010s. The university also hosts one of the largest varieties of affinity and special interest alumni groups, classified by industry, region, subject, or interest area.
Proudly serving the highest number of Duke alumni in the U.S., Triangle, NC hosts its own regional group of nearly 18,500 alumni (including 729 volunteers), and organizes an average of 90 alumni events per year. Duke alumni represent some of the world's most prestigious scholars and philanthropists, including four Nobel Prize winners, 700 Peace Corps volunteers, and 196 Fulbright Scholars. The school hosts annual reunions, sponsors the Young Alumni for Duke network, and features multiple options for giving to the annual fund or specific arts, energy, or tech initiatives.
Duke alumni earn an average of $65,300 per year in their first five years post-graduation, and as much as $134,400 per year with 10 or more years of professional experience. Duke alumni tend to make generous donations over that 10-year period, averaging $30,725 per person.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT serves an alumni population of more than 137,000, facilitating lifelong learning, career services, and giving opportunities through the MIT Alumni Association.
MIT maintains alumni clubs across six continents, with dozens of groups focusing on alumni from different areas of expertise, occupations, or cultural classifications. Popular MIT alumni events include the Tech Reunion, the alumni leadership conference, and the alumni travel program, which features trips led by MIT faculty and staff. Notable MIT alumni include Buzz Aldrin and the Koch brothers.
MIT alumni earn the highest starting salary of any school on our list, at $81,500 during their first five years post-graduation. They also make the largest donations to their alma mater, giving an average of $45,501 per person over a 10-year period. Most alumni (53%) report a sense of fulfillment in their career.
California Institute of Technology
Though modest in size compared to some other schools on our list, CalTech's alumni population of just 23,000 can access a wide variety of career, community service, and giving opportunities through the CalTech Alumni Association. More than 15,000 alumni connect through CalTech's LinkedIn page alone.
CalTech alumni can attend the school's annual reunion, including reunion weekend festivities and Seminar Day, the women's network summit. They may also participate in alumni travel opportunities. The school also features its own alumni advisers network, job board, and webinars to support graduates in their careers. CalTech hosts its own book club, and recognizes notable graduates through its Distinguished Alumni Award.
CalTech alumni earn above-average annual salaries, even in their early careers, reaching $78,800 over the first five years. By mid-career, alumni earn $142,500 per year on average, and donate an average of $53,845 per person within 10 years of graduation.
Among the most notable Ivy League universities in the U.S., Harvard serves a membership of more than 371,000 living alumni, located across the 50 U.S. states and in more than 200 foreign countries. Harvard's alumni include 48 Pulitzer Prize winners and 48 Nobel Laureates.
Harvard alumni play a critical role in contributing to the endowment, donating more than $37 billion. The oldest university in the U.S., Harvard's alumni association, established in 1965, also encompasses a storied history. Harvard alumni can connect with fellow graduates through a vast online community. They may also participate in a variety of regional and special interest groups, attend volunteer and career-building events, and take trips organized by the Harvard Alumni Association.
Most Harvard alumni (56%) feel they help make the world a better place through their work. Alumni earn as much as $140,700 annually by the 10-year post-graduation mark; they typically donate an average of $25,122 per person over that 10-year period.
At BestColleges, we created our list of the top 24 colleges with the strongest alumni networks based on PayScale's 2017-18 "College Salary Report" and Forbes' index of "Grateful Grad" colleges. We cross-referenced these sources to determine which colleges rank highest for alumni participation, average alumni donations for 10 years following graduation, and alumni salary potential. Our list also outlines unique alumni traditions and noteworthy success stories that may help boost the efforts of a college's alumni network.