Write Alumni Profiles That Tell Your Story

by Nell Kauls

An example of an alumni profile developed for one of our higher ed clients.

An alumni profile developed for one of Seward's higher ed clients

Alumni profiles tell prospective students an important part of your story—your alumni’s accomplishments and contributions to the community. These profiles also help prospective students answer, “What have other people done with this degree?” and “Do people succeed after graduation from the program?” Both are very important questions that arise during the student’s decision-making process, and your website content needs to answer them in an authentic way. Enter alumni profiles. REAL success stories are the most effective way to show prospective students the value of your program.

Profiles are also a way to engage alumni in helping you fulfill your mission. Making alumni part of your content creation process is a way to build and deepen their ties to your institution. Your alumni have many interesting stories to share and are often very pleased to be asked!

Use the following tips to write alumni profiles for your website:

  • Include the alumnus’s name, title, company, and graduation year.
  • Include alumnus’s accomplishments, such as a recent award received or a special project.
  • Provide “where are they now?” information. You can also use this information to populate “Class Notes” sections of newsletters and web pages. This feature is a way to attract other alumni, not just prospective students, to your website.
  • Include quotes and information from the alumnus about how she used her degree to improve her life, career, family circumstances, and organization. Focus on those items that are the most compelling and have had the most impact (“I was promoted and now lead my division!”). Many times you need to take license with a quote to make it carry the message more clearly. Make sure the alumnus reviews and approves it. These quotes can find their way into testimonials, ads, press releases, and brochures. They are great information to get and have in your content management system.
  • Highlight how the alumnus built relationships with fellow students.
  • Present anecdotes about hobbies or interests outside of the university.
  • Customize questions around the alumnus’s area of expertise, focusing on interesting and current industry trends.

    An alumni testimonial feature developed for a higher ed client

    An alumni testimonial feature developed for a higher ed client

  • Create testimonials from the content gathered for profiles. A collection of 2-3 compelling quotes is all you need to create a testimonial.
  • Use words your readers care about in your profiles. Use a keyword generating tool to discover new words for your website content. Google AdWords offers a free tool.
  • Keep online profiles brief (4-5 short paragraphs). You can write longer, detailed profiles for newsletters and other publications.
  • If possible, conduct the interview by phone or face to face. You will often get more and better information this way because it’s not the first question that gets you the story; it’s the question that comes out of the first question. However, emailing your questionnaire to an alumnus is more convenient and the information comes back to you in electronic format.
  • Request a recent photo or arrange to take the alumnus’s picture.

Example Questionnaire

Use these questions to start a conversation with an alumnus:

  • What degrees do you have and from where?
  • What do you consider your greatest accomplishments? (Both personally and professionally)
  • How did you become interested in your field?
  • What do you see as the most compelling trends in your field?
  • What do you enjoy most about your current career position?
  • What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
  • How has your college experience had an impact on your career?
  • Describe any significant relationships with fellow students. How did collaborating with other students contribute to your education?
  • What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
  • What was the best class you took at the University? Do you have a favorite professor?
  • What do you enjoy doing with your free time?  Family?  Hobbies?  Interests?
  • What would you say to prospective students who are considering the program you graduated from?

In my last higher-ed focused post, Write Killer Content for Your Higher-Ed Web Site, I gave you a list of my favorite web writing best practices. Use these tips to write your alumni profile so it will be useful to your audience.

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2 Comments on “Write Alumni Profiles That Tell Your Story”

  1. Betsy Stretar Says:

    Thanks for this article - great suggestions…love the questionnaire! I passed this article along to our Student Services and Marketing Team.

  2. Nell Kauls Says:

    Thanks Betsy! I am so glad that you found it useful. Let me know how the questionnaire works for you!


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