In this article, Rebecca Hazlett from The British School in The Netherlands discusses the implications and advantages that a school’s alumni network may have for parents who are searching for the perfect school for their children.

Choosing a school that will give your child the opportunities, perspectives and characteristics they need to thrive is no easy task. Schools may boast impressive facilities, robust curricula, noteworthy results and a slew of co-curricular activities, but beyond these polished presentations lies the real essence of a school’s culture and values. How do you know if a school will be the best fit for your child? The answer may lie in a resource you haven’t yet considered: the alumni network.

Alumni, being former students and teachers, are a great source of additional information that can help confirm a first impression or instinct about a school and help parents to finalise a choice. They have been through the educational system and have some perspective on their experience. How well-established an alumni network is says a lot about the school, and this network can provide additional benefits to current students.

Here’s why you, as a parent, should care about alumni:

1. Real-life successesFirstly, are alumni visible? Does the school celebrate its alumni and share their success stories? They can be inspiring role models for students. Such individuals are undoubtedly talented; a good education will have supported and nurtured that talent. Therefore, alumni’s achievements could indicate a great educational foundation.

Also, consider what industries and backgrounds are represented in the individuals that the school distinguishes. Are they diverse?

2. Evidence that a school lives its valuesDepending on how well-established the school is and how long has passed since particular alumni left, a lot could have changed. Do the core values and ethos still seem to match? Engage with stories from decades past to see if the school’s ethos resonates with its community across generations. Can trends in perspectives be identified across different groups of alumni? Do alumni, for instance, consistently mention the high-quality teaching or impactful co-curricular activities that helped them develop?

3. Mentorship and networkingDoes the school involve alumni in its career programme, for example, by inviting them to give talks and presentations or to participate in career events? Alumni are an effective way for students to build and expand their professional network, offering your child a head start in building their own career.

Students can tap into a ready-made knowledge network that might be very diverse, global and intergenerational. Many alumni are very willing to connect with students, share their experiences and expertise and even provide introductions to people in their own professional networks.

“Alumni are a key, though often overlooked, component of a vibrant international school community. While it can be inspirational (and fun!) for students and families to be aware of high profile and notable former students, all alumni have the potential to serve as excellent bridges between students and the worlds of higher education and work. By effectively engaging with alumni through events and mentorship programmes, international schools are able to successfully unlock incredible expertise and knowledge that add unique value to their student experience.” – Dawn Heuff, Aurore Fundraising Consultancy

4. The strength of communityA vibrant alumni community speaks to the school’s culture, as there had to have been a strong sense of community to begin with. Community values must have been well-embedded to stand the test of time, especially given the often transient nature of international schools. It also suggests a strong, enduring connection to the school if an alumni community includes former students and staff, which is another indication of the school’s culture.

So, seek out alumni stories on school websites and social media accounts (LinkedIn is a great channel to consult, too). You can often find testimonials or may even have the chance to connect with alumni. These perspectives can provide unparalleled insights into a school’s culture and the effectiveness of its education.

Extra assurances and long-lasting benefitsAlumni can provide evidence that a school has been fulfilling its mission and living its values. A thriving and engaged alumni community endorses a school and adds value to the experience. After all, your child’s time at school is not only about the curriculum taught but also about personal growth, a sense of belonging to a community and support for achieving their future goals – whatever they might be!

The British School in The Netherlands (BSN) offers a British and international curriculum to students within a warm and welcoming community. The school was established in 1931 and has generations of alumni who commonly recognise the benefit of being exposed to a diverse, inclusive and international community from an early age. This environment helped them relate to diverse groups of people as adults in their personal and professional lives. Learn more about what BSN can do for your children by visiting their website or scheduling a tour of one of their campuses.