Alumni Panel Discussions

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A panel discussion helps seniors and their parents hear about the college experience firsthand from alumni and their parents. College students generally love talking about their lives on campus, and your students will appreciate the opportunity to hear from their nearpeers about what it’s like to transition from your high school into college. Parents, especially those who have never been to college themselves, will appreciate the chance to hear about the pitfalls and successes of sending kids onto education after high school.


Approximately 60 minutes


11th-12th grade students


When college students are home for breaks, often in mid-December

Materials Needed

  • 3-5 alumni now in college
  • 3-5 parents of alumni now in college
  • Student & parent questions (p. 2-5)
  • Blank paper and pencils for participants to write their own questions
  • Computer/projector/speakers to show video (optional)
  • 2 rooms, 1 for students and 1 for parents


Before the event

  • Prepare your panelists by providing them
    with a copy of the predetermined questions.
  • Remind them that students and parents may
    have additional questions.
  • Share expectations about how they respond
    to questions about sensitive topics (i.e.
    alcohol on campus or financial questions);
    generally, panelists should be honest but not
    feel compelled to share any information that
    makes them uncomfortable.

5 minutes

  • General welcome
  • Explain format for the evening
  • Show video: I Wish I Knew ZP1ihDKkvF4 (optional)

45 minutes

  • Break into two groups – 1 for parents and 1 for students.
  • Encourage each participant to write down at least one question they would like to ask.
  • Collect the questions.
  • Shuffle the handwritten questions with the prepared questions, and distribute equally to participants.
  • Introduce the panelists – at minimum, they should share their name, the year they (or their child) graduated from your high school, and where they (or their child) attend.
  • Encourage participants to read out the questions they’ve been given and have the panelists respond.

10 minutes

  • Bring parents and students back to the same room.
  • Ask a few students and parents to talk about one thing they learned that surprised them.
  • Thank panel members and attendees and share any upcoming deadlines (e.g. financial aid forms, college applications, etc.)