Number 3: Stay in contact. It would be meaningful for these students to hear from you again early in their first semester. Have your chamber members send them a note and perhaps include a few coupons for them to use at their favorite coffee shop when they are back home. Text them an invitation to a casual gathering on the Wednesday of Thanksgiving break.  

 * In this series about simple ways to be intentional about recruiting college graduates, I have talked about the value of starting with your own youth and celebrating them before they leave town after high school.  

My wife’s grandmother sent me handwritten notes of encouragement up until she passed away at 99 years old. When I saw the envelope with her handwriting, I would immediately open it. The gift of receiving a note from someone who is thinking about you is so meaningful.  

When my son went to Maine to work at a wilderness camp after his freshman year of college, we sent him a care package that included some of his favorite snacks and a drawing from his younger brother. He loved it because he was thought of with intentionality. He sent notes back to his younger siblings and they were excited to get “real” mail with their name on it. I don’t know anyone at any age who wouldn’t feel appreciated by such a gesture.  

HR teams understand the value of the ask and of giving out simple but fun things. That’s why they pay money to travel around the state or country to attend job fairs and ask students to apply for jobs. If you show up on a college campus on job fair day, you’ll find up to 200 employers with tables full of cheap (or not so cheap) giveaways luring young talented students to their tables and then telling them how great their town is and inviting them to apply for jobs.  

Since our communities are rich with information about our own graduates it makes sense to me that we should use this information to let them know that we’re thinking about them. A note (even through email or text) from a community leader with a certificate for a coffee or pastry at the local shop would be a welcomed surprise during the first weeks on campus (or back on campus). This note could be a simple “hope your semester is off to a good start”. But it could also be an invitation to connect for lunch when the student returns home next.  

I would argue that relationships are one of the main things that influence decisions. This is good. Relationships are the fabric of our communities and often frame how we define what makes a meaningful life. As we think about how to start with our own to build strong pipelines, maintaining the relationship is important. A note with an invitation to connect could be a good first step.  

I’m not aware of any local communities that are doing this. However, faith communities have a rich history of staying connected with their homegrown college students. Here are some examples, from a quick internet search, to consider in Clark County, Hendricks County, and Marion County. If you know of a local community who is doing something similar, please let us know. We’d like to share their example. 


Jeff Eads is the Director for Industry Engagement at Ball State University.