The number of ways in which we can communicate with our college students continues to increase almost daily. You may use one method almost exclusively, or you may use several methods to keep in touch. These days, most of our connections seem to be electronic. We may communicate via cell phone, text, e-mail, Facebook, Skype, Google hangouts, Google chats, Facetime or any number of other methods. It’s important to stay in touch (although it’s easy to overdo it).
In the rush of the newest electronic forms of communication, one often overlooked and forgotten form of connection is good, old fashioned, snail mail. Even with the advent of technology as a means of connection, most college students are still assigned a physical mailbox on campus. The ritual of checking the mailbox is still a common one for most students. No matter what means of communication you use most often, consider using this mailbox to reach out to your student.
Yes, other forms of communication are faster and easier than snail mail, but there is nothing like the feeling of opening the mailbox and finding something there. No e-mail or text compares to a personally handwritten note or card. And Facetime conversations can’t be posted on dorm room bulletin boards.
You don’t need to sit down and write a long, newsy letter to your student (although most students wouldn’t object to receiving one). There are some simple ways to brighten your student’s day through mailbox contents.
Of course, there is the obvious practice of sending a full-blown care package to your student. Students love receiving care packages. You can contract a service to send a package, or you can put together a fun, more personal care package yourself. But beyond the obvious care package, there are some little things that you can do to fill that mailbox and let your student know that you are thinking of her.
Here are ten suggestions, but they are only the beginning. Use them to start your creative imagination flowing. Once you start, you’ll think of new ideas all of the time.
- Greeting cards – Send a cute or funny card for holidays or events. Of course, there are the obvious – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine’s Day. But think about some unexpected or offbeat occasions as well. How about the first day of spring, or a half a card for a half birthday, Groundhog day, or St. Patrick’s Day? Even just a “thinking of you” or a “chin up” card. Spend a little time in the greeting card aisle and you’re guaranteed to have plenty of ideas.
- Postcards – If you go anywhere, send a postcard. Send a postcard from your hometown, or the local museum or local tourist spot. Find an old postcard from your favorite family vacation spot.
- Magazines – Sign your student up for a subscription to a magazine she might enjoy. Something will arrive in that mailbox every month.
- Local newspaper – Does your town have a local newspaper? Sign your student up for a subscription. She can keep up to date on what’s happening at home.
- Photographs – In this age of digital photography, it’s still fun to look at a physical photo and hold it in your hand. Find a few old photographs and put one or two in an envelope now and then. Chances are good they’ll end up on a bulletin board in your student’s room.
- Sibling notes – Does your college student have siblings still at home? Ask them to write a note. If they are younger, send a drawing or one or two school assignments. Help your student stay connected.
- Newsletters – are there any local groups or organizations that send monthly newsletters? Sign your student up. It’s a great way to keep your student involved and connected.
- Gift cards – Slip a gift card in an envelope. It doesn’t need to be a huge gift. Just a $5.00 card to Dunkin Donuts or a local coffee or ice cream shop will be fun to receive.
- Recipes – Does your student do any of her own cooking? Slip a favorite recipe or two in an envelope.
- Comic strips or articles – See something fun or interesting in the newspaper or a magazine? Cut it out and send it.
Just thinking about one or two of these small items each week or each month could give your student a special lift. It’s “old school” technology, but it still works.
Finally, think about others who might like to get involved. Share your student’s school address with others – grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, family friends. Your student’s mailbox might be overstuffed, but we bet she won’t complain!
Do you have other ideas? Share them in the comments below.