Know a college student in your life and wondering what to get them for the holidays?
As a college student, there’s so much in transition and flux. Classes change, majors morph, and roommates relocate. Financial and emotional support is in high demand, and so are all those tangible things that keep them afloat as they start and restart on a new chapter of life. Even if it seems like this each time a new semester starts. College students at home for the holidays are ready to hibernate and feel cozy, but they’re also ready to reload on necessities for life back at school.
Good gifts for college students aren’t impossible to find (though it may feel like it sometimes). With our gift ideas for college students below, you’ll realize the search for good gifts for college students can actually be pretty straightforward, even if you don’t know exactly what’s on their wishlist!
Gifts that are lovely and thoughtful, but practical too
When you think of practical gifts, you usually think of things that people don’t really want to receive as gifts. They’re boring, plain, or aren’t really the definition of a “good” gift. However, practical necessity-type gifts like these beauties below are appreciated when they’re of good, high quality and when the match the real life of the gift recipient.
Socks? Not a dull gift at all considering that good quality socks really do keep your feet protected when you’re walking to class in the rain and snow, unlike like the ones from the dollar store that are more in line with students’ budgets.
These practical (but nice!) gift ideas below will cover all the basic human/college student needs → air, water, food, shelter, sleep, plus some extras!
1. Air. A great gift idea for the college student is one that will encourage them to get out and get some fresh air is purchasing membership for them to a local museum, national park, gym, concert series, or play. This kind of gift continues to give into the future and provides future respite and fun experiences.
2. Food and Water. College students need to stay hydrated for optimal, well-functioning brains. Plus, eating on the go in between classes or offsite late at night often means warm food may not be close and convenient. A thermos or insulated water bottle is a perfect way to solve both of these problems. The Camelbak Chute Mag Vacuum Stainless Steel Water Bottle ($36) keeps drinks cold and hot and has an angled spout making hydrating while riding a bike easy. Klean Kanteen’s Wide Coffee Mug ($30.95) and Hydroflask’s insulated vacuum seal flasks are good buys as well. Alternatively, Thermos Work Series ($36.42) or Food Jar ($39.99) offer heavy duty options for drinks and warm meals alike.
And don’t discount the great joy a gift card to local grocery store can bring; it’s a versatile and simple way to contribute to daily meals in the future.
If you prefer to gift items rather than cash or gift cards, fun, specialty foods that they can enjoy during future meals with friends include things like Salted Honey ($14) or Gochujang Sriracha ($16.00) for an extra special treat. For the student eager to travel, patiently waiting for the semester to end, these snacks are a fun idea too, Try the World Snacks ($19).
3. Shelter. Using the word “shelter” loosely (since you’re not gifting them a roof over their head) from the list of basic human needs, clothing provides a similar benefit to a college student. Think wool socks and stylishly warm jackets of any length, material or puffiness, from Patagonia, Nordstrom, or North Face.
4. Sleep. Having roommates and sharing spaces in college can make keeping a sleep schedule challenging. To make sleep come a little easier, a sleep mask might just do the trick like the ones from Alaska Bear ($9.99) or Bedtime Bliss ($12.90).
And where there is sleep, there is also comfort. Blankets encourage cozy naps and warm shoulders while studying. Cotton throw blankets ($20.88) or ones made of microfiber ($14.80) are versatile and a perfect size for going from bed, to couch, to desk with ease. And reading pillows ($39.99) make studying on the floor, bed, or couch a more comfortable experience and provide their backs with much needed support.
Cuddly warm sheets will help them sleep well, but hopefully not keep them tucked in bed past the start of class; non-pilling flannel sheets are nice for those cold months.
5. Extras. A practical gift that will save any college student from being stranded is a portable charger. Anker PowerCore 20100 ($59.99) or it’s lower priced, more compact 10000 ($31.99) series is also an option, or look for one with a dual port like Poweradd Pilot ($24.99).
And of course, stationery and writing tools for class make for great gifts too. College students will appreciate how productive they are when using the Ink+Volt Planner ($40) throughout the entire year, allowing them to focus and drill down on their goals while reflecting on their accomplishments.
When it comes to note-taking, the Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Notebook ($24.95) provides a simple and durable note-taking option with layflat binding, elastic band, and ribbon finder. There are always lots of notebook colors and styles to choose from so you can't go wrong!
And you can’t have quality paper without a good pen or pencil as well. We love these for note taking: Schneider Fineliner (3-Pack for $8.99), Pigma Micron Assorted Color 6-Pack ($13.25), or Pilot G2 Mechanical Pencil (2-Pack for $3.62).
Gifts for the traveling, adventure bound college student
As a student traveling to study abroad or just exploring distant countries during school breaks, these gift ideas will come in handy and help them travel with ease:
- Travel adapters for any plug ensure your student can stay fully charged no matter where they plan on exploring. Especially helpful for multi-destination adventures!
- Knock Knock Pack This! Pad ($10). Never forget to pack the essentials with this fun packing list notepad. Helps eliminate worry and stress for forgetful travelers.
- The Traveler Notebook ($16) or Scribe Pocket Notebooks ($12). What better way to capture information quickly than in these notebooks? They are durable and perfect for traveling near and far. Or the I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Mind ($16.95) is a fun travel friendly journal. It has prompts to take note of the discoveries while traveling, plus reviews, tips, and resources essential for any traveler.
- GoToobs ($20.99) travel bottles make carrying on toiletries easy and hassle free.
Gifts that are just plain fun that any college student will enjoy
Looking for a gift that will make your college student smile? The gift ideas below are fun, cute, and unique regardless of your college student’s style or personality:
- For the student that wants to bring a little bit of home to college, these Homesick Candles ($30.00) will do just the trick, making their college dorm room smell like their home state. Perfect for the student attending an out of state school!
- Air Plants ($6.99+) are a super easy plant to care for and ensure your college student sees some nature even when they’re holed up in there room studying away.
- The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopedia of Existing Information ($16) is a fun book to go to for a laugh, with plenty of satire. Perfect for reading in bits and pieces and sharing with friends, it’s light reading that will counteract their intensive studying.
- Funky and fun, the Neon Peace Sign or Eureka! Neon Lightbulb ($70) are a unique and stylish addition to any dorm room or apartment.
Good gifts for college students run the spectrum, from the practical and essential to the silly and fun. These gift ideas cover all your bases, happy shopping!