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Most college students appreciate gifts that make their lives easier and more comfortable. Many also enjoy gifts that will help them decorate their living space.
We researched gifts that take into consideration a student's wants, needs, and their living environment. Our list includes indoor string lights from Amazon, a tasty gift basket care package just for students, and more.
Here are the best gifts for college students.
KooPower 200 LED Indoor String Light with Remote and Timer
String lights are a fun way to light up any space. Students can customize and configure the lights however they wish to make their dorm feel more like home.
This option includes 200 bulbs on 69-feet of string, all for an affordable price. Even better, the lights are controlled by a remote and have a timer function, so turning the lights off at night is a breeze.
AirPods are the perfect electronic gift for students constantly on the go. Whether walking to class, catching a bus, studying in the library, or listening to a lecture, these wireless headphones make listening and learning hands-free.
This is especially great for commuters who need to kill time on a train or subway each morning with a good audiobook or podcast or those learning online while watching Zooms or video chatting with professors.
Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner
This small gadget makes taking notes easier than ever. The Scanmarker Air Pen Scanner scans 3000 characters per minute, and the words appear instantly on your screen through the Scanmarker app. With the text-to-speech function, the app will read the words back as you scan them.
The Air Pen Scanner can also scan and translate over 70 languages super accurately. Now, college students can save time writing notes and spend more time actually studying. This may be a splurge but is super helpful for those majors who rely on physical textbooks when learning.
Gourmet Gift Baskets College Care Package
If your college student attends school out of state, send them a gift basket in the mail to show them they're on your mind. This Gourmet Gift Baskets College Care Package is specially curated with college students in mind. It features tons of staples, including M&Ms, Swedish Fish, Oreos, gummy berries, pretzels, a granola bar, and more.
Going away to college is a huge transition, especially when traveling to a different state. Homesick candles are a small way to remind students of home, no matter where they are. Each candle is based on a different state with a matching scent profile designed to spark nostalgia and remembrance.
Be aware that some dorm rooms do not allow candles, so be sure to double check prohibited items. If that's the case, consider purchasing one based on the state their college is in to enjoy on breaks and holidays. This also makes a great graduation present so students can always remember the location of their college years.
Beautyrest Hi Loft 15in. Twin Air Mattress with Pump
While it may not be the first pick on their wish list, an air mattress is a must for first-time college students who plan to have visitors. Ensure that friends from other schools can come to visit and vice versa by having a small but comfortable place for them to sleep (rather than attempting to fit two people on a twin-sized dorm bed).
This option is affordable, compact, waterproof, and comes with a storage bag that reduces space when not in use. Again, some dorms prohibit air mattresses in dorms, so double-check with your recipient before gifting.
Thrive Market Build Your Own Mixed Meal Bundle
Having to cook for yourself is one of the biggest transitions for college students. It can be especially difficult in a dorm room with nothing more than a mini-fridge and a microwave. Meal kits are a gift that all college students will be thankful to receive.
Thrive Market allows you to create a bundle of frozen, single-serving meals to be delivered right to their dorm. You can choose different ounces and various bags, boxes, and starter packs. Plus, there are plant-based and paleo options for any dietary restrictions.
Bombas Gripper Slipper
A great pair of slippers is essential for students walking around their dorm room on cold hardwood or linoleum floors, especially during winter. Slippers are also a great option for walking back and forth to dining halls, other dorm rooms, or communal bathrooms.
This slipper-sock hybrid from Bombas is super comfortable but not super warm to avoid overheating. They have grips on the bottom to prevent slipping and come in various colors to fit every taste.
Bed Bath & Beyond Mesh Shower Tote
Make communal bathrooms slightly more bearable with a functional shower caddy. This one from SALT is mesh, so it dries quickly and has various pockets for storing shampoo, conditioner, razors, loofas, and anything else they need to feel clean.
The sturdy handles make carrying your items to and from the bathroom extremely easy, and you can hang them on a hook in your dorm for quick storage.
The North Face Borealis Backpack
A good backpack is a must for college students who have to schlep textbooks, notebooks, pens and pencils, and a laptop to class every day. This classic one from The North Face is designed for back and shoulder comfort. There are four compartments to fit a laptop or tablet, sunglasses, keys, or a water bottle. While expensive, this is a functional gift they will utilize every day.
Without a parent nagging them to drink water, college students may need a cute and convenient water bottle to keep them hydrated throughout the day. This one is unique because it is collapsible, taking up less space in a suitcase when packing as well as when shipping, which reduces its carbon footprint.
Choose from 17 colors and two sizes to fit your student's preferences and lifestyles. Que bottles are less expensive than competitors and are thin enough to fit in cup holders or backpack sleeves.
InnoGear Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser
For dorm rooms that may prohibit candles or scented plug-ins, diffusers provide an amazing scent for dorms, plus they pull double duty as decor. This essential oil diffuser is an inexpensive option that comes in different color exteriors and lights up. Choose from seven light settings to add a new ambiance to your small space.
Golden Coil Planner
Help your college student take control of their busy schedules with a daily planner custom-designed for them. Golden Coil allows you to customize every part of the process, from choosing a cover and every single page included. Choose from different daily, monthly, and yearly spreads, as well as fun inserts like reading logs and mood trackers.
While on the expensive side, college students will love personalizing their planner to fit their daily life. Once the year is completed, the beautiful planner will make a great addition to any bookshelf or nightstand.
Kodak Mini 2 Instant Photo Printer
Your college student is making many memories, and a portable photo printer is a great way for them to easily keep and display all of their favorite photos. The Kodak Mini 2 Instant Photo Printer is compatible with any iOS or Android device. Just download the corresponding app and choose from various filters, frames, and stickers before printing your new memory.
Maybe you didn't have enough room to pack board games on your first trip, but they are a great way for roommates and new friends to bond and pass the time. Sequence is an insanely fun strategy game for up to 12 players so the entire floor can get involved.
Each turn, you play a card from your hand and place a chip on the corresponding card on the board. The goal is to get five chips in a row to make a sequence. This makes for a cozy night-in on colder days or as part of a high-intensity game night.
Alex and Ani College Logo Charm Bangle
Show school spirit with an Alex and Ani college bangle. The iconic jewelry company's college collection features 44 universities. Each bangle includes a charm with the school's logo, along with the brand's three signature small charms.
Choose from silver, sterling silver, or gold to match any wardrobe for a stylish and subtle way to rep your college or university.
CUMKA LED Desk Lamp
Desk lamps are a necessity for studying late into the night, but this one also doubles as a wireless charger. The CUMKA LED Desk Lamp has five color temperature settings and five brightness levels for 25 total modes. If reading at night, you can set the time for the light to automatically turn off to not waste energy, and students can rotate and adjust the angle of the light until perfect.
The Sill Succulent Assortment
Once students move into their own spaces, it might be the perfect time for them to start buying and caring for plants on their own. Greenery adds a fresh and bright feeling to any dorm room, and assorted succulents are the perfect option for first-time plant owners.
This assortment from The Sill lets you choose from three, six, or twelve succulents, depending on the size of your space. Each succulent requires minimal water and sunlight, making them the ideal fit for any dorm room regardless of size or brightness.
The CrunchCup The CrunchCup
A quick breakfast on the go is possible with the CrunchCup. The innovative cup has two compartments: one for milk and one for cereal, so it never gets soggy. When you take a sip, the two come together for a perfect bite of cereal anywhere: no bowls or spoons required. The cup itself is extremely durable and dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.
Bucky 40 Blinks Travel Sleep Mask
Living with roommates for the first time may be a bit jarring, especially when syncing routines and lifestyles. Sleeping with roomies who are still awake or studying can be difficult, but eye masks like this one from Bucky can make the transition easier.
This sleep mask is ultra-lightweight, easy to clean, blocks out lights, and is molded for pressure-free eye comfort to make falling and staying asleep easier in new settings.
To-Go Ware Bamboo Travel Utensils
For a small, affordable gift they can use every day, opt for a set of reusable utensils for your college student to take to the dining hall or when ordering takeout. This set from To-Go Ware includes a fork, knife, spoon, and a pair of chopsticks with a convenient carrying case.
The utensils are made from bamboo, and the carrying case is made from recycled plastic bottles and includes a convenient carabiner. This is a great option for reducing plastic, especially in dining hall and takeout settings.
SAIJA Adjustable Laptop Stand
Often in dorm room settings, your bed becomes your work and study space. Avoid bad posture or hurting your back with a bed desk. This one is definitely a splurge but has many amenities that will come in handy for college students. The SAIJA Laptop Bed Tray Table is adjustable in five different heights and four different angles and folds for easy storage.
Urban Outfitters Crosley Ryder Bluetooth Record Player
If you have room in your dorm, a record player is a funky yet sophisticated touch. This compact, bell-driven option from Crosley and Urban Outfitters is sleek and timeless and comes in three neutral colors to fit any space.
Play your favorite vinyls at three speeds, or use the Bluetooth receiver to stream your fave songs digitally. There is even an aux port to use headphones to not distract your roommates. While definitely a luxury both money and space-wise, college students will love the added nostalgic touch to their small space.
Tile Mate Key and Phone Finder
Now, when rushing to an 8 a.m. class, college students can look to their smartphones to keep all of their important items safe and organized. Directly attach Tile's Mate tracker to bags, keys, or wallets and monitor them through Bluetooth and the corresponding app on Apple and Android devices.
Instant Pot Lux 6-In-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker
There is no excuse for a poor diet these days with so many new gadgets on the market that make home cooking easier and faster. The Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker can do everything, including slow cook chili, make rice, and even bake a cake. We're sure they'll have so much fun whipping up new creations; they might even come home during the holidays and make you dinner.
Keurig K-Mini Plus Single Serve Coffee Maker
In terms of kitchen appliances in dorms, a quick and easy coffee machine is a must. This mini Keurig device brews a single cup of coffee, perfect for one or two people to use. Choose the K-cups of your choice and brew 6 to 12 ounces of coffee quickly on your way to class or the library each morning.
Bissell FeatherWeight Lightweight Stick Vacuum
While cleaning might not top their list of fun, it must be done. This Bissell Featherweight Light Stick Vacuum makes doing it as easy and enjoyable as possible. It’s super lightweight (2.6 pounds), and it can easily convert from a stick vacuum to a hand vac to reach all the nooks and crannies in every room of your house. The cord is 15 feet to cover a large area, and it works on most surfaces, including carpets, upholstery, and bare floors.
Vornado VFAN Jr. Vintage Air Circulator
This fan from Vornado helps cool things down while looking ultra cool and tuning out noisy neighbors. It’s got a hip, retro feel, designed after the original Vornado Fan from 1945. This one is compact though, measuring just 6.3 x 10.3 x 11.42 inches, so it’s great for dorm rooms and small apartments. Stylish and functional, it features two-speed settings and a rotating head, and it comes with a five-year warranty.
NY Threads Women Fleece Hooded Bathrobe
For those who love to lounge, you can’t go wrong with this robe. The simple design gets an upgrade with the hood detail, which makes for extra warmth and comfort. It’s made of polyester and flannel fleece and comes complete with two front pockets and a sash. It’s perfect for post-shower or for lounging the day away.
Anker PowerCore+ Mini
When you’re on the go all day, it’s a bummer when your phone battery can’t keep up with the action. This portable charger is one of the smallest available—it’s about the size of a tube of lipstick—and it will charge smartphones up in a snap. It recharges in just three to four hours, comes with a travel pouch, as well as an 18-month warranty. That means no more excuses that they’re not responding to your texts because their phone battery died.
Criacr Clip-On Cell Phone Lens
When it comes to selfies, these lenses for smartphones significantly up that game. They clip right onto your phone and produce shots that look like they were taken with a professional camera. This set comes with three separate lenses, including a wide-angle, 180-degree fish angle, and 15x macro lens to get the perfect shots every time. They work on most models of smartphones and tablets, and countless satisfied customers say they’re a great way to improve the quality of your pictures for a small price.
WORKPRO 100-Piece Tool Kit
At some point, everyone needs a good tool kit, and this 100-piece set from WORKPRO contains all the basics to make small repairs around the house. It includes a hammer, wrench, pliers, and pretty much everything you would need to build or fix minor repairs. What's more, this tool kit comes in a compact size that can fit in a kitchen drawer, so it won't take up valuable space. When you drop off your kid, just tuck in a corner for them to use when the need strikes.
DOSS SoundBox Bluetooth Speaker
Let them relax to their favorite tunes with this Bluetooth speaker that comes in various colors. All they need to do is hook up their phone's Bluetooth, and they can blast what music they're currently loving. The speaker can play up to 20 hours (at 50 percent volume) on a full charge.
Contigo AUTOSEAL West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug
If they’ve got to have their morning cup of joe, this travel mug from Contigo will carry them through the day. It keeps drinks warm up to five hours, and it holds a whopping 16 ounces of their beverage of choice (other models of this cup hold up 24 ounces). It can also keep beverages cold for up to 12 hours.
The cup is spill-proof, and a push of a button opens the lid for easy sipping. Customers say it’s easy to clean, seriously leak-proof, and keeps beverages hot or cold for an amazingly long time.
Bedsure Sherpa Fleece Blanket
Whether they're lounging, studying, or recovering from a cold, your college student needs some of the warm comforts of home. This best-selling throw blanket is available on Amazon in 26 colors to suit any decor scheme, and it also comes in different sizes. They'll have the option to snuggle up with the fleece side or the textured Sherpa side, depending on their needs.
What to Look for in a Gift for College Students
Is this gift for a small college dorm or a larger home? Keep in mind that certain items are impractical for dorm life but are perfect for a house or apartment.
Consider practical or cozy gifts that make college life easier or more comfortable. Students on tight budgets (as many are) will appreciate gifts that they won't (or can't) buy for themselves. Try to find out what the student needs most and start there.
Hobbies and Interests
Do you know the student's major in college? Consider a gift related to that area of study. If the student enjoys certain hobbies or sports, like crafts or hiking, consider some equipment they can use during these activities.
What gift do college students need the most?
A college student's needs depend on the specific student. A younger student might appreciate a gift card that allows them to purchase whatever they want. An older student or one who has their own apartment might like a bit of home decor to spruce up their living space.
When should I give a gift to a college student?
There's never a wrong time to give a college student a gift. Give them something nice or useful on their birthday, at the start of the semester, or just surprise them with a random gift of an item they want or need. Either way, your student is sure to appreciate it.
How much should I spend on a gift for a college student?
If your budget allows you to spend a bit more money on an electronic or fancy earbuds, then feel free to do so. However, you can surely spend less than $30 on an item that's sure to get good use, like a candle or piece of home decor.
Why Trust the Spruce
This article was written by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce, covering toys, gifts, and the holidays. She's also covered similar topics in other roles, including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more.