Shopping for a college student? It can be difficult to know where to start, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been in college yourself.
What do college students even need these days?
Turns out, it’s quite a lot — and between classes, internships and social lives, they don’t have a ton of time (or cash) for shopping.
However, the difference between a good gift for a college student and a bad one is still stark. Buy the right thing, and you’ll be their favorite parent/aunt/uncle/sibling/friend for life.
Buy the wrong thing, and it’ll just end up taking up space and collecting dust in their dorm room.
To make your buying decision a little easier, here are the 25 best gifts for college students, from the budget-friendly to the tech-savvy, and everything in between.
Tech-Savvy Gifts for College Students
Most likely any college kid in your life is more tech-savvy than you, but here are a few gift ideas that any techy will love.
The Echo Dot is affordable at $50, but still offers all the great smart home features that users have grown to love. Plus, it makes a handy Bluetooth speaker for their music while getting ready for class or some white noise during serious study sessions.
Again, you’ll want to check to see if your college student already has these, but if they don’t, you’ll earn major points by gifting them.
Apple AirPods are a game-changer, even for those who don’t think they necessarily need them. The difference between walking around campus with an earbud wire hanging around your neck and walking around wire-free is monumental.
You never realize how that wire gets in the way while working out, cleaning, running or in a range of other situations, until it’s gone.
Your college student likely already has a television or laptop on which they watch their favorite shows, but what do they do when they want to binge Netflix on the go, but don’t necessarily want to lug around their heavy laptop?
An iPad is the perfect fit for portable, low-key binging, as well as web surfing and possibly even getting a little homework done.
Whether they need two-day shipping, Amazon Prime’s original shows and series, Prime Music, access to the Kindle Lending Library or anything else that an Amazon Prime membership delivers, make sure they have it.
An Amazon Prime membership is the gift for college students that keeps on giving, for just $120 per year.
Give your college student an easy way to keep all their favorite memories handy, and tangible. The Instamax Mini allows them to snap photos at the best parties, Greek events and tailgates of the year, and then print polaroids as they go, for convenient decorating around the dorm.
Save them time, cash and stress, with their own wireless printer. No need to run to the library to print off that term paper at midnight. They can print everything they need right from their dorm room; no matter how close to class starting they’re actually finishing their assignment.
(And you might want to consider getting them a few ink cartridges as well.)
7. Robot Vacuum
Keep that dorm room clean! College students are all too apt to forget cleaning certain parts of their dorms, but with a robot vacuum, they have no excuse not to keep their floors clean.
Related: Top 5 Workout Headphones Under $50
Sensible Gifts for College Students
There’s nothing wrong with buying something that’s more functional and useful than, well, exciting.
There’s nothing like getting to class, taking out your laptop to take some notes and realizing that you’ve completely drained your battery to ruin your day.
A portable charger means your favorite college student is always ready to work, no matter where they are with plenty of battery life. And a bonus, it can double as a phone charger!
Those college dorm rooms can be difficult to navigate when you have two or more people all trying to live, work, sleep and play in the same space.
Having an extra-long power cord on hand can allow a college student to charge their devices from any angle, whether they’re working at the corner desk or lounging on the top bunk.
10. Coffee Maker
Yeah, they could go to the on-campus Starbucks… or they could save some cash and make their own coffee at home. Whether you spring for a pricey coffee maker, or just go with a basic Keurig, one-cup coffee maker, you'll be delivering their caffeine fix daily for years to come.
If they haven't figured it out already, a coffee maker will become their best friend.
11. Nice Backpack
If there’s one purchase that’s absolutely necessary for college students, it’s a backpack. If your college student has been using the same backpack since freshman year of high school, though, it’s time for an upgrade.
There are loads of nice backpacks on the market that are both stylish and functional, whether your college student needs something sturdy and waterproof, or something professional and suitable for their new internship.
12. Hydro Flask
Keep their favorite drinks cold or hot as they bounce from class to class. The Hydro Flask is an extremely popular water bottle brand among college students, and for good reason.
These cult-favorited water bottles are durable, BPA-free, live up to any challenge and keep drinks at their ideal temperature for an entire day of classes or tailgating.
College students expose themselves to about as many germs as a toddler might on a daily basis. Protect your favorite college student from just a few of those germs, with a phone sanitizer.
While the PhoneSoap phone sanitizer is a bit pricey, at just under $100, it does use UV-C bulbs to kill 99.99% of bacteria on any phone, all while charging the device at the same time.
14. Instant Pot
If you have a college student who’s not in a traditional dorm, so they have their own cooking space, then you might encourage them to make their own food every once in a while and stop living on ramen.
The Instant Pot is the perfect kitchen gadget for college students who’re new to cooking, as they can just throw in their food, press a few buttons and then come back later to rice, soup, roasts or whatever they’re craving.
The InstaPot is also a handy cooker for those who might forget to thaw that chicken they wanted to cook, as it cooks frozen foods, even meats, in a snap.
If they are a beginner cook, there's a great cookbook with over 1,000 Instant Pot recipes to get them started.
Luxurious Gifts for College Students
These are great gifts for the college student who just wants the best of everything.
Between late-night study sessions and — let’s be honest — late-night parties, it can be all too easy to let one’s skincare routine slide. Make it a little easier for your college student to stick to their skincare routine, with a skincare subscription box that delivers everything they need to stay acne-free and glowing.
There are plenty of skincare subscription boxes to choose from, whether you’re shopping for a guy or gal, or you know your college student has specific skincare needs or issues.
16. Luxury Notebook
Yeah, they could use the same Five Star notebooks that all their classmates picked up in the Wal-Mart or Target school supplies section… or they could pull out a luxurious notebook like one of these at the link above and catch everyone’s eye as they studiously take their notes in Chem 101.
And who knows — a nice notebook might be just the thing to turn an infrequent notetaker into a note-taking fiend.
Plants can get pricey, but if you know your college student loves being a plant parent, surprise them with a new plant delivered to their door each month.
Go with a plant subscription that provides low-maintenance, low-light plants, for sturdy succulents and other varieties that can withstand harsh dorm life.
18. Luggage Set
Your college student needs a new luggage set to get them to and from their hometown each break. A high-quality new luggage set will ensure their belongings are kept both secure and stylish while en route.
Look for luggage with a durable outer shell, and plenty of organization and functionality, with features such as 360-degree spinner wheels and built-in chargers.
Do you really think your favorite college student has time to shop for clothes in their busy schedule? Make it easier for them to stay on top of the latest trends, with a fashion subscription box.
Whether they need workplace apparel for that new internship or upcoming job interviews, or they just need some new workout gear to replace those hole-y yoga pants, you can find a fashion subscription box that will uniquely meet their needs.
Budget-Friendly Gifts for College Students
Even budget-friendly gifts can make a huge difference for a college student.
20. Desk Organizer
For around $20, you can get a desk organization system that will keep all of your college student’s gear right where they need it. From chargers to sticky notes, washi tape to extra pens and pencils, a desk organizer can clear their desk of all that clutter and make them just a little more productive.
Remind your college student about their favorite places and to come back home soon, with a Homesick scented candle. You can find oversized homesick candles for just $30 that come in an array of scents reminiscent of states and cities all across the country.
The handcrafted scent blends are sure to give your independent college student just a tiny pang of homesickness — or at least enough nostalgia that maybe they’re reminded to call mom and dad every once in a while.
22. Mini Fridge
Did you know that you can buy a mini fridge for under $50? Make your college student’s day on a budget, with a mini fridge for their dorm, to keep all their goodies cold.
This particular option will keep items at 45 degrees and is the perfect size to fit canned drinks, or a combination of drinks, food and even medications. The fridge also has a heating option and can warm items up to 140 degrees.
So they might forget to do their entire skincare routine after a late night of studying (or partying), but they can at least take their makeup off, thanks to the Makeup Eraser Cloth. This highly praised cloth uses only water to erase even the most stubborn makeup — foundation, mascara and all.
Just wet it, wipe it and hit the sack.
24. Jade Roller
Along the same lines, any help your college student can get when it comes to looking their best, even while working with limited time and sleep, is appreciated.
A jade roller is a quick way to decrease facial swelling from limited sleep, poor diet and other factors, while simultaneously soothing dark circles.
25. Cold, Hard Cash
Lastly, it’s the gift that everyone loves and that fits any budget — cold, hard cash. No matter what amount you can give, your college student is sure to appreciate any extra cash to get them through the semester.
If you can't stomach giving cash, a gift card to the local grocery store, gas station or even an Amazon gift card is also a perfect gift for a college kid.
Shopping for a College Student
Shopping for gifts for a college student doesn’t have to be hard, even if it’s been decades since you were in the classroom yourself.
While the technology and trends have changed, college students’ basic needs haven’t, and they’re always going to appreciate a gift that makes their lives that much easier, convenient and more affordable!
You really can't go wrong with any of these 25 great gifts for a college kid in your life.
You might also be interested in: 6 Ways To Start Saving Money For Christmas Right Now
The 25 best gifts for college students:
- Smart Home Devices
- Apple AirPods
- Amazon Prime Membership
- Instamax Mini
- Robot Vacuum
- Portable Charger
- Extra-Long Power Cords
- Coffee Maker
- Nice Backpack
- Hydro Flask
- PhoneSoap Phone Sanitizer
- Instant Pot
- Skincare Subscription Box
- Luxury Notebook
- Plant Subscription
- Luggage Set
- Fashion Subscription Box
- Desk Organizer
- Homesick Scented Candles
- Mini Fridge
- Makeup Eraser Cloth
- Jade Roller
- Cold, Hard Cash