When kids are going away to college, especially for the first time, they may be tempted to pack all of their creature comforts from home. Clinical psychologist Dr. Ruth Peters recommends that students “stick to the basics,” however, since they will most likely be sharing a cramped dorm room with at least one roommate. If you want to give gifts to a kid heading off to school, think edible and practical, and don’t buy anything too bulky without consulting with the student first.
Most kids going off to college for the first time live in on-campus dorms, which typically do not have kitchen facilities. Many schools allow students to keep approved appliances in their rooms, however, such as hot air popcorn poppers, small refrigerators, microwaves, electric teakettles or small coffeemakers. These make great gift items that students will appreciate during late-night study sessions. Round out the gift with packets of instant oatmeal, tea, hot chocolate and any other foods that can be made with hot water. You can also include gift cards to the local pizza joint and coffee shop. Do a little research first to find out the most popular student hangouts.
Students who are going away to college will appreciate gifts that let them show their school spirit. Call their college bookstore (or check online) to order one of the school’s T-shirts or sweatshirts. The recipient can wear it on the first day to feel like he really fits in on campus. Monogrammed towels, a throw blanket or a reusable water bottle in the college’s colors are also practical school-spirit gifts.
Once they’re off at college, students may find they need to adapt some of their study habits due to the new environment. A small, clip-on light for late-night studying makes a great gift for a student who will be living with a roommate. Flash drives will allow the student to work on her notes and research on any campus computer. And since most students head off to college with a laptop, consider giving them a colorful laptop sleeve to protect their computer or a laptop cooling pad to keep the computer—and their lap—cool during hours of use.
Before kids head off to college, they typically go on a “shopping spree” to stock up on new linens, new clothes and new school supplies. They may not think of all the practical items that could come in handy when they’re living away from home. Give the student a homemade gift basket filled with necessities: Tylenol, Band-Aids, cold medicine, a sewing kit, rolls of quarters for laundry and a bucket filled with basic cleaning supplies. It may not be the “coolest” gift the student receives, but he’ll think of you every time he needs something from the gift basket.