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The Top Gifts for College Students

By Josephine Nesbit · October 13, 2021 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

The Top Gifts for College Students

The best gifts for college students offer convenience, practicality, and a little bit of fun. Whether your college student needs gadgets, dorm room necessities, or new apparel, you can send them off with something extra special this year. However, shopping for college students can be difficult—especially with so many options out there.

While parents of college students may have a difficult time adjusting to this new independence, giving your college-bound student a gift will make them feel closer to home. To help narrow down your choices, here are gift ideas for college students to prepare for the new school year, whether they’re a recent high school graduate or entering their last year on campus.

Recommended: 5 Ways to Start Preparing For College

Apparel and Accessory Gifts for College Students

College students need to be prepared for any situation on campus, whether that’s a winter storm, an interview, or a visit to the school’s gym facilities. Clothing and accessories are college gifts that will always be appreciated.

1. Backpack

A good-quality and versatile backpack is a college staple. Your college student may want a waterproof bag with plenty of compartments with room for books, a laptop, and other personal items. The backpack should also be comfortable to carry around throughout the day and durable enough to last for several semesters.

2. Messenger Bag or Tote Bag

An officer-ready tote or messenger bag can be great for internships or interviews. Plus, it can be used beyond college.

3. Activewear

Whether they’re playing on a college team, a regular at the gym, or just like the style and comfort, activewear can be a useful gift for most college students. There are many different styles and brands at various price points.

4. Gym Bag

For college students who may use the school’s gym facilities or participate in a sport, a gym bag is essential. Make sure to get an appropriate size bag depending on how much they need to carry.

5. Outdoor Winter Gear

This may not be as important if they’re attending school in a warm location, but students need warm winter clothing when they’re walking back and forth between classes. Your college student may need warm winter boots for the snow, a heavy coat, thick socks, a hat, and gloves. Be mindful of where your student is headed off to school. Depending on the region, they may have different needs.

6. Waterproof Gear

The last thing a college student wants is a wet bag while they’re carrying their textbooks and laptop. A waterproof backpack and an umbrella should help protect expensive gear and a raincoat and boots should keep your college student dry between classes.

7. College Hoodies/Sweatshirts

One popular gift for college students is a hoodie or sweatshirt with the school’s team logo. This can typically be found through the college’s website or they may sell them on campus as well.

8. Loungewear

The dorm will be home for the next couple of semesters so it’s important to be comfortable. Loungewear can be found online or in stores and come in a variety of styles and prices.

9. Professional Attire

A professional outfit is a must for the college student going on interviews or for any formal gathering. If you don’t feel comfortable picking out an office-ready outfit, there are subscription services available with styles based on the information filled out by the recipient, or a gift card to a specific store may work as well.

Recommended: What Is College Like?

Dorm Room Gifts for College Students

There are too many dorm room college essentials to list. The little things go a long way and can help make college life more comfortable and enjoyable.

10. Bedding/Blankets

Most colleges only supply a mattress, so students must bring their own sheets, blankets, and pillows. Colleges typically have dorm beds with a twin XL mattress, but it should be confirmed with the school before buying bedding. Make sure to buy an extra set of sheets so that they always have a clean set.

11. Basic Kitchenware

Whether your college student has a dorm room kitchen or will mostly be eating in the dining hall, basic kitchenware is a necessity for a quick meal or a late-night snack. Basic kitchenware includes utensils, knives, plates and bowls, cups, and food storage containers.

12. Laundry Basket

Dorms typically don’t provide a washer and dryer in the dorm room so students will need to bring their laundry to the communal laundry room.

13. Alarm Clock

Getting up on time for classes can sometimes be a struggle so your college student may need a little help. A digital alarm clock should do the trick even for the heaviest of sleepers.

14. Bathrobe

Aside from the comfort and luxury that bathrobes may bring, they’re a necessity for college. A bathrobe will give a little bit of extra security when your college student goes to take a shower.

15. Storage

Dorm rooms are usually small, so your student will want to maximize every inch they have. There are tons of great storage solutions from under-bed bags and bins, over-the-door storage racks, and hanging strips or hooks.

16. Desk Supplies

Desk supplies are a must-have and make great gifts for college students. Consider desktop organizers, pens and pencils, a lamp, and also a comfortable desk chair.

17. Lap Desk

A lap desk can make a convenient gift for college students to make studying around campus more comfortable. They’re portable and perfect for taking notes or setting a laptop.

18. Streaming Service

It’s easy to spend a lot of money on streaming services, and college students are typically on a tight budget. Get a gift card for one or a couple of streaming services to gift your college student.

19. Personal Safe

If your student has expensive or important items, it’s important they’re kept in a safe location. A small personal safe to protect valuables can give your college student some peace of mind when living with a roommate.

20. Games

Board games or card games are perfect for a relaxing night with roommates and friends.

Food and Drink Gifts for College Students

College cuisine doesn’t have to be instant ramen or dining hall meals. Before purchasing any kitchen appliances, contact a residential assistant to double-check if they are allowed in dorm rooms at the student’s school.

21. Insulated Water Bottle

It’s a simple gift but a leak-proof insulated water bottle will keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot for hours.

22. Microwave

A microwave for a college dorm needs to be compact as college students aren’t working with much space. It should be big enough to fit a full-sized plate but small enough to fit on a narrow counter.

23. Mini-Fridge

A mini-fridge is good for keeping drinks cool or storing a few snacks.

24. Electric Multi-Cooker

Multi-cookers, like the InstantPot, are simple machines but can take dorm room dishes to the next level. With a multi-cooker, college students can free up space and replace multiple kitchen appliances: rice cooker, frypan, pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and steamer. Worth noting again, before buying any kitchen appliances — confirm they are allowed in the dorm rooms at your student’s school.

25. Coffee Maker

It may be nice to get a coffee from the local coffee shop every morning, but the cost can add up. College students on a budget can save some cash by using a coffee maker instead.

Recommended: 33 Ideas for Saving Money While Dorm Shopping

Tech Gifts for College Students

When picking out a tech gift, choose something that will make school life a little easier and maybe add some fun in between classes. The right gadgets will make workloads more seamless and save your student a lot of time and energy.

26. Laptop

A laptop is an essential school supply. While there’s always the library, laptops give students the freedom and flexibility to work on academic assignments anytime and anywhere. Laptop quality, functions, features, and prices vary widely, so make sure you know what your college student is looking for in a laptop.

27. Portable Charger

A portable charger ensures your college student can study, take notes, and work on assignments without worrying about their battery dying. Portable chargers come in a variety of forms with a range of features.

28. Noise-Canceling Headphones

Dorm rooms and other areas around campus sometimes don’t make the best environment for studying. Noise-canceling headphones give your college-bound student a distraction from the surrounding noise.

29. Power Strip

You can never have too many power outlets. Your college student’s dorm room may not have enough outlets for their needs.

30. USB Flash Drive

College students may need a reliable USB flash drive to use when going to the library to work on a project, when a printer isn’t working, or when moving large files. Flash drives come in a range of storage capacities and prices.

31. Portable Bluetooth Speaker

It may not be a must-have, but a portable bluetooth speaker is a fun gift for college students. There are even waterproof models for a little extra protection.

The Takeaway

Still, stumped when it comes to finding gifts for college students? Cash or gift cards go a long way and it allows your college student to purchase exactly what they want or need. A gift card can be used for their favorite restaurant or store or some cash can go towards college books, saving for college tuition, or anything else they may need.

SoFi offers an online cash management account with no account fees, no-fee overdraft coverage, and the ability to get paid up to two days early. Plus, SoFi Money® members with recurring monthly deposits of $500 or more each month will earn interest at 0.25%.

Learn more about reaching your financial goals faster with SoFi Money’s automatic savings features.

Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio


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