The Top Gifts for College Students

By Josephine Nesbit · August 22, 2023 · 6 minute read

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The Top Gifts for College Students

When someone heads off to college, they are often setting up a whole new household. They want and need items that help them get their new lifestyle up and running. If you are buying gifts for a student, you can help them achieve that by giving them items that are convenient, practical, and a little bit fun.

That’s where this list can come in handy. It identifies some of the most useful, in-demand gifts you could give a recent high-school grad or current college student. Plus there are clever ideas that may well elicit an “I love it!” from the recipient, such as a subscription to a favorite streaming service.

Read on for smart, inspiring ideas for presents for the students in your life.

Apparel and Accessory Gifts for College Students

College students need to be prepared for any situation on campus, whether that’s a winter storm, a job interview, or a trip to the school’s gym to workout. Clothing and accessories are college gifts that are likely to be appreciated. They’re practical, of course, and can help the recipient save money on clothes.

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 office-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. And those can be pricey, so they make a great gift.

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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.

This type of gear can be especially fun for students to wear when getting involved in on-campus activities and showing their school spirit.

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.

Another great idea for a present for a college student: a gift card to a specific store.

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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 roommates. Plus, if they work a cash job and want to save the money for tuition, they will have a safe place to stash it.

20. Games

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

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Food and Drink Gifts for College Students

College cuisine doesn’t have to be instant ramen or dining hall meals. You might help your student get set up to cook meals for themselves, which can be a way to 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.

Bonus: A laptop can be a way a student can earn money at home (or at their dorm room), whether selling things online or perhaps tele-tutoring in a subject they love.

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.

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