Though going off to college may look quite different for some students this year, since we still don’t know if they’ll be moving into a dorm or learning from home, some things never change. College years are full of the most defining moments of life, both academically and socially. For those who are heading to campus, this is usually the first time they move away from home for an extended period, and it’s often the first time they’ve ever really had to fend for themselves. At the same time, college can often feel overwhelming and scary. It takes some time to work out that it’s ok not to know your major and to realize the end of high school romances aren’t the end of the world. In reality, there’s nothing that can prepare you 100% for what’s to come.
The same thing can be said for parents of kids heading off for their first college years. While the kids-turned-adults are facing plenty of obstacles, parents across the country are facing several home truths of their own, including that feeling of being both happy and sad at the same time, getting used to one less person around the house and a number of other dropping-your-kid-off-at-college related discoveries.
Whether you’re about to wave goodbye to your first chick leaving the nest, you’re a seasoned pro, or even just a teacher or well-wisher, getting the best gift for a college student can be a tough task. That’s why we’ve put together plenty great ideas to make the process a lot easier, from sentimental ideas for that apprehensive first day, to pizza cooking devices that add a little variety to the college diet (sarcasm). Whether you want to splurge on a new laptop or are looking for a different practical gift that won’t break the back, these are the best gifts for college students.
1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 8+
Obviously, we are well aware that every college kid has a camera on their phone these days, but those aren’t nearly as fun as this instant camera. College is all about making memories and this is the best way to capture them. Bringing it into 2020, this camera has a self-shot mirror for selfies. Aside from the camera, it also comes with a strap, close-up lens, two AA batteries and a user manual. For the photo-obsessed, this is one of the best gifts for college students around.
2. Bodum Chambord French Press
BEST FOR COFFEE ADDICTS
Coffee and college go hand in hand. How else are they supposed to pull off all-nighters to write their papers the night before they’re due? With this French press, they won’t have to worry about finding a coffee shop open in the wee hours. In just four minutes, they can brew a cup of coffee brimming with flavor. Plus, since it’s plug-free, they won’t be breaking any dorm rules.
3. The Original Popco Silicone Microwave Popcorn Popper
BEST SNACK MAKER
This popcorn maker is a sure way to help your college kid make friends — and a great snack. No kernel is left behind since the popper is designed to spread heat evenly. There’s no need to set off in search of a bowl either, since the popper turns into one. It makes up to 15 cups at once so there is always plenty to go around.
4. Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack
A backpack is one of the most essential things for college and this one has major style. Coveted company Herschel Supply Co. is known for turning out elegant bags and backpacks with top-notch quality. The unisex backpack features a padded and fleece-lined laptop sleeve that holds computers up to 15 inches, a key clip inside the front pocket so they never have to fumble at the front door, magnetic closures, a media pocket with a headphone port and padded shoulder straps so their load always feels light. Incredibly spacious, it’ll hold everything they need.
5. Darice Silver Metal Marquee Letter
BEST DÉCOR PIECE
Help them spruce up their space with this silver marquee ampersand that will light up their dorm room in more than one way! Plug space is limited in dorms, so this is super convenient because it’s cordless and has an easy on/off switch on the back. It takes two AA batteries, which are not included.
6. Hydro Flask Water Bottle
BEST WATER BOTTLE
Truly a college staple, your student will take this water bottle everywhere. Hydro Flask is the brand of the moment thanks to its stainless steel, quality bottles that are vacuum insulated. No one wants to worry about spills and this is has a leak-proof lid. It keeps beverages cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12 hours when used with the lid, plus it has a lifetime warranty. Regardless of your student’s style, this is an absolute must-have gift for any college kid.
7. Dinosaur Shape Ceramic Succulent Planter Pot
BEST SUCCULENT POT
It can be tough transforming a bare dorm room into a comfortable, homey space, but this dinosaur ceramic planter adds a major pop of personality anywhere it goes. Perfect for a succulent or small cactus, it has drainage holes to help them keep their plant alive, which is easier said than done for college kids. There are two different dinos and three shades to choose from.
8. Bedsure Fleece Blanket
Comfy and cozy are not the first words that come to mind with dorm beds, but they are for this blanket. With this gift for college kids, your student will sleep more soundly wrapped in this microfiber fleece blanket. It comes in practically every color you can think of, so pick one that suits your kid. Bonus: It’s machine washable, since you know they’d never clean it otherwise.
9. Homeweeks Essential Oil Diffuser
“What’s that smell?” is a question that has been asked way too many times in dorm rooms. Help your college kid avoid that one with this multitasking essential oil diffuser. The triple threat is also a humidifier and nightlight. College students have lots on their minds, but remembering to turn this diffuser off won’t be one of them, since it automatically shuts off once the water or oil level becomes too low or after the time is up. Truly, this is one of the best gifts for college students.
10. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker
BEST BLUETOOTH SPEAKER
Is it really dorm life without music blasting from their room? This will help them do just that without breaking the bank. For such a small speaker, it has a big, crisp sound. A charge will keep it going for an impressive 24 hours and the Bluetooth connection works up to 66 feet. And since these are college kids we’re talking about, this speaker is also drop-proof.
11. “The Alchemist” by Paul Coelho
BEST ADVICE BOOK
A modern-day classic, The Alchemist by Paul Coelho offers advice to kids and adults alike. The life-changing tale urges readers to follow their dreams to a world of self-discovery. It also offers an important reminder to listen to our hearts and recognize the opportunities that cross one’s path. All-in-all, this book should be required reading for college kids, so buying a copy for your favorite student is a great idea.
12. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss
If you really want to tug on those heartstrings, there’s no better way than with the childhood classic “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. What once felt like a simple story, now becomes recognition of this important step in life. This book is a great gift to deliver a dose of sentimentality and also acts as a link to home that homesickness-prone students can read at any time.
13. INIU Portable Charger
BEST UNDER $20
Everyone can use a portable charger. In those moments when you forgot to charge your smartphone or you’ve been kept away from home longer than usual, a portable charger, like this INIU Portable Charger, is a godsend. This is especially true for students in order to ensure they’re on top of their work schedules, up to date with social affairs and definitely not missing out on any spontaneous gatherings with friends because of a dead battery. This high-quality device lets you charge four times faster than a standard charger and can charge most phones up to three times before needing to be recharged itself.
14. Cards Against Humanity
If you don’t know about Cards Against Humanity, there is probably a good reason for that. Suffice to say, this somewhat controversial party game is extremely popular among college students and even brands itself as, “A party game for horrible people.” The premise of the game is very simple. One person asks one question, then everyone chooses their response from the cards in hand. Good (and possibly despicable and awkward) times are had by all.
15. Homesick Scented Candle
BEST FOR STUDENTS FAR FROM HOME
For many students, going to college is the first time they’ll spend an extended period away from their childhood home. It is unsurprising that lots of students experience bouts of homesickness during their time away. And while a phone call home every now and again can certainly do a lot of good, why not also try one of these Homesick Scented Candles? There’s a candle available for every US state. Each comes with its very own scent to help anyone missing the smell of home deal with their worries. They’re made from natural soy wax and have an impressive burn time of up to 80 hours.
16. BestSelfCo. The SELF Journal
BEST FOR MOTIVATION
Maintaining motivation throughout the school year can be a difficult task. That’s why the BestSelfCo. The SELF Journal is a great gift idea for any student. Used by entrepreneurs, goal-smashers and managers alike, this comprehensive journal guides you into optimizing your performance by aligning your day-to-day life with the major goals you want to achieve throughout the year. It has space for recording small, daily goals along with areas for jotting down personal reflections. If it seems familiar, it’s the very same journal used by Daymond John from the hit TV show Shark Tank and has also been featured in The New York Times and The Huffington Post.
17. Courant Pizza Maker
BEST FOR THE PIZZA LOVER
One of the biggest worries, when a child heads off to college, is that they are eating well. A simple way to ensure they are definitely eating (“well” remains up for debate) is to send them with the Courant Pizza Maker. Not only will this handy device deliver a 12-inch pizza in a matter of minutes, but it’s also sure to earn them plenty of friends in the process. It comes in red and black options and sports a non-stick coating, which means cleaning up takes no time at all.
18. FUGU Bean Bag Chair for Adults
BEST DORM ROOM ACCESSORY
Is a dorm room even really a dorm room if it doesn’t have the quintessential bean bag chair? We think not. That is exactly why this FUGU Bean Bag Chair for Adults is an essential gift for any college student. This sturdy bean bag comes in a range of colors and a range of sizes, meaning there’s an option for every dorm room no matter how big or small it may be. It’s also stuffed full of ultra-soft, pillow-grade foam, providing the perfect relaxing space for when your student isn’t hard at work studying.
19. Fitbit Charge 2
BEST FOR PREVENTING THE FRESHMAN 15
For many people, the “Freshman 15” may be a rite of passage, but it’s actually something a lot of first-year students would rather avoid. By arming new students with a Fitbit Charge 2, staying on top of daily exercise becomes a lot easier. In addition to monitoring heart rate and steps over the course of the day, the device can also be linked to their phone for incoming message alerts and other handy info.
20. Beats Studio3 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Everyone knows there’s going to be plenty of distractions at college. Whether it comes in the form of a spontaneous house party, that cute girl or guy from class or the big game in the sporting calendar, it’s pointless to pretend it can be ignored. What you can do, however, is make sure that studying is interruption-free with these Beats Studio3 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones. They come in a range of colors, feature Bluetooth connectivity and provide up to 22 hours of playback from a single charge. Whether for studying or getting some peace, this is one of the best gifts for college students.