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17 Gift Ideas for College Students

Girl holding a gift wrapped in brown paper with candy canes.

If you’re the parent of a college student, you already know how frustrating it can be to shop for them. It seems that no matter how many times you ask, they never have an answer for you! But at Collegeboxes, we spend enough time with college students to know the things they love, the things they wish they had, and the stuff they couldn’t live without.

So, forget about having to play mind reader while purchasing presents this holiday season. Our Collegeboxes experts have come up with a list that is sure to help you find the perfect gift for your scholarly student!

The Official Collegeboxes Christmas List

College Student Essentials

Reusable Water Bottle

Everyone can stand to drink more water, especially college students. The best way to get them to remember to drink water is by getting them a really cool bottle that they won’t want to put down. The current trendy water bottle on the market is the Stanley Cup, but there are plenty of cheaper dupes that you can find online.

Quencher H2.0 Travel Tumbler | 30 OZ | Stanley


Most college students may already have a laptop, but tablets are also great for school. They’re light and easier to carry around than a full-sized laptop. From streaming your favorite TV show, to writing notes in class, a tablet has all the powers of a laptop without the added bulk.

Apple iPad (10th Generation)

A Set of Wheels

As a college student, you have to walk a lot. But having another means of transportation can really make a difference. Consider getting your child something like a skateboard or bike. This way, they’ll have a faster way to get around campus without having to waste gas or money on a bus pass.


Smartwatches are awesome because it’s like having a phone, a watch, and a fitness bracelet all at once. Your student will be able to check their texts, make calls, and monitor their heart rate, all from their wrist! While it may seem like a pretty superficial gift, anyone who has a smartwatch will vouch that they’re an amazing investment. 

Galaxy Watch6

Apple Watch SE

Protip: Make sure the smartwatch is compatible with your child’s phone!

Practical Gifts

Closet Essentials

In college, many students are discovering their true style, so it can be hard to find things they’ll actually wear. Instead of trying to guess what your student will like, consider buying high-quality, classic wardrobe essentials that they’ll always have use for.

Think of classic white T-shirts, nice jeans, or a fashionable jacket for the winter months. Don’t reach for any wacky patterns or cute graphics. Keep it safe with simple colors, patterns, and styles.

Shatter-Proof Dishes

Let’s face it, accidents happen. But why not stop them from happening in the first place? 

Shatter-proof dishes and cups are a great investment because they’re sturdy and sleek. These types of dishes are a happy medium between plastic plates and normal glassware. So, they’re affordable, they look nice, and you won’t have to worry about it shattering into a thousand pieces. It may not be a glamourous gift, but it’s a necessity during the college years!

Plastic Dinnerware Sets (16PCS)

High Quality Bookbag

Many college students are lugging around the same backpack they had in high school. If this sounds like your kid, then it may be time for an upgrade. A good bookbag can hold a lot of stuff while still looking fashionable. Wondering what’s in style these days? Try ditching the Jansport for the supremely trendy Fjallrraven bag, or a Hersel if you’re looking for a better deal.


This one is pretty self-explanatory, because everyone can benefit from a planner! And there really isn’t a better time to get one than right before the new year starts. Help your student become a time management master by helping them get organized before the new semester begins.

College Student Cookbooks

Is your student living off ramen and mac and cheese? Or maybe they’re destroying their budget with too many trips to the drive-thru? Either way, teaching them some basic recipes will help your student eat a more balanced diet, while learning some vital life skills along the way. Best of all, there are cookbooks made with dorm rooms in mind, making it a cute and useful gift for any college student.

The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook by Ellgen, Pamela

Dorm Room Gifts

Candle Warmer/ Diffuser

Most dorms won’t allow candles because they’re a fire hazard. But there are still ways to keep a sweet-smelling room. A candle warmer is a nifty invention that heats up your candles without needing to light the wick. This is perfect for the candle lovers in your life, especially if they’re living in the dorms.

XJZJY Candle Warmer Lamp

Alternatively, consider purchasing a diffuser. All you need to do is fill it up with some water, a few drops of essential oils, and voila — no heat and no hassle!

ASAKUKI 500ml Premium, Essential Oil Diffuser with Remote Control

All Things Comfy and Cozy

You can’t go wrong with buying new sheets, blankets, pillows, or even a mattress topper for a college student. Consider how they’re already decorating their dorm and purchase complimentary colors and designs.

Bedsure Beige Twin XL Comforter Sets – 5 Pieces Reversible Twin XL Bedding Sets

Bluetooth Speaker

Having headphones on your ears all the time can be kind of painful. A Bluetooth speaker is a great way to give your ears a break without having to sacrifice listening to your favorite tunes. Speakers are the perfect item for group hangouts or study sessions. Just make sure you remind them to keep the volume at a responsible level!

JBL FLIP 5, Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker


Printers might be all over campus, but having one in your dorm can be a total life saver. Instead of having to walk across campus before class, they can just do it in the comfort of their own room. 

HP DeskJet 2755e Wireless Color inkjet-printer

Want to get them something mini? Try getting them a miniature photo printer that connects directly to your smartphone. This won’t be able to print out any essays, but it’s great for decorating a dorm with precious memories.

Canon Ivy 2 Mini Photo Printer

Storage Solutions

Dorms don’t give students a whole lot of room to work with, so every inch counts. That’s what makes storage such a great gift for college students—they always need more! You can find storage solutions for their closet, under their bed, or even at a local U-Haul center.

Looking to save on storage? Instead of paying for a full sized storage unit, with Collegeboxes, you only pay for what you store! With rates as low as $13 a box, you can’t beat those prices!

Fun Gifts

Mini Projector 

TVs are great and all, but a projector just has a certain flair that makes it so fun. And while having a projector makes for an awesome movie night, it can also help with school presentations, club activities, or even a cool photoshoot for Instagram!

Mini Projector, VOPLLS 1080P

Neon Lights/Signs

The vibe of a dorm room is very important to college students, and a great way to liven things up is by investing in some cool lights. You can get color changing neon lights for an affordable price, but if you’re feeling a little fancier, a neon sign is also an eye-catching gift!

GUPUP 100 FT LED Strip Lights

Board Games

There isn’t anything better than enjoying a good board game, especially now that there are so many to choose from! Avoid picking old classics like Monopoly or Scrabble. Instead, reach for interesting new games that are sure to create fun conversations and more opportunities to socialize.

CGE Czech Games Edition Codenames Boardgame

Gift Giving Tips

When it comes to giving gifts, it can be overwhelming to try and come up with ideas on the spot. Instead, try and narrow it down by thinking about things they need, want, or take interest in. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Upgrade what they already have: Hey, everyone loves an upgrade! If your student is using out-of-date technology or wearing older clothes, consider getting them a brand-new replacement. 
  • Consider their hobbies and interests: Everyone has different interests and hobbies, so make sure you keep that in mind when picking out a gift! Depending on if your student is sporty, artsy, musical, or a total bookworm, this should help you decide on a good present. 
  • Ask them early: The winter months are hectic for college students, so they probably don’t have the time to sit and think about gifts they want this holiday season. Try asking them in the summer or early fall to see if you can get some ideas before the chaos of the semester is in full swing. 
  • Pay attention to things they mention in conversation: While your student may freeze up when you ask them what they want as a gift this year, they’ll most likely have their eye on something. Instead of putting them on the spot, listen closely when they mention liking a certain style of clothing, product, musical artist, or any new hobbies or interests. 
  • When in doubt, get a gift card: No one knows your student like they know themselves! So, if you’re at a loss of what to buy— play it safe get them a gift card. There are gift cards for just about every store, restaurant, or gaming platform these days. Or you can just get a classic Visa gift card that they can spend anywhere. 

Hopefully that was enough to get you started on your holiday shopping this year! While you’re at it, get yourself an early Christmas present by signing up for Collegeboxes. That way, once your student is ready to come home for the summer, you can leave all the heavy lifting to us. Or if you’re just looking for a little extra storage, we can do that, too.

Don’t let the stress of moving to college ruin your holiday, sign up with Collegeboxes today!