College Care Packages From Home: 50 Great Ideas

As a freshman, nothing put a smile on my face quite like knowing I had one of my mom’s college care packages waiting for me at the dorm. It started with an email from the mailroom saying a box would be available for pick-up that afternoon. It was hard to focus on the differences between classical and operant conditioning that my psychology professor was explaining when I would rather think about treats from home.

My anticipation grew on my walk to the mailroom and I couldn’t wait to tear into the packaging as I rode up in the impossibly slow elevator. Inside were often power bars I was running low on, my favorite cinnamon gum, and enough cookies to share with my whole building. No surprise that Mom slipped in some sunscreen and hand sanitizer along with a note.

“How does she do it?” I wondered while eagerly munching on some chocolate chip cookies.

Note: We receive small amounts of compensation from some of the links in this post which allows us to pay our writers.  Thanks! 

College Care Packages – 50 Favorite Ideas 

For the Homesick

1. Favorite treats from home – The fastest way to make new friends is to share with hall mates, especially treats they can’t get on their meal plan. Homemade is wonderful but I also love KIND bars, too, and appreciate my mom packing extras for friends. In fact, KIND bar offers a subscription that lets you select the bars you want to add to your box and pick how frequently you want to send one.

kind bar box

2. Diffuser – a scent that reminds you of home will both cover the smell of your dorm room and make you smile. These Nest diffusers  come in so many wonderful scents.

Ideas for college care packages

3. Wall poster of a landmark from home – dorm room walls are blank slates for every college freshman to decorate. Don’t forget to throw in a package of Command Poster Adhesive Strips so that posters can be put up easily without damaging the walls.

care packages

4. Prime Student – Having a subscription to Amazon Prime is a great resource for ordering all the things you suddenly realize you need as a student.  You can order ANYTHING on Amazon, with 2-day FREE delivery, or download movies and books for FREE for the first 6 months.

For the Health-Focused

Trying to work out and eat healthy foods when relying on the cafeteria for most meals can be a challenge, especially as a college freshman. Here are a few ways to help your student stay healthy:

5. Water bottle – having a water bottle that I keep in my backpack is a great way to stay hydrated.  There are water stations in many of the buildings on campus so I can keep it filled and I never have to buy a plastic water bottle.  Hydro Flask Water Bottles are very popular, come in several sizes and lots of colors.

hydro flask

6. Microwaveable oatmeal – easy to make if you have a microwave in your dorm room. Quaker Instant Oatmeal is my favorite brand and these come in different flavors, have less sugar and fewer calories than some of the others.

instant oatmeal

7. New workout gear – it’s motivational to go to your college’s gym if you have well-fitting and cute, new gear. Take a look at these Sports and Fitness Clothes  for new socks, headband, or a new shirt.

8. Gym or workout class gift card – I like to go to spinning classes and yoga classes so consider a gift card for a series of classes if they are not taught for free at the campus fitness center.

9. Club or inter-mural sports – your college kid may need new shin pads, cleats, a hockey stick, gym bag, frisbee, or a football for teams they have joined. Think about including an Adidas Sackpack which works as a perfect lightweight gym bag.

Ideas for college care packages

10. A new set of headphones is a little bit of luxury that all college students would love. Bose makes great ones and the I love wearing bluetooth ones when I work out.

Bose bluetooth headphones

For the Fashionista

11. Laptop and phone cases – as a college student, the easiest way to express your style is on your laptop. You bring it everywhere and, even on the mornings when you don’t feel like changing out of sweatpants, your laptop can still be well dressed with a cute decal, like this 3 Letter Classic Monogram Decal in your daughter’s initials.

12. Hair Ties  add a pop of color and you can never have too many!

hair ties

13. Gift card for you favorite store – chances are your mom is missing your shopping trips to the mall with you (and you are missing them, too.) Having a gift card to buy something online will help you (and your mom) remember those fun days together.

14. Kendra Scott – my aunt gave me a necklace and earrings by Kendra Scott and I am now a huge fan. Her beautiful jewelry can be personalized, possibly even in your daughter’s college colors.

college care packages

For the Sports Fan

15. T-shirts and sweatshirts in school colors – clothing items we can never have enough of and are wonderful additions to college care packages. The campus bookstore is a logical place to shop but here are other places that sell campus gear.

16. Winter gear for when football games get cold – if your kid’s at a school in the northeast, all football games from October on can be chilly, so a hat in school colors are also great. The Carhartt Acrylic Hats come in both Women’s and Men’s styles and are sold in loads of colors.

Carhartt hat

17. Tickets for sports – we’re no longer at home, laying on the couch watching football games on TV. How about springing for tickets for a local sports team in our new college town?

Books for College Care Packages

18. Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening -humor and love intertwined with lots of great advice about so much more than laundry. Becky Blades is the author and illustrator who wrote this for her two off-to-college daughters. Read the full review here

Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

19. The Girl’s Guide: Getting the hang of your whole complicated, unpredictable, impossibly amazing life – Melissa Kirsch wrote this book for girls who are already thinking about life after college.  In fact, she refers to it as “a colossal cheat-sheet for the post-college years.” Q and A with the author here.

The Girl's Guide by Melissa Kirsch

20.The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in Collegeis our favorite off-to-college guide by Harlan Cohen.  This book works well for both college boys and girls and is in it’s 7th edition.

Graduation gift ideas

21. The ABCs of Adulthood: An Alphabet of Life Lessons is one that both college guys or girls would enjoy.  Written by a mom with a son and daughter in college right now, this book has beautiful photography to go along with her life lessons.

Graduation gift ideas for high school grads

Looking for a treat for YOURSELF? Now -The Grown and Flown book is available 

There is no better company in this gnarly, possibly fantastic transition than Grown and Flown. The perspective in these pages has been invaluable to me.  Kelly Corrigan, author of the New York Times bestseller Tell My More 

grown and flown book

More Ideas for College Care Packages

22. Socks – we can never, ever have enough new socks. These Notes to Self socks have many different positive words to choose from and that will remind your daughter proud you are of her.

socks note to self

23. Razors – it can be a shock for guys when they have to buy razor blades for the first time so slip in a pack for your son or check out Harry’s as a fun and welcome subscription service for guys.

Harry's Razors

24. Anker Powerline+ II Lightning Cable (10ft)– the outlets in most dorm rooms are so far away from our beds that it’s inconvenient to keep a phone plugged in to charge overnight. This one is 10 feet long, charges my phone fast and is durable.

Anker phone charging cord

25. Silly games – my hallmate’s mom ordered yo-yos and paddles with balls attached for us during finals which were fun, stress-reducing toys we loved playing with.

26. Spikeball is a super-popular game that kids are playing on campus and if your son or daughter is looking for a way to gather a crew and play a game that gives them a great workout, this is it.

27. Seasonal decorations/treats – Halloween candy, tiny fake Christmas trees, a Menorah for Chanukah, Valentine’s Day red satin hearts filled with chocolate….there is always a holiday around the corner so consider a theme box.

28. Starry String Lights  are a fun way to brighten up a dingy dorm room (check to make sure these are allowed at your kid’s school.)

College car package ideas

29.TervisTumblers – consider initials or school logos for these indestructible and insulated cups.Tervis Tumbler

30. Cold/flu season care package – it’s almost impossible to avoid getting sick as a college student so a box with microwavable chicken noodle soup, cough drops, packets of powdered Gatorade that dissolve in water, a selection of green, camomile or other flavored teas, hand sanitizer, kleenex packs, Clorox wipes and Sudafed will definitely (and unfortunately) come in handy.

31. Insomnia CookiesI– who wouldn’t love to get warm, homemade cookies and a glass of cold milk when they are studying late at night? They are in lots of college towns so take a look to see if they are close to your kid’s campus.

32.  Food storage containers like these made by Rubbermaid  are perfect for keeping leftovers fresh in the mini-fridge.

Ideas for college care packages

33.Mario Badescu Spritz Mist and Glow Facial Spray Collection, 3 Piece Set – Lavender, Cucumber, Rose – getting a collection of these trendy facial sprays will thrill your daughter.

facial sprays

34.Fjallraven Classic Backpack These stylish, lightweight backpacks can be used everyday by your college student and are an updated look to what they might have taken to high school. they come in several sizes and dozens of beautiful colors.


35. Grubhub – the dining hall gets very old, very fast.  With a Grubhub gift card, your son or daughter call call out for food delivery at many local restaurants.

36. Lip balm – during cold weather or hot, lip balm is the necessity that seems to never be in the pocket of your backpack or jacket when you need it. I love this Rosebud Salve which is a nicer brand than I would buy myself so it feels like a little bit of luxury.

Rosebud salve

37.Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Moisturizing Lip Balm is my regular go-to for cold weather and I like keeping a tube in my backpack and one on my desk.

lip balm

38. Jewelry –  these necklaces are really pretty and come with the perfect message like this one: Sterling Silver Chain Necklace:

Ideas for college care packages

39.Bluetooth Music SpeakerTribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speakers  gets high marks from the NY Times Wirecutter reviewers and can provide perfect background music for socializing in the hall. The charge lasts for 24 hours which makes this a very portable and useful speaker.

bluetooth speaker

40. Women’s Casual Stretch Cotton Pajama Pants – as college students, we spend so much time in our dorms and having new pjs would be a great treat. These are super popular and super comfortable.

pajama bottoms

41. Note cards – Sending birthday cards or thanks you notes is easy to do with this Kate Spade Stationery Set. Add a sheet of stamps, too, so that your college kid has no excuses in keeping up with thank you notes or birthday cards to family and friends back home.

Ideas for college care packages

42. Nail polish in school colors – a gift of Essie Nail Polish in school colors would make for a fun manicure on game day.

43. Spalding NBA Slam Jam Over-The-Door Mini Basketball Hoop – sometimes guys (and girls) just want to goof around and this fun toy is a great way to do so.

Ideas for college care packages

44. Vineyard Vines – there are so many great things in this store for women and men, especially the lightweight pjs, fleece jackets and many of my favorites can be customized with my college logo.

fleece jacket

45.Clear Tote Bag NFL Stadium Approved  – stadiums and other sports venues may restrict what bags are allowed into the venues.  This clear bag meets standards for NFL stadiums.

clear tote bag

46. Microwavable popcorn popper– a low-calorie snack and immediate gratification are a hard combination to beat. This Microwave Silicone Popcorn Maker collapses flat and requires no oil so clean up is easy.

microwavable popcorn maker

47. Crazy Aaron’s Hypercolor Mini Tin Assortment Thinking Putty reminds me of the Silly Putty I used to play with as a kid. I can share this with my roommate and nap-mates.

Thinking putty

48. Toiletries – replenish their toiletries, including a new toothbrush.

49. Cash – your kid would be so happy to get an extra few dollars to spend.  Everyone loves this!

50. Letter from home – nothing cheers any college student up more than a handwritten letter from home.

You Might Also Want to Read: 

How to Help Your Homesick Freshman 

College Myths: 6 Things Freshmen Need to Know 

18th Birthday Ideas for Your College Kid

f you're looking for the best ideas to send in a college care package for your kid, this list of 50 of the best ideas for college care packages is one you don't want to miss out on. #collegelife #dormlife #dormideas #collegeideas #carepackage #giftideas #collegetips


About Annie Berning

Annie Berning works at an ad agency in New York City as a Senior Brand Strategist where she is involved in the planning and strategy for national, multi-channel media campaigns. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2018 with a Major in Media Studies and a minor in Social Entrepreneurship. She enjoys running and competing in triathlons and serves on the Junior Board of LSA, a non-profit based in East Harlem.

Read more posts by Annie

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