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.
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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 love these KIND Bars, too.
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.
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 it can be put up easily without damaging the walls.
4. Prime Student – with you mom no longer available to run errands for you, having a subscription to Amazon Prime is a great substitute! You can order ANYTHING on Amazon, WITH 2-day FREE delivery, or download movies and books for FREE for the first 6 months. It costs $5.49 per month after that.
5. Echo Spot – play your favorite music, find our the scores from your home team, order a pizza or an Uber and, oh yes, have a video call with your mom with this amazing digital assistant from Amazon.
For the Health Nut
Trying to eat healthy foods when relying on the cafeteria for most meals can be a challenge, especially as a college freshman living in a small dorm room with limited space and cooking resources. Here are a few ways to help:
7. Microwaveable oatmeal – easy to make if you have a microwave in your dorm room. Quaker Instant Oatmeal makes one I like that comes in several different flavors, has less sugar and fewer calories than some of the others.
8. 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.
9. Gym gift card – does your daughter love spinning classes or yoga? Consider a gift card for a series of classes if they are not taught for free at the campus fitness center.
10. Club or inter-mural sports – your college kid may need new shin pads, cleats, a hockey stick, gym bag, frisbees, or a football for teams they have joined. Think about including an Adidas Sackpack which works as a perfect lightweight gym bag.
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!
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.
For the Sports Fan
14. T-shirts and sweatshirts in school colors – clothing items we can never have enough of and are wonderful additions to college care packages.
15. 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 scarf or hat in school colors are also great.
16. 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?
17. Gift cards for local eateries – the dining hall gets very old, very fast.
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
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.
20. The Her Campus Guide to College Life: How to Manage Relationships, Stay Safe and Healthy, Handle Stress, and Have the Best Years of Your Life – Her Campus is a great site for collegiate (and high school) women and this book is practically an encyclopedia of college advice ranging from classes to social situations to dorm do’s and don’ts to internships. More about the book here.
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.
A new set of headphones is a little bit of luxury that all college students would love. These are great to wear running running or working out according to PC Magazine that recommended both (under $30)
22. JLab Fit 2.0 Sport Earbuds or
24. Socks – kids can never, ever have enough new socks. Never. We have fallen in love with the story behind these Notes to Self socks. With a positive word to remind your daughter how wonderful she is, you might want to buy a dozen.
25. Extra Long Charge Cable Cord – the outlets in most dorm rooms are so far away from our beds that it’s inconvenient to keep our phones plugged in at night. These are very durable 10 foot longer charger cables that I really appreciate.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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. (Hat tip to my 90-year old grandmother who still sends me one for every holiday!)
29. 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.)
30. Tervis Tumblers – consider initials or school logos for these indestructible and insulated cups.
31. 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.
32. Insomnia Cookies – 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.
33. Food storage containers like these made by Rubbermaid are perfect for keeping leftovers fresh in the mini-fridge.
34. 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 razor club as a fun and welcome subscription service for guys.
35. Toothbrush – although this seems very boring, who remembers to throw away a toothbrush every three months as recommended? Plus, shared bathrooms are gross so why not include a new one along with a new tube of toothpaste as a gentle reminder?
36. Whitestrips – a luxury for any college student and a nice one for anyone wanting to look their best.
37. University Icons is an interesting resource for high quality photos of campuses across the US. They can create fun gifts for your student, too, like a package of greeting cards with a photo of the school on the cover. Subtle hint for thank you notes?
38. 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.
39. Jewelry – I love these necklaces that are really cute and come with the perfect message like this one: Sterling Silver Chain Necklace:
40. Music – MINI JAMBOX Wireless Bluetooth Speaker has great sound and can provide perfect background music for socializing in the hall or blasting your music in your room when your roommate isn’t around.
43. 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.
44. Nail polish in school colors – a gift of Essie Nail Polish in school colors would make for a fun manicure on game day.
45. 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.
46. Vineyard Vines – there are so many great things in this store for women and men, especially the lightweight pjs, boxer shorts, vests and school gear that are especially awesome.
47. Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz, Navy, One Size – these are really nice and how great to have a backpack with pockets that aren’t filled with crumbs dating back to junior year in high school?
48. Presto 04820 PopLite Hot Air Popper – a low-calorie snack and immediate gratification are a hard combination to beat. Make sure they are allowed in the dorm, first.
49. Cash – your kid would be so happy to get an extra few dollars to spend. Everyone loves this!