June 22, 2022

Best gifts for going to college

These thoughtful gifts will make any college student’s day

Heading off to college is an exciting time for most students, but it’s not without its challenges. Finding a gift that makes their lives a little easier or lets them feel more at home in their new environment is the perfect way to let them know you care.

If you’re shopping for a student who’s starting their first year of college, a gift that helps them get used to living on their own for the first time can be an excellent option. For students returning to school who are used to being away from home, finding a gift that helps them blow off some steam is often your best bet. 

If you need help choosing a gift for the college student in your life, whether they live in the dorm or their own apartment, these are the best gift ideas to help them get the most out of their college experience. 

How to choose a gift for college-bound students

Think practically

While you might be trying to get as creative as you can with your gift, it’s often best to focus on practical items that help your favorite college student feel more comfortable at school. For example, a soft, cozy bedding set in their favorite color or pattern can help them get a good night’s sleep. If they’re living in a dorm, the bed often requires twin XL bedding sets, so make sure you double-check the size of the mattress. Shower items like shower shoes or a fluffy bathrobe also make useful gifts.  

Help with studying

While there’s plenty of fun to be had at college, students are there to further their education, which can be pretty tricky with all the distractions. Gifts that help the college student in your life study smarter and more comfortably are always a good idea. If they live in a noisy dorm, earplugs can help them get some peace and quiet. A flexible reading light makes it easy to catch up on the day’s reading when their roommate is sleeping, while a supportive reading pillow allows for comfortable reading in bed.

Remind them of home

College is the first time most students live away from their families, so homesickness is extremely common. Gifts that remind your loved one of home can ease these feelings, helping them feel more comfortable at college. Picture frames with photos of family and friends are ideal, but artwork that depicts their hometown, state, or favorite sports team is another excellent option.

Encourage self-care

Between all the exams, papers, and projects, college students can get stressed pretty easily. While keeping up with their studies is obviously important, you don’t want your loved one to get burned out. Gifts dedicated to helping them relax and take time for themselves will definitely be a hit. Items like sheet masks, a neck massager, or a manicure kit can help your loved one decompress when their workload starts taking a toll. 

Gifts for new college students

If you’re shopping for a student headed to college for the first time, they’ll likely be living in a dorm. In addition to being away from home, they’ll have to get used to communal living. Dorm life usually means eating in the dining hall since there are often rules about the appliances you can have in your room. As such, it’s best to stick to essentials that can help a student study or be more comfortable in the dorm. 

Gifts for returning college students

Students returning to college likely have many of the basics you’d buy for a first-time student. They may also be living in their own apartment, so they’ll have to cook for themselves and decorate their space. If they're not living in a dorm, they probably aren’t subject to any rules regarding the appliances they can have either.  

Best gifts for going to college 

College basics

American Original Twin XL Bed in a Bag Set


This five-piece twin XL bedding set includes a comforter, flat sheet, fitted sheet, pillowcase, and a sham, so you have everything you need to make a dorm bed. The comforter is reversible, with one side featuring a subtle solid and the other boasting a vivid pattern. All pieces are machine-washable for easy cleaning. 


Sold by Amazon



Mancro Laptop Backpack


This conveniently sized backpack can hold a 17-inch laptop and has pockets for your tablet, charger, books, and more. It offers a USB charging port and a combination lock on the zipper for added security. Its shoulder straps are padded for a more comfortable fit. 


Sold by Amazon



Apple 2021 MacBook Pro


Any college student would be thrilled to receive this super-fast laptop. It has improved graphics and machine learning compared to previous models. Additionally, it features a powerful six-speaker sound system and a studio-quality mic for video calls. It offers up to 17 hours of battery life. 


Sold by Amazon



Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ Plus


An alternative to a laptop, this tablet offers PC-like performance and comes with a stylus pen for note-taking. It also has an expanded trackpad and provides 14 hours of battery life on a single charge. 


Sold by Amazon



RCA Mini Fridge


Keep beverages cold in your dorm room with this compact mini-fridge. It can store up to six cans of soda, but the shelves are adjustable so you can fit other items inside. It’s available in six colors. 


Sold by Amazon



Yeti Rambler 30-Ounce Tumbler


Make sure your favorite college student stays hydrated with this stainless steel tumbler. It is dishwasher-safe for quick cleaning and features a sweat-resistant exterior. It can also keep water cold for hours.


Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods


Anker 521 PowerCore Magnetic Wireless Portable Charger


This portable charger ensures that your iPhone never runs out of power on campus. It has magnets that hold it in place on your phone while charging. You can choose from five colors, including a fun mint green. 


Sold by Amazon

Dorm life essentials

Love-Kankei Wall Hanging Picture Frame


This fun wooden photo frame holds up to 30 photos with clothespins. It allows for both vertical and horizontal mounting and can also be used to display greeting cards, postcards, and more, and it’s easy to change the photos. 


Sold by Amazon



Bose 700 Noise-Canceling Headphones


These noise-canceling headphones can eliminate distractions even in a busy dorm with 11 levels of active noise canceling. They have a built-in microphone for crystal clear calls and work with voice assistants, including Alexa and Google Assistant. They’re lightweight and comfortable to wear. 


Sold by Amazon



Bedside Essentials Pocket


Maximize space in a dorm room with this handy bedside pouch. It is made of a soft gray felt material that matches any decor and comes in two sizes. Both can hold books, a tablet, smartphone, earbuds, or other items you’d like to keep handy. 


Sold by Uncommon Goods


Showaflops Men’s Black Slide


These durable shower shoes are perfect for communal dorm showers. They feature drainage holes for quick drying and antibacterial layers to prevent mold and mildew. They also have slip-resistant soles to stop accidents, while the Velcro closure allows for adjustments to provide the most secure fit. 


Sold by Amazon



Milliard Reading Pillow


This cozy pillow makes it more comfortable to read and study in bed. It contains shredded memory foam that molds itself to the body and is covered in a machine-washable velour cover that removes easily with a zipper. There’s a carry handle at the top so you can even travel with it. 


Sold by Amazon



Glocusent LED Neck Reading Light


This flexible reading light sits comfortably around the neck, allowing a college student to read at night without disturbing their roommate. It offers three color temperatures and six brightness levels. It recharges via the included USB cord and can run for up to 80 hours on a single charge, depending on the brightness level. 


Sold by Amazon



Floating Aerospace Desk Caddy


This convenient desk caddy makes it easy for students to keep their study area organized. The rack is made of aerospace-grade aluminum, so it’s durable and lightweight. It also has a hidden nano suction layer that lets you hang it anywhere on a desk. Its attractive look blends with most decor. 


Sold by Uncommon Goods 

Kitchen stuff

Healthy, Quick & Easy College Cookbook


Busy college students will find plenty of meal inspiration in this handy cookbook. It contains 100 recipes that are quick, healthy, and budget-friendly. It also provides tips for stocking the kitchen and ensuring you have the right tools. 


Sold by Amazon



Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker


This single-serve pod coffee maker makes it simple for college students to get their morning caffeine fix. It boasts a 48-ounce water reservoir, so you can brew six cups without refilling. It also has an auto shutoff setting that turns the appliance off when it hasn’t been used for two hours. 


Sold by Keurig and Amazon



Mueller Ultra Kettle


Tea drinkers will appreciate this 1,500-watt electric kettle that boils water in a hurry. It is made of durable borosilicate glass and has a boil-dry feature to turn the kettle off if there’s no water inside. It also has bright LED lights that illuminate when the water is heating. 


Sold by Amazon



Rapid Ramen Cooker


Ramen is a dorm kitchen favorite, and this handy microwavable bowl lets you prepare a serving in a matter of minutes. You simply add the noodles and fill it with water, so you don’t have to wait for a pot to boil on the stove. This cooker is also easy to clean. 


Sold by Amazon



Dash Compact Air Fryer


This air fryer won’t take up much space in a small kitchen, and it can help busy college students cook more quickly. It can make fried favorites like chicken tenders and french fries with little to no oil. It has an auto shutoff feature to keep food from burning. 


Sold by Amazon and Wayfair

Self-care goodies

Fire TV Stick 4K Streaming Device


This easy-to-install streaming device makes it a piece of cake to watch your favorite movies and TV shows during a study break. It provides access to over a million titles through Netflix, Disney+, HBOMax, Peacock, and more and features Dolby Atmos audio for theater-quality sound. It also comes with an Alexa Voice Remote, so you can search for titles with voice commands. 


Sold by Amazon



iReliev Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager


This flexible back and neck massager provides 20 massage nodes to simulate a real massage experience. It has three intensity levels and three massage modes, and there’s also an optional heat setting. 


Sold by iReliev


Artnaturals Essential Oil Diffuser and Humidifier


This essential oil diffuser allows college students to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy, mimicking a spa experience. It doubles as a humidifier and offers an auto shutoff function that turns the device off when the water tank is empty. It also has a built-in Bluetooth speaker and alarm clock. 


Sold by Amazon



Gravity Weighted Blanket


This weighted blanket can help relax stressed college students to encourage better sleep. You can choose from 15-, 20-, and 35-pound blankets to find the most comforting weight. Its cover is made of soft micro-fleece, and its interior contains cotton and fine glass beads. It features gridded stitching to ensure the beads are evenly distributed. 


Sold by Amazon



Potter Gift Q&A a Day for College: A 4-Year Journal


College can pass by in a blur, but this four-year journal encourages your loved one to capture their memories for posterity. It contains 366 questions and space for the writer to jot down a brief response each year they’re in school. The layout makes it clear to see how answers change and develop from year to year. 


Sold by Amazon


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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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