30 of the Best Affordable Gifts for Your College Student

presents and gifts for college students

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As we grow through the various stages of life, we all want items that help us thrive and survive. College students are in a very specific stage that will make a huge impact on the rest of their lives. They are certainly no longer children, but they aren’t yet full adults, either. Thus, college students rely on their support network to help them with the sorts of items, devices, and services that construct an optimal college life. When it comes time to give a college student a birthday or holiday gift, consider the list below. We've done our best to help guide you to the best gifts for the college student in your life.

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Best College Student Tech Gifts

These days everyone wants the latest, hottest tech gadgets. You might first think of computers, phones, audio devices, and gaming systems but make sure you know what they have and what they might want before you duplicate their tech. Not only do college students need the devices that come with circuit boards and processors, but they need to accessorize these fun new tools. After all, every electronic device needs to be carried, protected, and decorated, not to mention the most useful apps or software, which might not be free. Thus, you can also look for items such as laptop bags, Bluetooth headphones, noise canceling headphones, ear buds, Word processing software or paper writing assistance, and more. Every university student will be pleased to find electronics and accessories under the tree this holiday season.

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  • Bluetooth Speakers:
    These uber-convenient speakers are a must-have for any college dorm. Some systems allow students to pair speakers for a stereo experience while others are small enough to fit in a pocket, but they make for a great way to amplify music out on the quad. There are many options available for an entire Bluetooth speaker system or something more affordable, like an Echo Dot.
  • Noise Canceling Headphones:
    Not only can these electronic marvels deliver outstanding audio fidelity, but they can also be study aids. When the neighbors are getting rambunctious elsewhere in the dorm, noise canceling headphones dampen the ruckus and allow peace and quiet for reading, writing, and deep studying.
  • Lap Desk:
    This is one device that doesn't require a charging cable. A lap desk can come in handy when lounging on the bed, sofa, or under a favorite tree on campus. Students can use their lap desk as a platform for their laptop that keeps their legs cool or to hand-write notes. They're even great for holding snacks during a movie night.
  • Laptop Bag:
    Whether they prefer a backpack or a messenger bag, there are bags available to hold whatever tech a college student could need. While every student needs some sort of laptop bag, not every student totes their laptop to campus every day. They might prefer to carry their Android Tablet or iPad instead. No matter what bag you get, make sure it's padded and large enough to handle the student's computer or tablet.
  • Tablet or Phone Case:
    Students can be rough on their electronic devices, so do them a favor and get a sturdy case to protect their precious tech. You might consider throwing in a screen protector, too, just to make sure they're fully covered. Some find these cases bulky and heavy, but they soon see their value the first time the device takes a precipitous tumble. Make sure you know the exact model of their device as each slight variation in a model can mean it needs its own case or screen protector.
  • Back-up Power Banks:
    Students are constantly on their phones texting, calling, watching YouTube, playing games, and more. That means that they are often running low on battery power. Give them a power bank to carry in their new laptop bag so that they can get a charge on the go. If you know what type of USB charging cord they need, add the shortest one you can find. A shorter cord enables easier transport for charging on the go.
  • Video Game Console System:
    Because college is about more than studying, right? Gaming pros will love having a system handy in their dorm or college apartment. Some colleges and universities are even adding E-sports to their roster of varsity and intramural sports. Furthermore, gaming consoles can play DVDs and support streaming movie services such as Netflix.
  • Roku or Fire TV Stick:
    Most college students will have a TV and high speed internet in their dorm room or college apartment. Having access to a device like a Roku or Fire Stick is a great investment to allow your college student the ability to stream some of their favorite TV shows or movies during their down time.

Self-Care Items for Students in College

College students are not historically known for taking the best care of themselves. However, that seems to be changing as the younger generations are increasingly concerned about nutrition, exercise, and overall wellness. These days there are tools that help students integrate self-care into their daily routines so that they don't have to carve out time in their hectic schedule to attend to wellness during, say, exam period. Electronic devices can help them track their activity, apps monitor their nutrition, and a new pair of glasses can help reduce eyestrain. You can help the college student in your life maintain optimal health with a few well-chosen gifts this holiday season.

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  • Blue-light Blocking Glasses:
    Most of us spend the majority of every day staring at a rectangular, glowing screen. This takes a toll on our eyes and brains. The blue light is stimulating and can thus interfere with sleep after a long night of essay writing on a laptop. This is where a pair of blue-light blocking glasses can save a college student from eye strain and even sleep disorders.
  • Fitness Watches:
    It's hard to make time for fitness, especially at the end of the term. A watch that monitors how many steps a student takes can be helpful in keeping them active and healthy. Students often do a lot of walking between classes, but it can be helpful to monitor each day's physical activity to make sure that they move enough to maintain good health, both physically and mentally, and it can be the impetus they need to get out and take a walk on the weekend if they’re looking to keep up their activity level.
  • Sports Equipment:
    Nothing helps motivate more activity than having some sports equipment handy. A frisbee can turn a lazy Friday afternoon into a period of fun activity. Since so many campuses offer recreation centers, a tennis, squash, or racquetball racquet might inspire a regular game with a classmate. On the other hand, some may prefer a pair of climbing shoes for the climbing wall, still others may prefer a simple football for games of catch.
  • Home Fitness Equipment:
    Even if there's a huge recreation center on campus, sometimes there's just not time to squeeze in a workout. With some simple, portable resistance bands, a student can get a satisfactory workout at home or in the dorm. Even a new yoga mat can ensure that students have what they need to attend to their daily health and fitness.
  • Health-Conscious Cookbook:
    The typical college student’s diet is often a laundry list of pizza toppings and packaged ramen. However, with a cookbook that focuses on simplicity and nutrition, students will be inspired to make healthy, tasty meals at home.
  • Aromatherapy:
    Students will love a basket full of sweet-smelling candles, incense, essential oils, and even scented lotions. Aromatherapy can help melt away the stresses of college life and provide a moment of respite. Look for a variety pack of candles, incense, etc. so that students can experiment and discover what works best for them. Scented Epsom salts can even do double duty by easing bodily tension while providing olfactory relief if your student has the luxury of a tub.
  • Natural Sleep Aids:
    Nothing helps keep us at top performance like a good night's rest. College students can learn great habits when they're supplied with a basket that includes valerian tea, a sleep mask, and even earplugs. After all, college life often runs 24-7, and students could use help to ensure that their sleeping hours are as restful as possible.

Small Enjoyments

Sometimes it's the little things that matter the most and, while college students don't often have space for many items, their lives can be eased with a few thoughtful gifts. A gift bag full of small games or toys can bring a lot of joy to a student’s life. A few card games, for instance, or a stress ball might help ease the tension of a tough Calculus course. Other ideas include posters of their favorite artist or a metal thermos that might become their best friend for all four years. Other ideas include gift cards good for a spa treatment, a French press coffeemaker, and a portable electric kettle to keep the tea brewing all night.

  • Electric Kettle:
    These handy devices are ideal for boiling water for tea, coffee, and even a late-night snack. Every dorm needs a way to heat up water and these devices can be space efficient as well as highly versatile. Look for one that is steel lined so that students can heat up instant soups in the container. If space is at a premium, there are kettles that take up little more space than a large mug.
  • Stress Balls:
    Some of us need to keep our hands busy in order to think. Students are often struggling to find the next right word for a term paper or are pushing their minds to grasp a tough concept. Stress balls might not do the thinking for them, but they can often provide the sort of momentary distraction they need to discover the next mind-blowing idea.
  • Thermos:
    Every student will love having a thermos that keeps their coffee toasty throughout the morning. These miracles can also be handy for holding a hot bowl's worth of soup and they are also terrific for cold beverages during a particularly hot Spring or Fall.
  • Water Bottle:
    Active students need to stay hydrated. Give the college student on your list a stainless-steel water bottle so that they never need to go thirsty. The steel will be durable, lightweight, and won't leech out plastic into the drinks.

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  • Games:
    Even a simple, standard deck of cards can fill a slow evening with the fun of gin rummy, hearts, or spades. There are also portable dice games that offer fun and distraction. For example, lovers of Settlers of Catan might love the dice version which offers a quick fix between game nights. Students might also love a dorm-sized chess, checkers, and backgammon set to fill the time between term papers.
  • Free Massage or Spa Visit:
    Every student will love a gift certificate to a local massage therapist. Others might prefer a manicure/pedicure visit. Be sure to know your audience for this gift and do some investigation to find out what wellness providers are near the student's dorm or apartment.
  • Restaurant Gift Card or Certificate:
    Though campuses these days offer loads of dining options, students still love to venture into town for a meal. A certificate or gift card large enough to cover a meal or two can possibly be a bright light in a tough semester. Seek out locally owned restaurants for your student to try. They can then impress their friends with their culinary savvy.

Best Organizational Gifts for College Students

No life skill is more important for a college student to master than organization. It's vital to keep one's schedule, belongings, and even school supplies under control with a well thought out system. This way students have what they need when they need it. Organization also helps them maintain a high GPA because they must remain on top of their assignments, project due dates, and class schedule. There are many tools to help keep students organized and on top of their responsibilities. Here are a few gift ideas for students that will pay off long into the future.

  • Laundry Basket:
    Every student needs a handy receptacle for their dirty clothes. A laundry basket is the sort of item that will likely follow them well past their college years, so look for one that is extra sturdy. Another option might be a cloth laundry bag that they can stuff in the trunk on their way home to do laundry at your house.
  • Desk Organizer:
    A handy caddy for their pencils, phone, calculator, and other office supplies will keep a college student from hunting around every time they need a paperclip, scissors, or a stapler. There are free-standing organizers that sit atop the desk and also handy trays that fit inside a drawer. Assess what sort of things your student needs and shop accordingly.
  • Shower Caddy:
    Students who are living in the dorms need a handy caddy to help carry their soaps, shampoos, and shaving items to the bathroom. When their stuff is organized in a handy caddy, they can keep it separate from their dorm-mates' products. And when they can replace the (probably already broken) one that they originally brought with them with something a little more stylish and durable, then it’s a win/win.
  • Pencil Bag:
    This item may feel like a throwback to grade school, but a pencil bag is an organizational tool that will be useful for many years. College students can use such a bag to carry charging cables, portable power banks, spare pens and pencils, and even a backup pair of earbuds. If your student is studying fine art, they may need more than one for their brushes, pencils, and paint pens; though, if they carry brushes, you’ll want to get a hard case that will maintain their brush’s quality while letting them schlep them all over campus.
  • Milk Crates:
    A handy crate can be of infinite utility when space is at a premium. Students can stack them to create an ad-hoc shelving system on their desk. College students can use milk crates as stands for their printer so that they have a spot beneath the device to store a ream of paper and other supplies. A crate can also be the perfect home for a modest assortment of soups, oatmeal packages, and other necessary provisions.
  • Portable File Box:
    As students grow, they often find that they develop a need to store important papers. A small, portable file box can help them keep track of physical copies of their best term papers, tax documents, and financial aid records. These boxes can also store supplies or whatever students need and may last them till long after college.
  • Planner:
    Whether they prefer a paper version of a day planner or work best with an app, this is the sort of gift that can be a real lifesaver. Digital planners provide alerts that prompt students to keep appointments with their professors, healthcare providers, or friends. Paper planners provide the tactile reinforcement of actually writing down assignment due dates and more.
  • Dry Erase Board:
    This sort of blank slate can help students create their own system for organization or give them an easy way to let their friends leave them messages if they try to visit while they are out. Some may draw up a calendar while others may fill the board with multi-colored reminders, phone numbers, email addresses, and doodles.