The span between shopping for a preschooler and finding a holiday gift for a college student seems impossibly short, now that many of us have hit that stage of parenting. But what remains is the desire to make the holidays really special for our kids. And since even our technically legal-adult kids (sniff) still love to open gifts, we’ve pulled together 20 great ideas for college students that you may not have considered.
Since we know that not all college students actually live at college, these gift ideas will still be appreciated if your child is commuting from home (and eating all the snacks out of your pantry.)
Shop our entire Holiday Gift Guide collection of posts for gift ideas for everyone in your life!
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Great gift ideas for college students: 2022
In addition to this list, be sure to also check out Ultimate Gift Guide for Kids of All Ages for other ideas for the best teen gifts. You can even poke around younger ages in the guide because we have links to awesome art supplies, rad beginner skateboards, and a cool new Nintendo Switch game that your bigger kids may love too.
1. A gift that makes their home away from home more cozy
Whether they’re lounging, studying, or heading down the hall to visit their BFF, they’ll love a funky new wrap-around blanket like this giant comfy sherpa blanket from Urban Outfitters that we also shared in our Coolest Gifts for Teens gift guide. Comes in seven cool colors and patterns.
($49 on sale at Urban Outfitters)
One of my kid’s first requests after arriving at college was a portable, quick-to-set-up camping hammock, like this one from Wise Owl Outfitters. Unlike heavy rope hammocks, these parachute nylon hammocks can be stuffed into a small sack and take up hardly any room in a dorm. Or hang it below a lofted bed to enjoy even when the weather outside is frightful.
($29.95-$39.95 at Amazon)
This super-stylish vegan leather lounger from PB Teen looks sturdy enough to survive whatever college kids can throw, or spill, on it. Or check out the big selection of bean bag chairs at PB Teen, which include this hilarious Chewbacca chair that we featured in our Ultimate Gift Guide.
($299-$359 at PB Teen)
2. A gaming upgrade for that downtime between exams
If they love to unwind with video games on weekends (or okay, at 3AM), grab them a new wireless Xbox controller or a Playstation DualSense controller, for whichever system they prefer. It’s always good to have an extra so that you can invite a friend or roommate to play along.
($49.99 and up at Amazon)
They’ll appreciate playing games while wearing a new, comfortable headset from Steel Series for PS4, PS5 and Switch. Their roommates will appreciate them too, especially when they’re trying to go to sleep early before a big exam.
($149.99 at Amazon; headsets for XBox available as well)
If they’re hunched around a small screen to play their favorite video games, a larger-format gaming monitor that fits on a dorm desk makes a great gift. Love this affordable option from AOC that still has great screen quality and a more immersive curved screen.
($209.99 on sale at Amazon)
3. A gift to help tune out the roommates (or the party next door)
If they’re having a hard time getting good sleep with all the ambient noise in a college dorm, these comfy wrap headphones will help them get some zzzz’s while listening to their favorite music or soothing ambient sounds. Better than, say, the snoring of their roommate.
($19.99 at Amazon, plus use a limited time coupon in the shop for 10% off)
4. A little zen during exam time.
A gift card to one of our favorite meditation apps (Like Calm, above) can be a perfect gift for a college student who needs a little help finding their zen, wherever they are.
5. A cool tech-meets-analog accessory
College students love hanging photos of friends, and it’s easier with the HP Sprocket Select portable instant photo printer, also featured in our 18 of the best tech gifts for teens. Very cool gift.
($78.99 on sale at Amazon, plus extra paper)
6. Cool dorm room lighting and decor
A great gift for college students: these hexagon-shaped light panels that can sync to their music, turn the room into a pulsing disco, or just provide some brightness to their room.
($64.99 at Target; two sets shown above)
Darker days can make a dorm room feel absolutely dreary but this iridescent sunset projection light lends such a pretty, moody glow to any space.
($27 at Urban Outfitters)
7. Snacks gifts for always-hungry college students
Get them through the next semester with monthly snack boxes from Universal Yums. We love how each one will introduce them to new treats from all over the world.
(Month-to-month subscription starts at $17)
Alternatively, Japanese snacks are so big now and the Bokksu Japanese Snack Box delivers authentic treats like mochi, savory chips, and funky candies sorted by monthly themes. I mean, college students can’t live on Pringles alone, right?
($39.99/mo for 12 months, or find 3- and 6-month subscriptions)
8. A gift to fuel their caffeine habit
Supply them with monthly deliveries of unique ground espresso from Trade Coffee, which offers a coffee subscription to ensure they’ll never be without their favorite drink. Or, maybe their second-favorite drink.
($19.50 and up at Trade Coffee)
When regular coffee won’t cut it, the easy-to-use handheld Nanospresso espresso maker will deliver a little kick of caffeine before their next organic chemistry lecture. Great for making tasty lattes too.
($84.90 at Amazon and also at MOMA Store)
9. A school spirit gift
If you’ve got a freshman, they probably don’t have their fill of school merchandise just yet. Shop their college bookstore for hoodies, keychains, phone cases.
Or, you can order one of Simple Modern’s stainless steel, insulated water bottles with their college logo printed on it — to encourage your favorite Bison or Eagle to drink more water instead of…whatever.
($29.99 at Simple Modern, other sizes available)
10. A creative gift card
Sure there’s gift cards to book stores or their favorite clothing shop. But get creative! If there’s a local coffee shop or restaurant they love, see if they offer gift cards. Or give them a break from cafeteria food; college students will really appreciate a gift card to Door Dash or Instacart so they can order what they really feel like eating. Whatever time of day or night.
If they’re on n urban campus or one with rental bikes and scooters to get around, a gift card toward transpo would be a huge help for getting to class on time. In New York there’s Citibike, Indego in Philly (above), Divvy in Chicago, or Bluebikes in the ultimate college town, Boston.
11. A gift to help them find other gifts they might lose
Misplaced dorm room keys — let alone tablet or wallets — can be a real pain for kids running late for class, which is why I think a tiny Tile tracker in the stocking makes a great holiday gift for college students.
($17.99 at Amazon)
12. Money, money, money
Last but certainly not least: Can college kids ever have enough cash? A perfect gift for college students is some funds that you can send via a digital greeting card from Venmo, delivered straight to their phones. No gift wrapping necessary. Great gift idea when faraway relatives ask, “what can we give them?”
(free digital cards)