Top Gifts for College-Bound Students


Nov   2013



Today is Black Friday, a day that unofficially marks the beginning of the season of giving. Whatever holiday or holidays you may be celebrating, shopping for a teenager can be tricky. They’re too old for toys or games, too young for housewares or stock tips, and too leery of your fashion sense for clothes to be an option. Luckily, CollegeXpress is here to help, and thanks to the miracle of online shopping, you won’t even have to get off your couch. So fix yourself a sandwich with the leftover turkey, curl up in your post-Thanksgiving sweatpants, and start knocking out your holiday shopping with our top gift ideas for your college-bound kiddo . . .

  • A college-appropriate backpack. Help your student lug their textbooks from one end of campus to the other in style with a trendy backpack. L.L. Bean and The North Face have great options for both guys and gals.
  • A digital media player. Students can avoid paying for cable and watch streaming video through a digital media player. Apple TV works with any Mac OS X or Windows computer that’s running iTunes on an enhanced-definition or HD widescreen TV. Roku players provide access to more than 1,000 channels and connect easily to the user’s TV and high-speed Internet service.
  • A digital audio recorder. Some professors allow students to record their lectures, which can be helpful come test time. Amazon offers many digital recorders that will fit any budget.
  • A nifty alarm clock. For many students, getting out of their warm, comfy bed in the morning is the hardest part of the day. Make it fun with a quirky alarm clock, such as the Clocky, which is designed with wheels and the ability to jump off the night stand and roll around the room looking for a place to hide before going off.
  • Portable speakers. Dorm rooms are small, meaning musically inclined students may not be able to set up their full-size speakers. Portable speakers, such as the very on-trend Beats By Dre Pill Speaker, let them take their music with them wherever they go.
  • Headphones. However, while speakers are a great idea in theory, most students who live on campus will have roommates. Roommates who may or may not share your child’s taste in music. Help them avoid arguments with some noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds.
  • An e-reader or iPad. More and more textbooks are now available in an electronic format. Help your student lighten the load in the aforementioned backpack with an iPad or an e-reader, such as a Nook or Kindle Fire.
  • Grown-up notebooks. Welcome your student to the world of adulthood with a proper notebook, like a Moleskine. Taking notes never looked so good.
  • A five-year diary. Give your student the gift of memories with a diary that will help chronicle his or her time in college. This one from Barnes & Noble requires just a single line a day, and there’s also a sketch-a-day option for the budding artist.
  • A clever USB flash drive. A flash drive makes for a fun and useful stocking stuffer, and there are quirky options for every type of student: the jokester, the future doctor, the fledgling photographer, the fashionista—and even the ninja.
  • Dorm-friendly cookbooks. Leaving home doesn’t mean students can’t enjoy a home-cooked meal. They may not have a full kitchen at their disposal, but cookbooks with recipes that are compatible with dorm life abound. The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook and the $5 a Meal College Cookbook are just two examples.
  • City guidebooks and transportation maps. Students going away for college can bone up on their new surroundings with the help of city guides and public transportation maps, like those offered by Frommer’s. International guides are also a great gift idea for students planning on studying abroad. In particular, Rick Steves’ books are helpful for American travelers on a budget.
  • School memorabilia. If your student already knows where he or she will be attending college, T-shirts, sweatshirts, bumper stickers, and other memorabilia can make for great gifts. Visit the school’s website to see if their coop, bookstore, or gift shop accepts online orders.
  • A battery pack. Long days in class and long nights at the library are bound to test the limits of your student’s phone and laptop. Help them stay connected with a back-up battery pack. Amazon has hundreds of options at many price points.
  • A single-cup coffeemaker. Most college students have neither the time nor the need to brew a full pot of coffee. A single-cup coffeemaker like this inexpensive Bella model or a pricier but super handy Keurig will save them both time and space—and they won’t have to visit overpriced coffee shops quite so often.
  • A travel mug. They’re going to need something sturdy to carry that coffee with them to class. A trendy travel mug will do the trick. This one has a helpful built-in clock, or you could order a personalized one from Etsy.
  • A family album. As great as all these gift ideas are, everyone knows the best gifts are the ones that come from the heart. Consider putting together an album of family pictures that your student can take to college. You could even create a professional-quality photo book with the help of a website like Blurb or Shutterfly so you can order a second copy for yourself.

Happy shopping from CollegeXpresss!

Note: Did you know you could win a $10,000 scholarship for college or grad school just by registering on CollegeXpress? This is one of the quickest, easiest scholarships you’ll ever apply for. Register Now »

About CollegeXpress


We’ve been at this college search business for a while, helping students find colleges that truly fit for 30 years. You’ll find all of the articles and college profiles from our publications—Private Colleges & Universities, Public Colleges & Universities, American Colleges & Universities, and Graduate Colleges & Universities—on CollegeXpress, and tons more. Plus we made it easier and faster for our featured colleges to recruit you. When you search college profiles and click the big, green “Yes, connect me! . . . ” button, colleges will send you brochures and other cool stuff about their campuses.