Wishlist for Santa with gift, Santa hat, cup of tea, and cookies

The Wishlist: What Students Want for the Holidays and How to Make It Happen

We asked nearly 2,000 students what they wanted this holiday season. Here are the top answers, with a helpful infographic and ways to make them a reality.

When it comes to priorities and the holiday season, do all students think the same? We recently asked nearly 2,000 students what was at the top of their wishlist for the holidays. At first glance, these desires may seem pricey and superficial, but when it comes down to it, students want gifts for the holidays that make their personal and academic lives easier. And if you look a little closer, you’ll see most students aren’t only wishing for physical gifts but things money can’t buy. Do your priorities lie in the same place as these students? Let’s look at the top student wants this holiday season and reasonable ways to make these important gifts happen.

CollegeXpress Wishlist Infographic with student stats

Top 10 gifts students want this year

Life isn’t all about material things—but it’s okay to want a nice gift too! Students work hard all year at school, and you should be treated to things that not only make you happy but also improve your quality of life. Many of the items on this list were chosen by students because they would make their academic and personal lives easier. Here are the top 10 gifts students are looking for this holiday season:

  1. Scholarships and financial aid for college: “The best gift I could get for Christmas is a full-ride scholarship to a four-year college.” — Jackson from Missouri
  2. A new MacBook or laptop: “For this Christmas, I want a new laptop so I can get into game development and music production.” — Judah from Colorado
  3. Money for themselves and family: “For this holiday season, I would like money so I can invest in things that I would find enjoyable.” — Enoch from California
  4. A car for convenient transportation: “I would love to receive a car to aid my transportation needs.” – Adebola from Ohio
  5. Shoes, shoes, and more shoes: “New tennis shoes because I need some for the upcoming season.” — Alyssa from Tennessee
  6. A new smartphone: “A new phone since mine isn't working.” — Allie from North Carolina
  7. All the books: “I'd like to receive a lot of paperback books because I love to read.” – Jaydyn from Texas
  8. Clothes (especially for the cold weather): “I want new clothes; that way I can donate my old clothes to Goodwill and other donation centers.” — Mitchell from North Carolina
  9. iPad or tablet: “The #1 gift I want to receive this holiday season is an iPad so I can do more digital artwork.” – Destiny from New York
  10. A computer or desktop PC: “The #1 gift I would like this holiday is a new desktop to restart my college journey.” — Estela from Florida

Making your wishes a reality

We would love to deliver all these presents to our student users! But since we’re not Santa Claus, we have some advice on how to make some of these holiday dreams come true.

  • Use our Scholarship Search tool over winter break to find more award opportunities you’re eligible for! The more you apply, the better chance of making your college dreams a financial reality. (A friendly reminder: Not all scholarships require you to use the funds for school. You can search for awards that allow you to simply ease your financial burdens as well.)
  • There are tons of organizations that opt to gift students iPads or laptops to assist with their schooling instead of giving away money. You just have to do a little searching to find these opportunities, like our recent iPad Summer Giveaway.
  • If you’re looking to upgrade your fashion, first check out these 5 Mindful and Eco-Friendly Fashion Tips for the School Year so when you do ask for pricier pieces, you’re prepared to make them last.
  • Even books are simply too expensive these days, but you and your family can save some money with websites like thriftbooks.com. And if you need more reading recommendations, CollegeXpress has you covered.
  • If you do land a car this holiday season, congratulations! Be sure to take practical steps to keep your costs down with advice like How College Students Can Save Money on Car Insurance.

Gif of Mariah Carey in All I Want For Christmas Is You music video
@justinbieber via GIPHY

Things money can’t buy

Money may pay for a ticket to some of these things, but it doesn’t pay for the experience you have when you get there. Here are some other non-physical things students want this holiday season and going into the new year.

  • Admission to a dream college: “Honestly, I would like to receive college acceptances. Those mean more to me this year than a gift.” — Audrey from Arizona
  • Amazing experiences at concerts and events: “AJR concert tickets. I was unable to go when I was in eighth grade due to COVID.” — Ryan from Ohio
  • Time with family and friends: “The #1 gift I would like to receive is a cozy, happy Christmas with my long-distance grandparents.” — Mayleah from Georgia
  • Health and joy for loved ones and you: “I want to receive happiness and success for myself, my family, my friends/peers, and my teachers.” — Sydney from Pennsylvania
  • To go somewhere new and exciting: “I would like to receive a trip to New York City to experience the magic and memories at Christmas.” — Isaac from Oklahoma

Making the most of your experiences

Here’s some more great advice to help you make these wishes come to life (and extra special!).

Gif of Melissa Joan Hart and Nick Robinson in the show Melissa and Joey
Melissa and Joey via GIPHY

Fast facts about our survey respondents

We encourage students from all walks of life to share their thoughts and opinions with us, from high schoolers embarking on their first college admission journey to nontraditional students rediscovering their love of learning. (Create a free profile and check your inbox regularly for surveys, contests, and more great opportunities from CX!) This infographic and blog were created from the results of our easy Holiday Wishlist Scholarship contest, which we held in November. (Another side note: Congratulations to Kelsey C. of the Class of 2024 for being randomly selected as that month’s scholarship winner!) Here’s a quick snapshot of the students who responded:

  • Respondent high school graduation years ranged from the pre-2000s to 2027 and beyond.
  • The largest percentage of respondents were students graduating in spring 2024 (63.5%).
  • The lowest percentage were students who had graduated in 2021 (1.2%).
  • The earliest high school graduation year among respondents was 1985.
  • The top 10 states represented by respondents (in order) were Texas, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Michigan.

Gif of woman in red headband and grey sweater pointing at word fact.
@ford via GIPHY

Whatever you get and whoever you’re with this year, the CollegeXpress Team wishes the best holiday season and winter break possible to our entire student, counselor, and parent community. You work hard all year and have earned some well-deserved rest. Be grateful for what you have and what you receive, but also use some of these tips and ideas to make more of your holiday dreams a reality.

Looking for even more holiday cheer? Take gift-giving into your own hands and make everyone’s days merrier and brighter with these 4 Easy Ways to Show Your Friends Appreciation.

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