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- The best gift ideas for college students are useful, but fun – like comfortable sneakers, new headphones, or a good scented candle.
- As a recent college graduate myself, I can confidently say that this list is a really good place to start your shopping.
- It covers tech gifts, beauty products, and much more for college-aged men and women.
- Need more gift ideas for the younger people in your life? Check out our gift guides for toddlers, teens, and all ages in between.
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Check out all 58 gifts for college students:
This gift guide includes a sponsored product that has been suggested by Gravity Blankets. It also meets our editorial criteria in terms of quality and value.*
Most college students aren’t forking over a monthly payment to cable. This streaming player is, overall, the best one you can buy, and it transforms an otherwise ordinary TV into one that can stream shows and movies from Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Prime Video, and others all in one spot.
Their favorite comfort foods
Goldbelly makes it possible to satisfy their most specific and nostalgic cravings no matter where they live in the US — a cheesecake from Junior’s, deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati, and more. Browse the iconic gifts section for inspiration.
The world’s most comfortable shoes
Startup Allbirds makes wildly popular shoes out of soft, sustainable materials. Their Runners made of super-soft merino wool have been nicknamed “the world’s most comfortable shoes.” You can find a full review here.
Great coffee from all over the world to help them stay energized
If they drink coffee, they’ll likely drink a fair amount of it during college. And it’s really nice to have a good cup.
Atlas Coffee is a monthly subscription that’s sort of like a worldwide coffee tour — bringing the best single-origin coffee (with a postcard from its origin country) to your door. They’ll also get brewing tips and flavor notes.
A fun board game they can play with friends
The Settlers of Catan is perfect for nights at home with roommates. It’s a fun multiplayer board game that relies upon strategy (and sometimes luck) to amass resources, trade them, and build civilizations — and it can last for hours.
A weighted blanket
Similar to the comfort created by swaddling babies, weighted blankets utilize deep-touch therapy to help users get deeper, more restful sleep, while also helping to reduce anxiety and stress — something that’s especially needed during finals week. In addition to its classic weighted blanket, we’d recommend Gravity’s Cooling Weighted Blanket for hot sleepers.
*Sponsored by Gravity Blankets
A book that helps them build good habits and break bad ones
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, available at Amazon, $11.98
Many college students are trying to map out what they want out of life and how to build the habits that get them where they want to go. In the popular book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear, an expert on habit formation, teaches practical strategies for building lasting habits (and ditching detrimental ones).
A ten-minute breakfast that will save them money and time
The Dash Rapid Egg Cooker looks gimmicky but is actually deceptively useful. It’s compact and makes virtually every kind of egg (hard-boiled, poached, scrambled, or an omelet) perfectly, and in under 10 minutes.
A gift card for new (and fashion-forward) glasses
As someone who transitioned from contacts to glasses because of increased screen time in college, I can attest that having a good pair of blue-light reflective glasses is crucial. Warby Parker is practically legendary when it comes to eyewear because of its relative affordability, size flexibility, and wide range of styles.
The most comfortable socks college students can own
Bombas makes the best socks on the market. They benefit from upgrades like a supportive honeycomb stitch, blister tabs built into ankle-height styles, and a Y-stitched heel and “invisitoe” that minimizes annoying bumps. Even if it seems like socks aren’t an exciting gift, comfort is pretty much always a hit in college.
It was also founded to address that socks are the number one most requested item in homeless shelters. Every time customers buy a pair, they give a thoughtfully designed pair to someone in need. The company has donated more than 41 million pairs of socks to homeless shelters since 2013.
Colorful reusable straws that can go through the dishwasher
Trying to adopt more eco-friendly habits is one of the great characteristics of younger generations. These reusable straws are colorful, bendable, and convenient. They’re also dishwasher-safe.
A personalized passport cover and luggage tag set
Beautiful passport sets are a great gift for plenty of reasons. They’re useful, likely something they won’t have already bought themselves, and are often associated with the joy and excitement of travel in the future. Sometimes, you want to own one thing for a long time — and luggage tags and the memories that accompany them are one of those items.
Trendy and convenient Apple AirPods
If you’re after the title of their favorite relative of the year, here’s a good place to start. AirPods are both easy to use and functional as well as trendy. The newer generation of AirPods can be purchased on Amazon for $200, but we also liked the earlier generation (which is slightly cheaper).
Popular wireless over-ear headphones for quality noise-canceling during studying and working out
If there’s one thing every college student needs, it’s good wireless headphones. This brand-new Beats pair has rich sound, active noise canceling, and up to 22 hours of listening time. And if they let the battery run out, a 10-minute charge converts to three hours of playback. You can also find steep discounts on other Beats headphones now that a new model has launched.
If they like to study in noisier spaces, you can’t go wrong with Bose’s pricey but unbeatable QuietComfort II headphones either. And if they’re a runner and need something lightweight and in-ear, you should opt for Jaybird Vista.
A portable projector that’s the size of a soda can
Anker’s Nebula Capsule is a powerful and versatile mini projector, and its portability makes it a great option for college students who want a cozy movie-viewing experience in the comfort of their own room. It’s 1 pound and the size of a soda can, but it has surprisingly crisp image quality and 360-degree sound. It’s also quiet and has a continuous playtime of four hours. Find a full review here.
An Amazon Echo Dot for hands-free calls, alarms, music, weather updates, recipes, and more
The Amazon Echo Dot is the most popular Amazon device for a reason — it’s compact and has all the capabilities of Alexa (weather updates, recipes, music, news), which is the main reason most people buy an Echo device. A newer version of the Echo Dot was recently released, but the 3rd generation is a bit more affordable for comparable quality.
An inexpensive way to get the iced coffee they love at home
The Takeya Cold Brew Maker is an inexpensive, easy way to make cold brew from home — something that can save them hundreds of dollars per year. Find a full review here.
A smartphone-sized travel photo printer
Mini portable Bluetooth printers make turning iPhone photos into tangible memories quick and easy — which is especially convenient for decorating their room. All they’ll have to do is download the app (which also has internal PhotoShop elements and features like themed stickers and collages) and connect via Bluetooth.
The most popular Fitbit
Fitbits track the wearer’s health and fitness to offer insights into their sleep and physical activity. They can set personal goals and get real-time updates during workouts. This one is water-resistant up to 50 meters, and its battery life can last up to seven days.
College merchandise for school spirit
Particularly if they’re going to a school with a big sports team, you can be sure they’ll both need and appreciate all the fan gear.
A great game for a night in with friends
Grab a fun card game they’ll inevitably end up pulling out to play with friends on the weekend nights and snow days. Check out What Do You Meme, too.
A professional, versatile, and compact backpack
A good-qualitybackpack is the most versatile bag for a college student. This model has adjustable padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap; a pocket for everything (including a side-access iPad pocket); and the exterior is professional, sleek, and slim while also being public transportation-friendly.
A Brooklinen gift card for really nice sheets
Few things sound so nice as comfortable, beautiful sheets that you don’t need to buy for yourself. Brooklinen is one of our favorite startups to shop at, and we ranked their sateen cotton sheets (from $139) the best luxury sheets you can buy.
A funny but useful book full of expert and student advice on everything from finances to relationships and dorm life
The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, available at Barnes & Noble, $15.99
For everything from sharing a bathroom with 40 strangers to social network do’s and don’ts, this funny but useful New York Times bestseller runs the gamut.
A monthly subscription of personalized new makeup, haircare, and skincare samples delivered to their door
College students like to look and feel good, but tight budgets aren’t conducive to trying a lot of new, (and often expensive) grooming products. Birchbox sends samples of new and beloved products once a month, so they can test out new finds and discover products they may want to buy a full size of in the future. It’s also just fun to get a monthly gift that’s all about them.
A laundry hamper with adjustable straps
If they have to travel downstairs or across the street to do their laundry, they’re not going to want to haul a hamper. This bag comes with comfy adjustable straps to make laundry less of a (literal) drag.
A splash-proof portable Bluetooth speaker for college events that call for music
Beach days, tailgates, outdoor parties of any kind (once it’s safe enough for them to return)— grab this under-$100 Bluetooth speaker for the many occasions when loud music and a spill-friendly speaker are going to come in handy.
A really nice blazer they can wear to an interview or internship
Most college students probably don’t have a wealth of professional clothing to pull from for high-pressure situations like interviews or a big internship. Help them make a good impression, and see your money go to good use, with a blazer they can use repeatedly and for years to come. We’ve also created a list of our personal favorite workwear stores — plus the best styles to buy from each one.
An Echo Dot with a built-in clock
The newest Echo Dot is more convenient than ever. The all-new design features a larger speaker for better audio, a digital clock to display the time and timer countdowns, and all of Alexa’s other skills.
*This gift is unavailable to ship until December 30, but it’s still available to purchase.
A savvy suitcase for traveling on holiday breaks
Away’s hyper-popular suitcases deserve their hype. Their hard shell is lightweight but durable, their 360-degree spinner wheels make for seamless traveling, and the external (and ejectable and TSA-compliant) battery pack included can charge a smartphone five times over so they never have to sit behind a trash can at the airport for access to an outlet again. It’s also guaranteed for life by Away. Find our full review here.
We also recommend Calpak.
A book about capitalizing on the huge choices to make in your 20s
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now, available at Amazon and Target, $11.89
The decisions you make in your 20s can greatly impact the rest of your life. The best defense is a good offense and your grad should know now, before any life-altering events crop up, how to get the most out of their “defining decade.”
One of the all-time best facial cleansers for a clean and effective routine
FOREO’s cult-favorite Luna 2 cleansing device gently and effectively cleans with thin, antimicrobial silicone touch points, and it removes 98.5% of dirt and makeup residue without irritating the skin. Plus, it’s 100% waterproof and the battery life lasts for a few months per charge. Find a full review from a female reporter and a male reporter here.
An Amazon Prime membership
An Amazon Prime membership is one of those things that immediately makes life easier and ultimately better. If you decide to gift one, the recipient will enjoy free two-day shipping; access to the Prime Now app, which provides free two-hour delivery on tens of thousands of items; Prime Video, Amazon’s streaming video service; Prime Music; the Kindle Lending Library; Prime Reading; Prime Audible Channels; unlimited photo storage, and more.
A candle to remind college students of their favorite place or hometown
If they’re away from family or friends, a reminder of home is a wonderful thing to have around.
An iPad for Netflix-binging in their room, as well as for quick trips that don’t warrant a laptop
Budget-friendly: Fire HD 10 Tablet, available at Amazon, $149.99
They won’t want to lug their laptop everywhere, and they may either already have a TV in their room or not have the space for one. A tablet is small enough to be travel-friendly but large enough for convenient Netflix binging or note-taking. If you want more iPad options, find them here.
The best electric toothbrush
We rated this the best electronic toothbrush you can buy.
Childlike cereal for adults
Magic Spoon is a new “childlike cereal for adults” that’s high in protein and low in sugar — and all four flavors are delicious. Here’s one way to show college kids it’s completely possible to transition to adulthood without losing all the joy of being a kid. You can read more in a personal review here.
Help them honor some of their best memories — whether it’s from friends now studying across the country, family, or best-loved locales. Framebridge is relatively affordable, but decor is one of the luxuries plenty of college students shirk to save elsewhere — even though it can make their home a much more inviting, happy place.
A monogrammed leather shave bag so students can keep all their things in one place
The dreaded truth of college is that you’ll most likely need to schlep your shower belongings to a communal area if you live in the dorms. No one wants to rely on a plastic shower caddy to do that. Grab them a leather shave bag that they’ll use for years to come — they probably wouldn’t justify the expense on their own, and they’ll be grateful to have it.
If you’re looking for a chic aesthetic, Dagne Dover also makes a great neoprene toiletry bag named the Hunter (from $35) that’s built to accommodate makeup. If they have a lot of toiletries, you’ll probably want to get the large size for $55.
A battery pack that charges an iPhone twice as fast as the original iPhone charger
I said before that college students primarily need a good pair of wireless headphones. They also need a portable external charger. This gift is extremely convenient, and will also give you peace of mind to know the lessened odds of them getting stuck somewhere unfamiliar with a dead phone.
A nice watch they can wear to internships
MVMT makes beautiful watches for men and women at great prices, and they feel more contemporary to wear than most on the market. It’s a versatile, sentimental gift you can feel good about giving because you know they’ll feel good — and perhaps more put-together — wearing it.
A cult-favorite tumbler to keep their drinks just the right temperature for hours spent studying
This HydroFlask will keep cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot drinks hot for up to 12 hours with the lid on.
The most comfortable lounge pants we’ve ever tried for lazy weekend mornings
MeUndies is a popular LA startup that makes some of the most comfortable underwear we’ve ever tried. Their lounge pants, however, are the real hidden gem — perfect for lounging around on weekend mornings, and they’re sleek enough to avoid feeling too unkempt.
A key-, wallet-, and iPhone-finder
You can’t go wrong with a tracker for their keys, wallet, or phone. The Tile Mate is compact, thoughtful, and useful for everyone — especially an oft-frazzled college student.
Tools they will undoubtedly need and be grateful to own, but likely won’t buy themselves
They’re going to need tools at some point, and they’re probably going to be underwhelmed by the prospect of spending money on such an unexciting purchase. You could also grab them a First Aid Kit.
The best pillow you can buy
Make sure they’re optimizing their sleep with the best pillow you can buy. Thanks to the shredded memory foam, they’ll get the support and comfortable “sinking in” sensation of a traditional memory foam pillow, but none of the excessive heat or firmness that can be a problem with solid foam. Read more in our Buying Guide here.
A lightweight, business-casual laptop bag
They can take this versatile laptop bag everywhere without batting an eyelash. Which, considering how much college students juggle, is a big convenience. Find a full review of the laptop bags here.
An undated planner that uses efficiency hacks to break down a 10-year plan into daily stepping stones
The Best Self Co. Journal breaks down daunting long-term plans into bite-size steps that make forming good habits easy, efficient, and stress-free. College invites you to plan for the rest of your life — a question that can feel ambiguous and daunting. This should help. Plus, it has no dates so you can give it for any occasion — not just the New Year.
A custom poster of their favorite place
Commemorate their college town, hometown, or favorite place in the world with this customizable graphic map so they can keep it with them wherever life takes them.
A hyper-useful extra-long, reinforced phone charger
If they’re going to be tethered to devices, you may as well give them a long leash. This long charging cable means no matter where one is, they’ll have power — and they won’t have to sit at the foot of their bed to reach it.
An instant coffee maker for busy mornings
If they drink coffee, they’re going to appreciate having easy, fast access to some for the many rushed mornings ahead. A Keurig is intuitive and ubiquitous. If you’d rather steer them away from single-use plastic K-Cups, grab these reusable and compatible cups as an accompanying gift.
A comfy Patagonia pullover they’ll rely on a lot
It’s a good bet that many of their peers will also have this Snap-T pullover from Patagonia. It and the Better Sweater are long-held favorites, and both are comfortable classics that they’ll no doubt come to rely upon.
A Patagonia sweater is also a particularly good gift for students who are invested in sustainability. The company has been turning plastic bottles into polyester for its clothing since 1993, and continues to do so today.
A gym bag that can transition to a professional setting
Just like bringing a beat-up JanSport everywhere, lugging an old nylon gym bag isn’t ideal for anyone looking for versatile use. Herschel Supply Co. makes reliable, long-lasting bags, and this one has a separate compartment for gym or dress shoes.
A NutriBullet blender for fast, easy smoothies
A NutriBullet is convenient, doesn’t require a ton of space, and makes fruit smoothies in under 30 seconds. This is particularly great for the health-conscious, or anyone who can’t finish fruit or veggies fast enough; if it gets a little too ripe to eat, throw it in a smoothie to avoid waste.
A microwave-safe ramen cooker for the most stressful or time-crunched nights
There will be plenty of late nights filled with cheap and tasty ramen. If they’re going to eat it anyway, at least let them make it quickly and perfectly every time.
A super soft throw blanket they’ll find themselves cocooned time and time again
Grab their favorite candy, this sherpa-lined fleece blanket with over 4,400 five-star reviews on Amazon, and a Hulu gift card to make their nights in actually fun.
Gift cards – perhaps the best gift you can give a cash-strapped college student
What a stressed, broke college student needs most is money and probably a hug. If you’re looking for a way to gift maximum convenience, gift cards are a surprisingly thoughtful way to do that — either for their favorite restaurant, transportation, school books, or music to keep them occupied during long study hours. Check out more gift card gifts here.
Everything: Visa Gift Card / Amazon Gift Card / Gift Amazon Prime Membership
Coffee: Starbucks Gift Card
School books: Amazon Gift Card
Entertainment: Netflix Gift Card / Hulu Gift Card / Sling Gift Card / StubHub gift card
Transportation: Uber Gift Card
Decoration: Framebridge Gift Card
Furniture: Amazon Gift Card / Wayfair Gift Card
Music: Spotify Gift Card
Sheets: Brooklinen Gift Card
Groceries and food: Whole Foods Gift Card / Chipotle Gift Card
Clothes: Nordstrom Gift Card / Everlane Gift Card
Tech: Best Buy Gift Card
Travel: Delta Gift Card
A gift card to ClassPass so they can go to tons of boutique fitness classes without the expense
Boutique fitness classes are expensive. ClassPass makes them less so. If they like to be active, are looking for a newfound favorite class, or like yoga as much as boxing classes, this is a great gift they’ll actually use — and applies to virtual classes until in-person ones are safe again.