How to shop for your college student

National

Most college students will already have the essentials they need for college life, but there’s still plenty you can buy that they won’t already have.

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Is it possible to shop for college students?

Buying for college-age offspring can be a challenge. They’re independent and capable of purchasing their own essentials, but you still want to get them something they’ll love when the holidays roll around. It takes a little thought to buy something for your college student that they won’t instantly exchange for store credit.

However, working out how to shop for your college student is simpler than you might think with the help of a few handy tips and some product recommendations. 

How to choose gifts for college students

Forget what you think you know

You might remember your college days fondly and think you know what college students want and need — but forget all that. Times have changed and something that you would have loved as an undergrad might be irrelevant now. That’s not to invalidate your own experiences, but letting go of what you think you know can help you be open-minded when picking out gifts for your college student. 

Consider dorm rules

Check the rules of your college student’s dorms before buying. There’s no point splashing out on some fancy scented candles when open flames are banned in your child’s dorm or purchasing a coffee machine with a warming plate that won’t be allowed. Items that are rarely allowed in dorm rooms include candles, cooking appliances like hot plates and toaster ovens, space heaters, electric blankets and air conditioners. However, you should double-check the college’s exact rules if in doubt. 

Think about your college student’s interests

It might seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget about your college student’s hobbies and interests when you’re in the thick of the holiday shopping season. If you don’t know much about your child’s hobby, do a little research around it to find out what might be useful. For instance, if your college student is a skateboarder, you might not realize that skateboard decks wear out with use, so while they might not need a complete skateboard, a cool new deck wouldn’t go amiss. For useful information on a range of products, consider signing up for the BestReviews email newsletter

Avoid items they probably already have

Gift guides for college students often include items they’ll already own, such as a laptop or a backpack for carrying around their books, but there’s no point in buying them something they’ve got already. The exception to this is any item where you can offer them a significant upgrade. For example, your college student probably owns headphones, but it’s unlikely they have the budget to buy themselves high-end headphones. 

Don’t be afraid to ask

While it’s a great feeling when you choose surprise gifts for people that they genuinely love, there’s nothing wrong with asking your college student if there’s anything they want or need. It might take the surprise element out of the equation, but at least you’ll know you’re buying your offspring something they won’t have to slap on a fake smile and pretend to like upon opening. If you’re set on picking gifts out yourself, you can always ask what big-ticket item they’d like and then pick out smaller gifts yourself. 

Pick some fun gifts as well as practical gifts

As your children grow up, it can be difficult to navigate the path between treating them like adults and treating them like young people. College students are adults but they’re still young and most will happily receive some gifts that aren’t just practical. So, yes, they might want grown-up items like coffee machines and pieces of home decor, but they’ll also probably want games and other things that are just for fun. 

Best gifts for college students

Bearaby Cotton Napper Weighted Blanket

Bearaby Cotton Napper Weighted Blanket

College students are often stressed and overworked, but studies have found that weighted blankets can help relieve stress and anxiety. This model is made from 100% cotton and has a chunky knit design that will look at home in even the most stylish of dorms.

Sold by Bearaby

Plant People CBD Oil Drops+ Mind + Body

Plant People CBD Oil Drops+ Mind + Body

Taking CBD oil is another natural way for students to relax. This high-quality CBD oil is specially formulated for cognition and creativity, as well as for fighting stress.

Sold by Plant People

HP Sprocket Portable Instant Photo Printer

HP Sprocket Portable Instant Photo Printer

If your college student loves taking photos on their phone, they might enjoy this portable instant photo printer that connects to phones and other devices via Bluetooth to print out compact 2-by-3-inch copies of photos. A modern take on a Polaroid camera, it’s a great tool for users to more easily document their fun college experiences.

Sold by Amazon

What Do You Meme?

What Do You Meme?

This hilarious game is perfect for the college student that seems to communicate almost entirely in memes. It’s fun to play as a family during the holidays but will also entertain your child and their friends when they get back to college.

Sold by Amazon

Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker

Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker

This is an excellent choice for a college student who doesn’t already have a coffee maker for their room. Since it doesn’t have a heating plate, it’s allowable in most dorm rooms, plus the compact size lends itself to small spaces.

Sold by Amazon

1-800 Flowers Cactus Dish Garden

1-800 Flowers Cactus Dish Garden

Not only can a little bit of greenery spruce up a drab dorm, but many young people love houseplants. This planter contains an array of cute cactuses and succulents that are extremely easy to care for — no green thumb required.

Sold by Amazon

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless

Yes, your college student might already own headphones, but do they own industry-leading headphones? Not only is the sound quality incredible, but the active noise cancellation is also second to none, which is ideal when trying to block out the sounds of rowdy roommates.

Sold by Amazon

YETI Rambler Insulated Tumbler

YETI Rambler Insulated Tumbler

The monarch of travel mugs, this tumbler is perfect for college students, whether they don’t have time to drink their morning coffee before leaving for class or need an extra-large soda to see them through an all-night study session.

Sold by Amazon

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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