50 Meaningful Gifts for College Students in 2023

June 1, 2023

You know that you want to give a gift to a college student in your life. You know you want to give that gift soon. And you know which wrapping paper you’ll use. But you don’t know what to get them. What do they like? Which activities do they do in their spare time? What are their goals? Do you even really know them? Do you know anyone? Or even yourself? What do you like? Who are you? Take a deep breath and start with this list, where you’ll find gifts just for fun, gifts to help them as they learn, gifts to decorate their home, and gifts they’ll need for daily life. And this list is gender-neutral. So these items can be gifts for college girls, gifts for college boys, or gifts for college students of all identities.

Lighthearted gifts for college students

These gifts may be lighthearted, but they’re still beneficial. And none of these may be as useful as a laundry hamper or rice cooker, but college students do need to smile sometimes.

1. Pet rock

Slap some googly eyes on a rock and you’ve got an extremely low-maintenance pet.

2. Board game

If they ever find themselves staring down at their hands while hosting friends in their room, they can pull out a board game from you. And as a bonus, board games can facilitate learning and healthy social engagement.

3. Record player

Does vinyl always sound better than digital? No. But does music always sound cool wafting from a record player? Pretty much, yes. And even if they never use their record player, the record player will still look cool sitting uselessly in the corner.

 4. Camera

So they’ll make a hobby out of capturing their favorite moments.

5. Temporary tattoos

Eye-catching and removable, temporary tattoos make perfect gifts for college students who are interested in creative expression but not interested in lifelong commitment.

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6. Shower speaker

They can unwind with music, podcasts, and audiobooks while they wash their hair.

7. Keychain

Whether they lose their keys often or they simply appreciate adding some style to everything, a keychain will come in handy (get it?). Find a wacky keychain that will make them laugh whenever they unlock their front door.

8. Journal

Most of the writing they’ll do will be for homework, essays, and note-taking. Give them the motivation to take some time for self-reflection and mental wellness. They could enjoy writing a sentence a day, a joke a day, or even a word a day.

9. Arts and crafts

Put together some supplies so they can paint, sew, scrapbook, or doodle to their heart’s content.

10. Karaoke machine

Give them the gift of karaoke nights whenever they want. Then give a gift to their neighbors to apologize in advance.

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11. Bobblehead, figurine, or photo of YOU

To keep them company.

12. Jar of affirmations

Pick a jar. Any jar. And fill that jar with little notes of affirmation. They can pull out a note to read whenever they’re needing some encouragement. Eventually, when they empty the jar, they can fill it back up with their own self-affirmations.

School-focused gifts for college students

Let’s move on to some slightly more serious gifts. We are talking about college students after all, right? Of course, they should have fun, but they also have to do some learning. These gifts will support their educational experience and workload.

13. Reading light

When they need to study late into the night or when they just want to read themselves to sleep, a reading light will help them see without disturbing their roommate.

 14. Alarm clock

After they fall asleep reading, they’ll need to wake up on time to scuttle off to class or work. A quality, reliable alarm clock would keep them on schedule.

 15. Stress ball

Because college is just stressful sometimes, especially on days when their alarm clock blares before sunrise.

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 16. Day planner

With their neverending tests, due dates, work shifts, and social plans, they’ll start to lose track of space and time. But a day planner from you will keep them grounded.

 17. Stapler

On many occasions, they will need to staple a paper together just before it’s due. And with your gift, they won’t have to worry about tracking down a stapler somewhere else on campus.

18. Cleaning putty

Dust, hair, and crumbs always find a way into the dark crevices of a keyboard or other electronics. And cleaning putty can pull that gunk right out. Also, cleaning putty feels like slime and slime is awesome.

 19. Notebooks

Having a nice notebook adds some joy to all-day note-taking. And taking notes by hand helps students process information better than typing notes on their laptop.

20. Pens

I wouldn’t recommend giving expensive pens as gifts for college students. But similar to a nice notebook, smooth, quick-drying pens can make all the difference during note-taking. And they will lose several of them, so the bigger the set, the better.

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 21. Fidget toys

For many students, fidget toys can help with concentration and learning.

22. Desk organizer

Imagine this: after hours of procrastination, they finally work up the motivation to start their homework. Then—oh no! They find a huge mess covering their desk. How can they get any work done? They can grab the desk organizer you gave them and get to organizing!

 23. Coffee and French press

Now imagine this: they’ve just finished clearing their desk, and they want to focus on their homework, but they’re yawning. All that organizing made them sleepy. How can they possibly get any work done? They can make some coffee with the French press you gave them!

24. Bed tray

And now imagine this: clean desk, delicious coffee in hand, homework halfway done. But their back starts to ache, they wish they could stretch their legs out long, and they’re a little chilly. Their discomfort is distracting. How will they ever finish the work they painstakingly started? They can dig out that bed tray you gave them and finish their homework from the comfort of their bed.

Decorative gifts for college students

While living in a dorm or sparse apartment, every item is an opportunity for college students to add a personal touch or aesthetic. These gifts will help them feel at home in their living space.

25. Battery-powered candles

They can enjoy moody candle lighting without potentially burning down their home.

26. Plant

If you don’t feel confident they can keep a plant alive, try a cactus or succulent. And if you don’t feel confident they can keep those alive either, try a nice fake plant. It’s pretty difficult to kill plastic.

27. Mirror

Mirrors can make a space appear larger and you can find a frame that matches any style. Also, when roommates all need to get ready at once, extra mirrors help mornings run smoothly.

28. Catch-all tray

Keys, loose change, jewelry, safety pins, buttons—you name any random tiny things and I guarantee a catchall tray can catch them.

29. Bookends

College students always have books. Decorative bookends can keep those books upright while simultaneously adding some color or character to the room.

30. Salt and pepper shakers

Another pair that’s both decorative and functional. You can find beautiful salt and pepper shakers or you can find silly salt and pepper shakers. For example, I have gold and white dinosaur pepper shakers—they’re beautiful and silly.

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31. Throw pillow and blanket

Throws make any piece of furniture more comfy and they can add a pop of color.

32. Fridge magnets

Grocery list? Receipts? Photos? Manifestos? Whatever they want to hang on their fridge, they can hang with a magnet. And you can get magnets in the shape of anything or anyone.

33. Suncatcher

They make rainbows on the walls!

34. String lights

String lights can be hung or draped nearly anywhere to make a room feel more cozy and magical.

35. Rug

Keep their feet warm and their very old floors hidden with a beautiful rug.

36. Calendar

Personally, I love a puppy-themed calendar. But you can easily find calendars with just about any theme imaginable.

37. Wall art

Tapestries, posters, paintings, framed prints—you have endless options to choose from based on their tastes. And viewing art can likely reduce stress, so why not help them view art everyday?

Practical gifts for college students

These gifts may not make college students smile as often as lighthearted gifts, but they will get consistent use. Here are some practical ideas to make their days easier.

38. Spices

A college student’s grocery list rarely includes adequate spices because a.) the cost adds up and b.) they don’t care to spice re-heated mac n’ cheese. But give them a few basic, yet delicious spices and they’ll feel inspired to learn new dishes and flavors.

39. Laundry hamper

An item they’ll definitely need and may forget to buy until they’ve already got a pile of dirty clothes.

40. Pot and pan

If they have access to a kitchen, then sturdy, affordable pots and pans will keep them fed.

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41. Trash can

Even if they already have a trash can, they’ll appreciate another. Having a few different trash cans throughout their home will help to keep their spaces tidy.

42. Rice cooker

So they can effortlessly make perfect rice every single time.

43. Soap dispenser

Reusable soap dispensers are cheaper and less wasteful over time. Plus, they look nicer than single-use plastic dispensers.

44. Toothbrush holder

Where else would they store their toothbrush? Probably somewhere less clean.

45. Canvas grocery bags

Plastic grocery bags rip open, dig into fingers, and carry fewer items than canvas grocery bags. Make their shopping trips more comfortable with strong, reusable bags.

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46. Indoor laundry line

To air dry any delicate or expensive clothes they don’t want to throw in the dryer.

47. Dish drying rack

To air dry all their dishes.

48. Lunchbox

They can make their own lunch and keep their food safe, dry, and cool in a lunchbox. Lunchboxes make perfect gifts for college students by saving time and money.

49. Fan

Many dorms and apartments do not have AC. And in the summer, college students begin to sizzle. Fans are a low-cost, space-efficient way to keep them cooler.

50. Bleach pens

If they’re tight on cash, they’ll want to keep all their clothes in the best shape they can. And spills happen to the best of us. Give them bleach pens to keep in their backpack or around their home.

Still on the hunt for the best gift?

Try checking out some gift ideas for college graduates, because honestly, college students and recent college graduates aren’t all that different. Or try learning more about their specific major, college, or goals. But remember, no matter if you’re seeking gifts for college boys, gifts for college girls, or gifts for college students of any identity, and no matter which gift you choose, it’s the thought that counts.