Best gifts for graduates (or college student care package ideas)

The best gifts for your college student -- Perfect for graduations, farewell parties, and care packages!

Leaving home for your first year of college can be such a strange mixture of excitement, independence, anxiety and a little bit of fear for the unknown. Being away from home for the first time, meeting new people, being fully responsible for your studies and being in charge of your own place is a lot to take on for a young adult.

As parents back here at home, we worry about that anxiety and fear. Are they making new friends? Are they homesick? Are they eating a vegetable?

Sending care packages can be the perfect solution for the parent AND the child. It makes the parent feel as if they can still take care of their baby just a bit, even from afar. And for the college student? Finding a gift card for gas, a packet of beef jerky and a bottle of the face lotion you can no longer afford is like winning the lottery.

Care packages are also an AMAZING idea to give a high school graduate who is heading off to college or moving into their first apartment. They may not realize right out of the gate that toilet paper actually costs money, but will eventually come around to appreciate the practicality of the gift.

These ideas are tried, tested and loved by parents and students alike! We polled the people that would know: actual college students and their parents. Go figure.

Care package ideas for college students


These are ALWAYS a winner.

  • Local pizza joint or favorite restaurant (if they dont have a website, call and ask them to mail you a certificate)
  • Fast food (because college students are generally broke, Amazon has TONS of options)
  • Local grocery store (Amazon has Safeway, Albertsons, Whole Foods and more!)
  • GAS CARDS if they drive to school every day
  • Uber Eats gift card if their area has it available (this covers food AND delivery costs!) Can also do DoorDash


  • Instant coffee packets or tea
  • Quality water bottle like Hydroflask, Contigo or Swell (check Costco for various options)
  • Coffee mug (Starbucks has some wonderful location-specific mugs to remind them of home)
  • Coffee tumbler (RTIC or Yeti are great options or find a Tervis tumbler with their school logo)


Living in a dorm can make food preparation VERY challenging, so easy to prepare or grab and go snacks and meals are key! Even living off campus and having access to a kitchen doesnt necessarily mean they have TIME to prepare food for every meal.

The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook gets great reviews and teaches young adults how to make delicious meals on the tightest of budgets in the smallest of spaces.

If they are living off campus and you either live nearby or they are coming home for the holidays, freezer meals would be so wonderful to give! Use some inexpensive aluminum trays for casseroles, freeze soups flat in Ziploc bags, freeze muffins or even waffles.

You could even look into a boxed meal prep service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh.



  • Lysol wipes (because cleaning with a wipe is one thousand percent better than not cleaning at all)
  • Rolls of quarters for laundry (double check their machine takes coins!)
  • Laundry tabs like Tide PODs
  • Fabric softener sheets


Whenever you are reading this post, check out our monthly Costco home mailer coupon deals post. Every month, there are TONS of deals on vitamins, pain relievers, cough drops, allergy medicine. Buy in bulk and send off with your college student!


The book Wheres Mom Now That I Need Her gets AMAZING reviews and in so many of the comments, reviewers say they still have and reference this book, even years out of college. Tips for laundry, grocery shopping, car maintenance, what to do when you have a medical situation, even how to take care of your bike.

One Mom let us know that she put together a binder similar to the book above with her own tips on medical emergencies, laundry instructions, basic cooking tips and more. How fun to have a handmade reference book from Mom, with maybe a few simple recipes thrown in?

Do you have a favorite care package add-in or gift idea for a college student?

Looking for more fun gift ideas?

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