Holiday Gifting

27 Gift Ideas for College Students Who Want & Need Anything & Everything

The gift receiving season is the best for college kids.

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If you’re struggling to decide on a gift for the college student in your life, you are not alone. Gift giving is already a challenge, but it always feels especially intimidating to shop for someone who is in the phase of their life that comes right before “real” adulthood. Shopping for a gift for a college student is nothing like shopping for a little kid — they may not have any money, but they have plenty of strong opinions.

And there’s a few reasons for that — first off, it is very hard to keep up with what college-aged people think are cool. The trends in clothing, makeup, jewelry, and more are constantly changing, and even if you spend as much time on TikTok as as they do, you might have a hard time seeing what items are being influenced by people that age. Plus, some gifts that you might think of as a luxury item or even a basic life necessity — like books or fragile items — don’t always have a place in a small dorm. A lot of dorms may be decked out in social media friendly decor these days, but they still don’t come with a ton of space.

But there are so many gifts you can give to a student that will make their life easier, or give them the chance to keep up with what is trending right now without spending all their savings. Even cash is a good gift, especially if you know a student who is going to study abroad soon. From really nice toiletries, to cozy outerwear, to gifts that will help them sleep at night, there are so many presents you can give a college student that they will truly enjoy using, wearing, or just spending time with.


A mini photo printer

The best thing to decorate a college dorm with is pictures of friends and family, but ordering prints just feels wildly inconvenient. The HP Sprocket Panorama is a photo printer that is compatible with smartphones so users can easily print their favorite memories out. HP makes a lot of different versions of the printer so you can find the one you think they’ll love the most.


High quality skincare

Every college student needs — but doesn’t want to spend money on — skincare products. Whether it be moisturizer, makeup remover or sunscreen, they’re more likely to buy it if someone else gets it for them. This moisturizer from Drunk Elephant is said to be very hydrating. Or, you could get them this Ulta Skincare Heroes set, which has mini samples from a bunch of popular brands.


A cool mug

Every college student needs a mug — for coffee, a late night snack of cereal, as a pen holder, or even microwaveable cake in a mug. This one is unique and will serve as a bit of decor on their desk.


The cutest workout gear

This weight kit comes with a few of Bala’s popular weights, including Bala Bangles (weights that can be worn as bracelets or anklets to enhance a walk, a yoga workout or a pilates class). The workout accessories in this kit are super cute, making working out more appealing, and they’re small, so storing them in a dorm will be easy.


Warm accessories for the cold weather

It’s cold on a lot of college campuses right now, and walking from class to class means bundling up. But some college students will simply… not do that. Why? Because they might not have any cute, cold weather outerwear like these earmuffs (which won’t mess up their hair) or gloves.


A patterned umbrella

Another thing college students always seem to be in short supply of: umbrellas. If it comes in a fun pattern, they will love it and just might use it all the time. This one from Rifle Paper Co. comes in a lot of pretty patterns.


Cozy (but presentable) clothing

Everyone wants to be comfortable, but no one wants to look lazy. This comfortable sweater from Brunette the Label can be paired with jeans or even flare leggings to make for a chic, cozy outfit they will want to wear to class, brunch — almost anywhere.


Mary Jane Flats

Mary Janes are back in fashion, and they really are a versatile shoe to have in college because they can be worn to class or to a job interview. These red ones are both professional and a statement. They are from Sandy Liang, a NYC-based designer who makes tons of cool clothes that are both trendy and unique.


Gift cards

For college students, gift cards are the ideal present. Apple Music or Spotify cards will always be a hit, as is Uber/Lyft money (just make sure those services are available in the area they go to school in). A Starbucks or fast food gift card would be a good treat to give them a break from the dining hall (or, if they’re in their own apartment, having to cook). Target and HomeGoods are great for a variety of things too.


Noise cancelling headphones

Being able to drown out noise while studying in the dorms is a must in college. That’s why every student needs a good pair of headphones. The AirPods (3rd Generation) are the most updated version of the popular earbuds, which have a noise-cancelling option, and the Beats Studio3 wireless are beloved for their ability to drown out any loudness.


Hard bottomed slippers

College students need a pair of hard bottom slippers to be able to throw on at a moment’s notice. Whether they have a last minute hall meeting, a fire drill, or they just want to walk down the hall to a friend’s dorm, these splurge-worthy slippers are really high quality and keep your feet very warm.


A really nice planner

Some students like to keep track of their assignments and meet-ups on their phone, but there are definitely some who still enjoy the power of a physical diary. Papier has really nice planners with plenty of space to write in each day’s designated space. They come in different sizes and you can personalize them.


A sleep mask

This sleep mask promises a good night’s rest, which can be hard during college when most people are sharing a room with someone who might be on a different schedule than them. It blocks out all light and since it’s made of silk, it’s a little more gentle on your face and hair.


An expandable laptop backpack

Any student who travels long distances to get to their school is in need of a backpack that’s travel-friendly and can fit their laptop. This one is even better than that, because it’s reasonably sized yet expandable, has a lot of pockets, and comes in a range of timeless neutrals they won’t regret later. It’d be a great gift for someone studying abroad soon.


A really nice blowdryer

You don’t want the student in your life to be that roommate — you know, the one who makes a ton of noise doing their hair in the morning before their 8 am and wakes everyone up. The Dyson Airwrap is quieter than most hair dryers and gives that effortless blowout look that is on trend right now. And, it’s available in this super cute color. The Revlon brush and the Bondi Boost brush are also good options for gifts, depending on hair type.


Pretty jewelry

High quality jewelry will always be better than jewelry that will eventually rust or turn your skin green. These hoop earrings from Maison Miru are bold but also comfortable to sleep in.


“Between season” outerwear

Having the right clothes for the weather is important in college — when spring comes in a few months, the student in your life will want to stay warm but also not too warm. A jacket like this one from H&M is suitable for days that are kind of cold, but not so cold that they’d need a winter jacket on.


Travel-size makeup kits

Whether they need smaller products for traveling or you want to give them a sample of something new, a travel-size makeup kit is a great idea. This Charlotte Tilbury one includes mascara, eyeliner, liquid blush, lip liner and lipstick in the shade Pillow Talk.


A coffee table book

Once a college student moves from a dorm into a bigger space — like a house or apartment — an easy thing to make a room feel a little more decorated and “grown-up” is by having coffee table books. Get something that looks cool and on a topic they’re interested in. Cinephiles will appreciate this one on Sofia Coppola, the director of the new movie Priscilla.


Travel accessories for that study abroad trip

These accessories will actually help your college kid stay organized while traveling. The passport holder will make it fishing an important form of ID out of a backpack or purse easier, and luggage tag that will actually last and not rip off right away (like the free options at the check-in counter) will also remind them to add their contact information to their suitcases — just in case.


An astrological accessory

For the person who relies heavily on HerCampus horoscopes, a medallion with their zodiac sign would be a touching gift. This one from Monya Necklaces is available in different metals. If you want to get it as a necklace, make sure to select a chain.


A flamboyant tote

T’was the summer of Barbie and its writer-director, Greta Gerwig, who is known for her ability to capture girlhood on film. (Past projects include Lady Bird and a recent-ish adaptation of Little Women which was released in 2019). This bag — or really any whimsical tote — could be a useful and cute addition to any college student’s life.


Sweet treats

Anyone who considers a Lactaid before they have dessert will love this dairy-free, plant-based sweet treat. It comes in all different flavors, and in very fancy packaging that will make the person who receives it feel very special.


A humidifier that can fit in their dorm

A compact, dorm-friendly humidifier is both adorable and useful. It’s wireless, easy-to-clean, and about the size of a reusable travel mug.


A leakproof tumbler for iced coffee

A tumbler with a straw is perfect for water or iced coffee, which can be made in a dorm or the dining hall by just pouring hot coffee over ice. This 40 ounce tumbler from Hydro Flask has a flexible straw and fits in car cup holders. Hot drinks will stay hot, and cold ones will stay cold.


Weatherproof shoes

A walk across campus in the rain is enough for a pair of sneakers to get completely soaked. Weatherproof rain boots that are cute and easy to walk around in are a great gift for a college student, and these come in tons of colors.


A truly useful phone case wallet

Need a stocking stuffer idea? Phone wallets are popular with college students because they’re an easy place to store a student ID, which most colleges require students to have on them at all times so they can swipe themselves into buildings on campus. Since students are always carrying their phone, having a sturdy phone wallet that they can put all their cards in and easily pull them out of is life changing.

The opportunities are endless when it comes to buying gifts for college students because, well, they don’t have any money. Whatever you choose to gift them with, they will probably love no matter what because they didn’t have to buy it.