This post has the 41 best gift ideas for college students.
Let’s face it; buying gifts is a challenge. I struggle to even identify what I want for my birthday, so how am I supposed to know what to get anyone else?
I recently read that giving someone a gift is the only scientifically known way to increase your happiness by spending money, and that’s purely due to the joy you see on the face of the recipient. I guess that proves Joey’s point in Friends that there is no such thing as an altruistic deed, but either way – it’s the reason why I’ve come to love buying gifts.
While it’s easy to resort to a gift card, there’s just nothing personal about it. So, I came up with a thorough process to find a personalized gift tailored for your lucky pal.
My Gift Giving Process
- Find a photo of the gift recipient. Screenshot it, print it out, and keep it handy.
- Jot down their values. Are they kind? Fun? Do they express themselves openly?
- Write down the types of things they like. Are they always in the front row at concerts? Do they have the best closet on campus? Do they spend their weekends planting trees with a charity?
- Start connecting the dots. Think about physical things that represent that person’s values and interests. If they’re a jewelry person who loves volunteering, find a jewelry company that gives money to a cause they support. If they need a little extra love in their life right now, find them a book that might help them out. If they love music, find them concert tickets.
Pro tip: Keep a list of gift ideas in your phone that you can refer back to when someone’s birthday is coming up. You might think of things throughout the year, or your loved one may unintentionally hint at things they want, so add them to your list!
But if my gift giving process isn’t working for you, here are 41 awesome gift ideas that are nearly guaranteed to be a home run for any college student.
Oh, and just a friendly reminder: there are less than 100 days till Christmas so we have to start filling those shopping carts.
Related reading: 30 of the Best Gifts for Women Under $30
41 Perfect Gifts For College Student
1. Rare Eyeshadow Palette
For your makeup-obsessed friend, of course, a palette from Selena Gomez’s Rare makeup line will do the trick. I kept hearing great things about her makeup and now I’m obsessed. It makes me want to glam up every day!
This palette has some basic colors like brown and silver but also some playful tones like blue glitter and green shimmer.
2. Bathroom Vanity Organizer
Clear makeup organizers are so high school, so get your friend something more adult like this all-white makeup and beauty organizer. This one looks so clean and chic.
When you’re a college student, you have limited countertop space and your toiletries become a part of your décor, so this gift will play double duty for your friend.
Related reading: 16 Genius Makeup Organizer Ideas to Try ASAP
3. Phone Sanitizer
Even after the pandemic is long gone, sanitizing your phone will be an essential part of life. There’s just so much grime and dirt around! For your cleaning obsessed friend, a phone sanitizer is a great gift.
4. Beauty Mini Fridge
Mini fridges are meant for keeping drinks cool? Get your priorities straight, you need one to keep your beauty products in!
Small beauty fridges are everywhere these days and they come in super handy for keeping your jade rollers, serums, and gua sha depuffing tools. It also makes for a really cute decoration item, and of course you can also store a snack or two in there… just saying.
Related reading: The Best Mini Fridges for College Dorms & Small Spaces
5. Desk Organizer
If you have a friend that loves to be organized, then you need to get them a desk organizer. This blue one is sleek and simple for keeping all their supplies tidy and their desk clean.
Is this the most “fun” gift? No. But if you’re in college, you need to protect yourself. So get your college student the gift of safety with a taser to hold when they’re walking home at night from the library or going out.
The most important thing is to make sure to also gift them a taser safety class in addition to the taser itself. Wielding a weapon comes with a responsibility and it is not to be taken lightly.
7. Ring Light
Is your friend trying to be the next Addison Rae? Or do they just need some good light to take pictures for Hinge? Well then… get them a ring light!
The best part is that you can always steal it for your own photoshoots because the quality is unparalleled.
8. Easy Cookbook
I’ll confess, when I first came to college I would burn even toast. But after using this cookbook, I now know how to do a couple of things in the kitchen!
This book is a perfect gift for any college student who’s pressed for time and needs to whip something up quickly. It’s budget-friendly too, as all recipes are made with four ingredients or less.
9. Painting Kit
Do you have a friend who’s really stressed out? Who is struggling with having school be back in person? Who’s dreading midterm season? Oh, that’s basically all of us!
We all need a relaxing hobby to get our mind off all the stresses of life. I’m a horrible painter, but I love painting random things and it’s really helped my mental health. This all inclusive painting kit has everything you need.
10. Meal Prep Kit
Coming up with ideas for what to cook is nearly impossible. It feels like a full-time job!
My mom got me a subscription to Hello Fresh and it’s been a blessing because the recipes are easy, fun, and quick to make. If your friend has their own apartment and the basic cookware needed, this will be a lifesaver.
11. Apple Watch
An Apple Watch is one of my favorite gifts I’ve received because it really got me moving more in my day-to-day life. I have even been choosing to walk instead of driving just to get my steps in and close my rings for the day!
12. Film Camera
Taking pictures on your phone is so 2016. Why not give a friend a film camera to document their college experiences?
This one from Urban Outfitters is vintage-looking and produces photos with soft light leaks, which will make their photos oh-so-dreamy.
13. Charging Station
For your friend who has every Apple product imaginable, get them a charging dock! It’s essentially a one-stop shop for charging all their devices at night.
Trust me, they don’t know they need one but in no time, they will be asking how they lived without it.
14. Multipurpose Food Grill
Dorms don’t have a lot of space and dining halls close for breakfast at unreasonable hours. Who is up before 10am to make it to campus breakfast?
This is exactly why a mini, portable grill is key. It’s a great gift for any student starting college because they’ll love you for giving them the present of convenient and warm food. This one comes in a pack of three tiny grills so they can make waffles, sandwiches, or pancakes with ease.
15. Essential Oils Kit
College is stressful, so get your friend some nice, relaxing essential oils. Many are shown to increase productivity or restfulness, so you know they’ll get plenty of use.
16. Fashion Museum/Event Ticket
For any of your fashion-loving friends, take them to a museum with a fashion exhibit. Most museums have at least one per year, but if you live around New York, you should definitely make a plan for next year to take them to The Met’s Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty, which debuts in May.
17. Golden Hoop Earrings
When it comes to essential jewelry, gold hoops are the number one thing. They go with everything and can be dressed up or down.
A pair should live in everyone’s jewelry box. It’s a gift they will wear almost daily and always remember you by.
18. Magazine Subscription
A magazine subscription to Vogue is only $12 and comes with a cute tote bag. So many subscriptions have really low rates these days. Some mindless page-flipping is a great way to decompress after a long week.
19. Portable Blender
Throwing stuff into a blender is the only shred of healthy eating I can hold onto. College life is just so fast-paced!
These portable blenders are efficient, stylish, and easy to just drink out of. A perfect gift for your healthiest college student friend, or… your least healthy friend.
Dorm rooms are so depressing. They usually have one window, cinderblocks, and exposed pipes. Illnesses run rampant in communal leaving, so get your friend something to clean up the air that will also freshen up the ambiance.
Just FYI: plants die if you don’t water them. College students don’t tend to be the best at this, so stay on track with a succulent which requires very little effort.
21. Popcorn Machine
Every college student needs a snack, and what better snack to watch a movie on Netflix with than popcorn? Homemade popcorn tastes so much better than the popcorn you can get at a supermarket.
This seafoam personal popcorn maker doesn’t require oil, so it’s no mess or stress!
22. Galaxy Star Projector
I’m always surprised by my friends that don’t have trouble sleeping. My favorite new trick is a galaxy starlight projector. It turns your room into a twinkling wonderland that is more peaceful than you would expect! Since I’ve started using it, I’ve had no problem drifting off.
Getting older means you’ve got to start acting like an adult. Nothing says, “I’m an adult!” like buying fancy coasters. These gorgeous agate coasters with gold trim will stick with your friend for long after college.
23. Book Subscription
My friend has a subscription to Book of the Month and for my birthday I’ve been dropping hints about wanting it too!
All the books she gets are page-turners and it keeps her reading all the time, which sadly seems like a hobby a lot of us have lost.
25. Card Game
I used to hate card games, but when I got my friend this highly recommended game, I got hooked!
It’s a great way to get to know people you met recently or to build relationships with your friends. This game gets deep so give it to someone you’d like to get deep with.
26. Gel Manicure Kit
As someone who had to quit going to the salon every week because it is too expensive, this was a gift from the heavens.
This adorable gel manicure kit makes it super easy to do on your own nails and it’s a fun activity to do with your friends, too.
27. Wine Rack
We all have a wine loving friend, that one that is sipping rosé while everyone else is taking tequila shots. It’s basically her main personality trait and she will love you for getting her something to elegantly store all her wine.
28. Autobiographical Book
Does one of your friends need the inspiration to go after what they want? To live their truest self? Or maybe they are struggling to decide what to do after college? Is your friend’s name Rebecca and she writes for CollegeFashion? Get her this book! Everyone’s life has changed after reading Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed so it’s certainly a must-have.
29. The Mandalorian Airpods Case
I got this for my friend Ally and I’ve never seen someone so happy to get anything in their life. Get your Star Wars-obsessed friend this Mandalorian case for their Airpods. It’s so cute and they will be sure to know that you really thought of them when getting this gift rather than opting for something generic.
I just bought this darling floral apron for my friend who loves cooking and I can’t wait to see her open it. She’s always cooking and is so happy to cook for me or any of my roommates because it’s a passion for her. *She* is a true gift to us college students, so I knew I needed to get her something that showed my gratitude for her.
So get the mom of your friend group something that shows how much you appreciate her hard work and encourages them to keep you fed.
Whether it’s our most organized friend or the one who forgets her mom’s birthday, a planner will be a great present.
Before you give it to them, personalize it by adding some dates with activities for you guys to do together, like their birthday or your birthday.
32. Iron Match Striker
For your friend who always has a candle on, get them an iron match striker. Bonus points for getting them a candle to go with it!
Not only are match strikers a perfect aesthetic for your room, but they’re much more eco-friendly than plastic lighters.
33. Compostable iPhone Case
My sister got me this compostable iPhone case a few months ago and I love it! It is so thoughtful because it merges my love for sustainability with my perfected phone-dropping skills, so it really showed how much she cares. It also came personalized with my initials!
34. Reusable Coffee Cup
Do you have a coffee-obsessed friend? Oh, all of them? Perfect, save them and the environment from reusable cups and get them a cute portable coffee cup that will have them thinking of you from 9-to-5.
It’s wild how many single-use cups college students go through in a year, so this is a gift for the planet just as much as it is for your friend.
35. 3-Tier Pastry Display
Get your college student that loves baking a display for them to show off their skills. A true pastry chef will love the opportunity to present their goods in a fun way.
36. Paris Photography Book
I just added this book to my Christmas shopping cart for my friend who loves Paris and would sell her soul to live there after college.
Get your friend with dreams of moving to a big city a book that shows them how invested you are in their journey.
37. Fitness ClassPass
A ClassPass subscription is perfect for a friend who enjoys working out. Some people like to try out new workouts and mix up their routines, so get them a present that allows them to do just that! From barre to CrossFit, they have it all.
38. Gua Sha
If you have a friend that loves skincare, get them gua sha. It not only helps with lymphatic drainage but it is also a great morning or nighttime ritual for the skincare obsessed.
39. Head Massager
I got this head massager for myself and let me tell you – it is my number one study essential. Staring at a computer for 5 minutes gives me headaches, but this little tool helps me relax.
It’s also great to do before bed or when you just wake up, so get this for your friend who needs some relaxation in their life.
40. Framed Wall Art
Do you have a friend who still hasn’t put up anything on their wall? Well, get them some cool framed wall art. Any college student would love the gift of dorm or apartment decor!
Take some time to think about what art piece would they most enjoy. Maybe it’s a music poster, a quote, or an abstract piece.
41. Movie Tickets
Going to the movies is so rare now, but it’s so fun to go with your friends! Buy your pal some tickets to go watch a movie they’ve been dying to see.
What do you think of our guide to the best gifts for college students?
What gift have you most excited to receive? Who are you struggling to get a gift for? Let us know what you think below!