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It can be hard to find the right gift for the college-bound kid. Do they need a necessity, a fun gadget or something to keep them from getting homesick come move-in day? To make it easier for you to find the perfect one, we’ve put together a list of 35 practical yet thoughtful gifts for the college-bound kid. From the comfiest sheets to top bunk storage solutions, we’ve got everything any little bird needs on its way out of the nest.
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1. For the kid who needs some high-quality sheets: Brooklinen sheets
Everyone deserves a set of nice sheets—especially for those late-night cram sessions or Netflix reruns. Our favorite bed sheets are the Luxe Core sheets from Brooklinen, which are available in all sorts of cute patterns and stripes. We loved how soft and breathable they are, and noted that “stains come out easily.”
2. For the kid who loves to order takeout: Pyrex Ultimate Storage Set
Here’s something most kids won’t think about before they leave for college: They’re going to need someplace to store their leftovers. All those extra slices of pizza, half pots of ramen and Chinese lunch combos have to go somewhere! Be the person that picks them up this Pyrex Ultimate 10-piece storage set, which we named the best overall food storage container for its strong glass construction and oven-safe features.
3. For the kid who always forgets to charge their phone: Mophie Powerstation PD
Nowadays, colleges are packed with plugs and outlets, but on the off chance they’re all taken and your giftee's a little scatterbrained, they’d feel blessed to have a sweet little USB battery pack. Our favorite battery pack is the Mophie Powerstation PD, which is powerful enough to juice up two phones at once—perfect for any study session.
4. For the kid you want to come home on weekends: Travelpro Platinum Elite
Set junior up for spring break in style with some new luggage. We adore the Travelpro Platinum Elite, which is the best piece of checked luggage available right now. If they need a large suitcase this is it, thanks to its expandable size, smooth maneuverability, and easy front-opening access. It’s a little pricey, but good luggage can last a lifetime.
5. For the kid with the bad back: Sleep On mattress topper
Dorm mattresses have been slept on by multiple people before your kid—that's why some choose to just bring their own, even though a lot of colleges frown upon that. Why not opt for a sleeker solution instead, and nab your giftee a nifty little mattress topper? While we named the Casper option our best overall for 2021, they can be a little hard to find. A great second choice is Sleep On’s natural latex topper, which we said delivered an “amazingly comfortable sleep experience.”
6. For the secret chef: Cuisinart Hot Plate
Some dorms might have rules against it, but let’s be real: A hot plate can be a lifesaver for those nights when your student works through dinner and just needs a little something to eat before bed. We like the Cuisinart cast iron single burner, and more than 2,000 Amazon reviewers agree, giving it a 4.5-star rating. As one notes, it’s got “simple, easy controls with variable heat levels, heats fast, maintains heat evenly and well and requires near nil cleaning.” Sounds perfect for a messy college kid!
7. For the kid who loves to whip up a little something to eat: Always Pan
If your student has a hot plate, they’re going to need something to use on it. We love the Instagram-famous Always Pan, which is basically eight different appliances in one. It can fry, steam or even act as a saucepan. It also comes in a variety of adorable colors and, is a “storage-friendly solution” for those who “live in a small apartment or share space with others.” Sounds like a dorm to us!
8. For the kid who already drew the top bunk: BedShelfie
Sleeping in a top bunk can be challenging enough, even without trying to figure out where you’re going to store your phone, water, book and retainer when it’s time to go to bed. Fortunately, there are solutions for that now, including the BedShelfie. Much-beloved by Etsy users, the BedShelfie is an easy-to-use minimalist snap-on accessory that Etsy shoppers say is “so incredibly easy to install” and “very sturdy.” It’s even got a little space for a water cup, so hopefully, the roommate down below will never have to face an unfortunate dousing in the middle of the night.
9. For the kid who hates cleaning: Roomba robot vacuums
Keeping their dorm room clean might be a hassle, especially amidst early classes, extracurriculars and more. A useful gift they'll love is a robot vacuum and iRobot makes some of our favorites. Roomba's are universally well-loved and if you're willing to shell out the extra cash, they'll make your child's life a lot easier. Our favorite is the iRobot Roomba i7+ for its strong suction and self-emptying capabilities—they'll never have to touch the dirt. It could also easily pick up 10 grams of debris per run and works with both Alexa and Google voice assistants for a hands-free experience.
If the i7+ is too far out of your budget, consider our favorite affordable Roomba, the i3+. The i7+ might come with extra disposal bags and an extra cleaning side brush, but the i3+ was able to offer the same powerful cleaning and packed a sleeker design.
10. For the kid who'll miss their dog more than they miss their parents: Pet Pillow
If your college-bound student’s biggest concern is how much they’re going to miss their dog, cat, lizard or fish, help them take a version of their little pal with them via this custom-shaped pet pillow. Just provide a picture of Fido or Sir Meowington, and this company will produce a pillow version of that image perfect for snuggles, cuddles and lonely nights missing home.
11. For the kid who's always stressed: YnM Weighted Blanket
A weighted blanket is a great stress reliever and might help your kid get a better night of sleep during midterm season. Our most affordable option is the YnM Weighted Blanket which we found easily conforms to the shape of your body to both help you relax or fall asleep. It's not as cozy as our favorite, the Gravity weighted blanket, but with multiple sizes and weight options available it still makes for a great gift for kids away at college.
12. For the kid who lives on soup: EZ-DUZ-IT Deluxe Opener
One item no freshman ever knows they’re going to need is a good old can opener. That soup’s not going to open itself, after all. A good can opener can last decades, too, making it the gift that keeps on giving. We love the EZ-DUZ-IT Deluxe opener, which has an all-metal construction for durability—perfect if your kid's a little clumsy and keeps dropping it off the counter.
13. For the kid who likes to snooze: Sweeney from StyleWell
Here’s a universal fact: Any kid’s going to need new bedding when they go to school. We’re big fans of this Sweeney four-piece set from Home Depot, which comes with a comforter, sham and even two decorative pillows. Our reviewer said it was both “soft and lightweight,” and noted that it was machine-washable—a big plus for messy college students.
14. For the kid who really loves a good pillow: Coop Home Goods pillow
Speaking of sleeping: Pillows. Everyone needs them, and no one wants to spend the money to get a good one for themselves. That’s why we love the idea of giving a nice pillow as a gift, especially for a sure-to-be snoozing college kid. We weighed dozens of options and landed on the Coop Home Goods Original pillow as our favorite pillow of 2021, hailing its washability and the inclusion of a little pack of extra stuffing, just in case that pillow isn’t as fluffy as they might like. Coop even offers a generous 100-night sleep trial, just in case the person you gift this to isn’t vibing with the pillow’s feel.
15. For the kid who wants the best laptop on the market: MacBook Air
If you’re really feeling generous, you could gift your grad a brand new laptop. For our money, the best one on the market is the Apple MacBook Air, which we said is “thin, light, packs 13 hours of battery life, crushes most Windows laptops in benchmarks and real-world performance, and comes in a beautiful rose gold chassis.” It’s a little pricey, but just think about it as an investment into your grad’s education.
16. For the kid who always forgets to stock up on essentials: Billie razors
If you don’t mind getting a little personal, consider setting up your grad with the gift of a Billie razor subscription. For just $9, your grad will receive a razor starter kit and two blades. Then, however often you want—monthly, bi-monthly—Billie will send an additional four blades for just $9 more. Until college, most kids have never had to worry about the price of razors or, frankly, running out. Billie helps continue that trend by taking that one little item off their plate for the foreseeable future, and it's Reviewed-approved too! We loved this subscription, finding it an easy way to find " excellent and durable disposable razors" at an affordable price.
17. For the kid who loves movie night: TCL 5-Series
Dorm rooms need TVs. Watching an epic movie with buddies on someone’s laptop screen just doesn’t measure up. Help your grad rule the room with one of our favorite affordable TVs, the TCL 5-Series. Considering it’s a TV for college kids, you probably won’t want to break the bank, but the TCL 5-series offers max bang for your buck with decent picture quality. As a bonus, it’s also a Roku TV, so your grad can sync their Netflix account—er, probably your Netflix account—and stream to their heart’s content.
18. For the kid who's always prepared: Energizer Ultimate batteries
No one thinks about buying batteries until they actually need them, and then it’s often annoying too late. It’s not the slickest gift, but your kid will thank you 20 times over for a 20-pack of Energizer AA batteries, which they’ll no doubt use to power up just about every remote on their dorm floor. Who knows? Maybe those batteries will help start a conversation that leads to a lifelong friendship.
19. For the kid looking for dorm décor: Stylewell Lanterns
Dorm room lights are usually fluorescent or have a weird burned orange glow that lacks a certain hominess. Let your child create a zen space with his set of Stylewell wooden lanterns. It's got a perfect 5-star rating from Home Depot shoppers who loved the simple, rustic wooden design. Just make sure your child is using flameless candles if their dorm has an extra set of fire safety rules like ours did.
20. For the kid in need of new kicks: New Balance Sneakers
New Balance is well-known for its comfortable, stylish shoes and for those weekend runs and long walks to classes, your kid deserves a new pair. We tested the New Balance 993 shoes which we found were comfy, versatile and felt like "pillows on your feet." These shoes do come at a hefty $185 price tag, so if you're looking for more affordable options, scroll through the rest of our top choices right below.
21. For the kid who needs their quiet: Sony headphones
If your grad has a roommate, then they’d absolutely adore a nice set of noise-canceling headphones. Our favorite headphones right now are the Sony WH-1000XM4, which we found are incredibly comfortable, great-sounding, and have “among the best [noise-canceling] we've ever tested.” Take that, roommate who’s just learning acoustic guitar!
22. For the kid who's serious about not getting athlete's foot
Just like every college-bound kid needs a good shower caddy, every college-bound kid also needs a good pair of shower shoes. Amazon users love these little guys, which come in eight different colors and come with drain holes in the soles. Some reviewers hail the shoes’ ability to dry quickly, also noting that they're "sturdy, comfortable, and do not slip at all.”
23. For the kid who always needs a new backpack: Incase Icon
It’s always nice to start a new school year with a fresh new backpack, and for college, you’re going to want to pick one that’s laptop-friendly. We need the Incase Icon the best backpack for electronics, thanks to its multiple pockets and hefty protective elements. As our testers noted, the ICON is “a heavily padded backpack that is meant to keep your laptops and tablets safe.”
24. For the kid who's always fixing something: Cartman tools
Everyone needs a good set of tools. College is a great place to start accruing those, too, because you never know when you’ll need a tape measure or a handy screwdriver to fix that uneven desk. Gift your grad a nice basic set and start them on a lifetime of handiwork and sustainability. Our best value tool kit is the Cartman 148-piece set, which comes with two screwdrivers, allen wrenches, a socket set, nails, screws, electrical tape, a hammer and a whole bunch of other things. In other words: Your kid won't have to scramble around for any additional gear, assuming they’re doing basic dorm room repairs.
25. For the kid trying to reach the top shelf: Acko stool
Everyone can use a little boost every now and again. That’s why we love the idea of gifting a college-bound grad a nifty little collapsible step stool. They can use it to tape up posters, store luggage or just change a lightbulb. When they’re done with it, they can tuck it away in the back of the closet for next time. Amazon users love this Acko model, which they say is “easy to fold” and “heavy duty.” It even comes in six fun colors, just for some flair.
26. For the kid who never wakes up in time for breakfast: Kind bars
No college student wants to get out of bed a second earlier than they have to, even if it means missing breakfast in the dining hall. That’s why we’re big fans of giving the gift of food to college-bound students. There are a lot of solid options for dorm room grub, from ramen to Emergen-C, but you really can’t go wrong with a case of Kind bars, which offer protein and energy, and come in delicious sweet flavors. We’re partial to the dark chocolate, nuts, and sea salt option, but they’re honestly all pretty solid.
27. For the kid who values cozy feet: UGG Fluff Yeah Slides
Does your kid hate putting their feet down on the cold marbled floor every morning? Us too. That's why we love the Ugg Fluff Yeah slippers that are not just popular all over the internet, they're super comfortable too. Available in multiple different colors, these trendy slides are one of our favorite women's slippers as they were easy to slide in and featured a secure elastic strap for more support. The sheepskin lining was "soft and fuzzy" and the open-toe design kept our feet from over-heating. Not to mention, they're extremely instagrammable!
28. For the kid who lives off mac & cheese: Rapid mac cooker
Got a grad who loves a good mac and cheese? Then consider gifting them a Rapid Mac Cooker, which Amazon shoppers just love. It cooks a box of mac and cheese in just a few minutes in the microwave and comes in a variety of cute colors. One reviewer even got creative and prepared packaged rice and other types of pasta in it. Pretty impressive!
29. For the kid who's always cold: A thick sweater
College kids practically live in sweatshirts, and for good reasons: Dorm temperatures can vary wildly, and it’s always nice to layer up. If you’re looking for a gift for a grad who is perpetually chilly, you might want to check out the Free People Sweetheart sweater that features a 4.6-star rating from more than 70 shoppers. The chunky knit was considered both warm, thick and stylish by Free People customers—perfect to wear to classes this winter. Not their style? Check out some more picks right down below.
30. For the kid who likes to be prepared: Anker flashlight
If you’re gifting a kid who loves to be prepared, hook them up with a handy little flashlight, just in case. They can use it if the dorm’s power goes out, to search for things when their roommate’s asleep or even on some wild Thursday night ghost hunt with friends. We liked the value we got in the Anker Bolder LC40, saying, “you'll be hard-pressed to find a flashlight that covers as many bases for the money.”
31. For the kid who's better safe than sorry: Sabre kit
If you're concerned about your child's safety while they're away from home, gift them a handy self-defense kit, complete with a taser and pepper spray. Amazon reviewers give this Sabre model high marks, saying it’s well-made for the price and that the taser certainly packs a punch. If nothing else, these might offer a skittish freshman some safety and peace of mind.
32. For the kid who loves to read in bed: Cloud Pillow
A true college classic, a reading pillow is great for anyone who wants to get a little studying done before bed. This option from Amazon is well-liked, with over 1,000 reviewers giving it an average of 4.4 stars. Reviews say it’s “firm, but comfy” and note that it’s washable. The pillow even has storage in its arms for a phone, remote or e-reader.
33. For the kid who loves cereal: Denby cereal bowl
College kids eat a lot of cereal, and while, technically, you can eat cereal out of everything from a mug to a top hat, there is something admittedly pretty nice to having your own special cereal bowl. We like this Heritage option from Home Depot, which reviewers say is “Beautiful, smooth and sturdy,” noting, “they last forever!”
34. For the kid with 10,000 devices: Tessan power strip
If you’re gifting the type of recent grad who’s heading off to college with a phone, a laptop, an e-reader, a tablet, a laptop, a pair of AirPods and other electronic devices, you can’t go wrong with a nice power strip. Amazon reviewers love this option, which can sit on a desk and not only has three traditional outlets, but also three USB ports. It even comes in both white and black, because who doesn’t like options?
35. For the kid who loves a good cup of fancy joe: Black & Decker 12-Cup Thermal
As kids enter college and mature into adults, they might start getting more into coffee culture. If you’re looking for a gift for a college-bound kid with a passion for arabica, consider their very own brewing rig for the dorm. We named the Black & Decker 12-Cup Thermal our most affordable coffee maker as it could make smooth, not overly bitter coffee and featured an intuitive control panel for easy customization of brew times and coffee strength. It was also extremely easy to use and featured little to no spillage so their college floors will always be free of coffee stains.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Gifts for college-bound students: Practical gifts they'll love