What to Get Your College Student this Christmas

If you’re the parent of a college student, you know they’re difficult to shop for. Their taste is a little eccentric, and they’re into trends that you don’t quite understand. Lucky for you, I work on a college campus and went straight to the source to find out what college students want for Christmas.

Dorm Décor

College students often share their living space with one or two other roommates and making their corner of the room their own is important for them. One student says she would appreciate “some little trinkets to put on my desk or something to put on the wall because it’s always nice to make my dorm a little nicer.” Another says, “I would love a new comforter or sheets or a rug.”

A piece of home

If this is your student’s first time away from home, it’s likely that they’re missing it as much as you’re missing them. “Anything meaningful from my mom,” says one student, “like even a framed photo of me and her, would be so sweet.” Care packages are also highly valued. “Sometimes my mom will get me a care package with all my favorite snacks, fluffy socks, a mug and hot cocoa mix, and I always really like that.”

Phone cables and chargers

Ask a student what causes them more anxiety than a 10-page paper, and they’ll probably tell you it’s a cell phone battery at 20%. That’s why they’ll love a set of phone charger cables in different lengths: one for their bedside table, one for their car, one for their backpack, and one to share. You’ll get bonus points for gifting them a portable charger that’ll let them power up even if there are no outlets around.

School supplies

Although gadgets and electronic devices are important tools for learning these days, old-fashioned pens and paper are still coveted. Fancy pens, pencil pouches, and notebooks that reflect their personality are popular with the college crowd. Sturdy book bags that can take the daily beating of academic life are also prized.


With all that walking across campus, students are serious about hydration. Hydroflasks, insulated stainless steel bottles that keep any drink at temperature, have become ubiquitous on campuses everywhere. If your student doesn’t already have one, you can’t go wrong with getting them one.


When in doubt, give them money. “Money is the best gift, pretty much,” says one student. And if money is an awkward proposition, the next best things are gift cards. Gas cards, coffee cards, or even a gift card to the bookstore would be awesome because those are all things we use on a regular basis.”

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Edna Becerra

Edna Becerra

Edna Becerra is the Associate Director of Web Strategy and Multimedia at Whittier College. With more than a decade of experience in the higher education realm, she has a deep understanding of the college preparation and admission processes, and the unique challenges that first-generation students and students of color face in pursuing and completing a college education. Together with her husband, Edna is raising two daughters.

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