16 Gifts College Students Want

Stressed out because you just don’t know what to give that 20-something or college student on your holiday gift list? Well, stress no more. I’ve got you covered with 16 great gift ideas that are sure to please and fit your budget, too.   

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A college student gift doesn’t have to be complicated, whether it’s for Christmas, birthday, or a special occasion. It just needs to be relevant and thoughtful. Some of the best gift ideas are surprisingly affordable.

The key to selecting a gift for college-age folks is to pick something that 1) they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves 2) fits their current stage of life and needs and 3) ranks high in cool factor.

Any one of these gifts will send a message loud and clear that you cared enough to put some time and thought into selecting a really great and useful gift.

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1. PHD comics. A collection of the first five years of “Piled Higher and Deeper,” a comic strip about life or, lack thereof, in graduate school—as it originally appeared in Stanford University’s “The Stanford Daily Newspaper.” This is the quintessential comic book for grad students. Yeah, it’s quirky and that makes it just right for your favorite student or PhD candidate. $11

2. Sandwich maker. Seriously, I totally rejected this on first pass. Then I took a second look. And checked with some of my young friends. Boy, was I wrong. This is a total lifesaver, and works like a champ! Yes, it is a “unitasker” because it does only one thing, but does it so well. It makes a hot fast breakfast with minimum prep and easy cleaning anywhere, including a dorm room. And it’s so cute! $24

3. Miracle Cube Timer. No more buttons, switches or dials, the Datexx Miracle Cube Timer allows you to mange your time with simplicity and convenience. Set the timer by simply resting the cube with the desired time facing up—5, 15, 30 or 60 minutes. When time’s up, a loud alarm rings. Silence by setting it back to zero at the top. $18

4. Wake-up light. This is an alarm clock like you’ve never seen. Its “dawn simulator” gradually lights up a room so it feels like you’re waking with the sun in a natural sunrise without a loud, annoying alarm. It really does make a huge difference in one’s quality of sleep and ease in getting out of bed, especially during the longer dark months of winter (or thesis writing). Simple to operate and can double as a bedside lamp. $30

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5. Visual Miscellaneum. This bestselling book is a classic, and a great gift for that highly intellectual young person on your gift list. Simply put, it is a colorful guide to the world’s most consequential trivia. It is a reference book like no other that makes sense of our world by putting the data we are bombarded with every day—health findings, technological advances, cultural touch points, war statistics—into creative visual perspective. $17

6. Travel Power Plug Adapter Charger. You don’t have to understand it. Just know that anyone who travels can really use this little gem with 3 international plug adapters covering more than 150 countries. And it’s good domestically as well with two USB ports for mobiles phone, digital camera, mp3, iPod, iPhone, etc. And so easy to carry! Choice of colors. $14.

7. Laptop table. This FURINNO A6 ultralight adjustable laptop table features an air-vented design that reduces overheating of your laptop, notebook, or tablet. Totally adjustable, this little table will turn a regular desk into a standing desk yet works laid back on the bed. Holds up to 30 pounds but weighs less than 5 pounds. $55

8. GoPro. This is the video camera that started a movement. Your 20-something knows all about this and wants it, badly. This HD HERO3 White Edition has wireless connection, records in Full HD to an SDHC memory card and rates as a very high quality item. $200

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9. Travel coffee mug. If someone on your gift list runs on dark, hot liquids, this Zojirushi stainless steel coffee mug is the ticket. It’s sleek, it’s beautiful and keeps hot coffee hot for a very long time. It has a non-stick coated interior and flip-open lid. The entire thing disassembles for thorough cleaning. Accommodates full-size ice cubes for cold drinks, too. Comes in 12-oz and 16-oz sizes with choice of five colors. $25; $27.

10. PlayStation Vita. Life can’t be all books and study. This is the way young people like to kick back and play for a spell. This Borderlands 2 Limited Edition PlayStation Vita Bundle is state of the art and the latest in cool. $200

11. Bluetooth speaker. The OontZ Angle is the top-rated and most wished-for, ultra-portable wireless bluetooth speaker with better sound, better volume, incredible price. $39.

12. Coffee. Ask any 20-something for the nearest coffee shop and you’re sure to be directed to Starbucks. That’s the way it is. A bundle of Starbucks gift cards is what typical, modern, hip and cool college students crave. It’s okay. $40

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13. Kindle Fire HDX 8. This latest Kindle Fire reading device is built for work and play. With a beautiful 7-inch HDX display, it’s ultra fast, light weight and the HDX 7 comes with improved battery life. $179

14. Portable power supply. Make sure your “giftee” enjoys his or her smartphone, tablet or ebook reader without worrying about running out of power. This Skiva PowerVault A2600 ultra-portable external battery pack is a lipstick-sized design that fits any pocket or bag. An absolute must for a busy collegian–or anyone with mobile devices. $30

15. Meals in a mug cookbook. Making a meal in a mug is the perfect solution for solo dining, and it’s also a quick and easy option for busy people. The meals from this book are a convenient and budget-friendly way to eat delicious and healthy meals when living in a dorm, traveling in a RV or eating at the office! $16

16. Laptop computer. The Acer Chromebook 11 makes a great gift for someone who has never had a computer before, or as a second computer to carry back and forth to class. I am just crazy about this computer for the right situation.  It is inexpensive, has a beautiful display and this laptop computer weighs just 2.4 pounds and takes up less than 1 square foot of lap or desk space. $199.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • diana

    Funny you should mention the sunrise alarm. I have been researching them for my daughters. After reading reviews on many different ones and looking around, I got them light timers that are dawn simulators. I bought the model 205 from this website http://windhovermfg.com/
    You plug it in 8 hrs before you want it to start coming on, then it will slowly lighten up for 30 min. Some people wake up better and more alert if there is light in the room. They work great. It’s one of those “I could have come up with that” kind of things, but I didn’t . The one I ordered is reasonably priced and does what we want it to. They both have separate alarm clocks.

  • Love this! Now waiting for your 16 gift ideas for 6 to 10 year olds!

  • Connie

    I say it again…… where have you been all my life!

  • Pam

    Thanks for providing Amazon links on these items. (I love Amazon!) Just a note that following the link for the Wake-Up Light brought me to the Philps HF2500/60 Wake-Up Light for $111.28 .

    • Pam

      Interesting – I read this column in tonight’s (April 3, 2015) local newspaper, which listed the online source of the article. It was only after I’d followed several product links and written the above comment that I realized you’d originally posted the column back in November! I must admit to wondering why we would be thinking of gifts for college students in springtime – graduation? Easter? Makes sense now. 🙂

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