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6 Birthday Gift Ideas for College Students

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By: Rhiannon Winner, Uloop News

Even when your student moved past the Barney and Elmo stages, present shopping was easy. As children they were happy with toys, and as teens they’d tell you what clothes or electronics or books they wanted. At the very least, you could guess.

But when your student is off at college and contact becomes far less frequent, how are you supposed to know what they want for their birthday? Luckily, there are a handful of gifts that are a safe bet.

1. College gear

Pride is an essential part of college. Most students own at least a t-shirt or two with the college mascot or name emblazoned on the front. Others might have some knickknacks they found in the campus store. Whatever your student’s cup of tea, they’ll appreciate anything that lets them show off their school spirit. Plus, if you decide to buy them clothing, that’s a little bit longer they can put off laundry day. That’s something any student would be grateful for.

2. Snack box

You know your student’s favorite snacks better than anyone, so this is a gift that’s totally personalized. Get a big box and wrap both the inside and outside of the box with wrapping paper or something else colorful. If the box doesn’t already have handles, you can cut some yourself with a box cutter. That way it’ll be easy for your student to retrieve the box from whatever weird place they’re able to cram the box.

Then stuff it with all of your student’s favorite snacks! Make sure to include a diverse mixture of foods. If you include all perishables, the food will likely go bad too quickly for them to eat it. If you only stock it with canned goods, that’s not as fun for your student to open. Give them some food that’ll last for a while, but also some short-term treats like a bag of homemade cookies. Or, give them the ingredients they’ll need to make some delicious fall snacks!

3. Bike

On big campuses, and even on smaller ones, a bike is a necessity. Chances are that your student’s college will have plenty of bike racks scattered around residence halls and academic buildings, so don’t worry about finding a place for them to store it. It’s the perfect present for your student, especially if you’re getting it for them a few weeks after the start of the semester.

While they might commit to waking up early at the beginning of the year and plan on having time to walk to class, their commitment is going to waver as time goes on. Ideally, the bike should have a basket so they can tote all of their school supplies, and a bell so they can get through the crowds of students walking between classes. Just make sure you don’t forget to include a helmet and bike lock!

4. Gift cards

You might not want to resort to giving your student a stack of gift cards because it seems boring and cliché. Maybe it is, but they’ll definitely enjoy getting to use them. Aim for gift cards to restaurants and fast food places near your student. Food is usually the safest bet with college students, but if you know that your student might want something slightly different (say, gift cards for online shopping or a local chain store) go with your gut.

5. Portable speaker

A quality portable Bluetooth speaker is essential for any college student. They’re probably going to be listening to a lot of music in their room, so investing in a good speaker is a great idea. Unless your student prefers simple things, you can get a colorful, cute speaker online rather than just something plain. There are plenty of fun speakers that will change colors or that are shaped like famous characters. Some even double as clocks or phone chargers!

6. Kindle

A Kindle is a great gift for two reasons: it makes reading books for pleasure easy, and it provides access to cheaper textbooks. Best of all, it’s highly portable! Finding books to read for fun can be difficult in college. The library is geared more toward academic books, and rightly so.

But assuming there isn’t a bookstore nearby, your student doesn’t have many options for finding books. A Kindle makes it easy to quickly download anything they’re looking for, and usually at a better price than a physical copy. If your student doesn’t mind using an eReader for academic purposes, they can buy textbooks far cheaper on Kindle than in print. Plus, it’s far easier to carry around a Kindle than several five-pound textbooks.

Although you may want to surprise them, it’s okay to simply ask your student what they want. It’s better to ask and get a concrete answer than risk wasting money on something they won’t ever use. The best birthday presents for your college student might even be boring, from a new backpack to a multi-charger to whatever else they can come up with. Instead of focusing on what the coolest gift you can find is, ask what they actually need to find the perfect gift.

Speaking of gifts, is your student graduating this year? Check out these 50 college graduation gift ideas!


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