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Got a kid in college? Here are the care package items they really want to get

/ Source: TODAY

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The school semester is in full swing with college kids hitting the books and dashing to classes. If you're missing your collegiate kiddo, think about brightening their day with a care package. They're easy to coordinate and will be a welcome surprise to your undergrad. Whether it’s a theme-based box or an eclectic mix of just a few random goodies, you’ll score big points when your kid is home away from home.


So, what do college students love to get?

We asked and we got answers. College students are always thrilled to get care packages, but they especially love these particular items. Parents, take note!

Gift cards

Students went gaga for gift cards to their favorite places, including Starbucks, Walmart, Target and restaurants close to campus. Don't forget that cards to online retailers like Amazon or Apple are equally desirable!


While they especially pine for homemade goodies like Rice Krispies treats, cookies, brownies or fudge, college kids will gladly take store-bought picks as well. They especially love these easy edibles:

  • Microwave popcorn
  • Goldfish
  • Fixings for S'mores — Our DIY mini fire pit is an easy way to create them in a pinch, and is safe to use indoors
  • Cookies — Individually wrapped packs stay fresh longer and are easy to snack on between classes
  • Candy bars — Bags of assorted fun-size bars and packs are favorites
  • Crystal Light or other single-pack drink mixes
  • Single-serve hot chocolate mix or coffee sleeves
  • Peanut butter — Jars and single-serve to-go tubes
  • Granola, breakfast and protein bars
  • Nuts and trail mix
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Soup
  • Mints and gum

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Health and Beauty products

Having a stocked medicine cabinet is a godsend for college kids. Here are the basics they like to have on hand to make dorm life livable:

  • Advil and Tylenol
  • Thermometer
  • Cough drops
  • Cold and cough medicine
  • Kleenex
  • Band-Aids
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Toothpaste and disposable toothbrushes
  • Contact lens solution
  • Razors
  • Nail clipper
  • Fingernail file
  • Hand cream
  • Chap stick
  • Hand sanitizer

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Office supplies

As any student in the thick of studying knows, you can never have enough of these office tools:

  • Special pens like Pilot or Foray
  • Computer paper
  • Printer ink cartridges
  • Flash drives
  • Post-it notes

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Odds and ends

Care packages don't need to be all about baked goods and gift cards. These items bring a fun and sometimes practical element to the mix:

  • Deck of cards — Think a stack of regular playing cards or card games like UNO or Phase 10
  • Air freshener
  • Microfiber cloth for dusting and cleaning
  • Holiday decorations — Think seasonal decor items and accessories from dollar stores. These make it easy for students to stay in the holiday mood. From skeletons to tiny Christmas trees, Easter eggs to Cinco de Mayo lights, they'll love that you made the effort to help them celebrate!
  • A single-use poncho from the dollar store, which is great to carry in case it rains between classes or at sporting events
  • Compact umbrella, because chances are they will probably misplace them

Packaging tips

Here are some pro tips for getting your goodies to the dorm in one piece:

Gift wrap each item: Make it fun! Use colored tissue paper, and any and all leftover gift wrap (wedding, baby shower, Christmas, kid’s birthday)

Personalize it: Give them a snippet of hometown news by sending articles or comics from the local newspaper. Attach message tags with random thoughts — they'll love the sentiments!

Follow a theme: Add a fun little twist to your care package by including:

  • Thoughts that reflect 'What we miss about you'
  • Mom-isms — Everyday advice to help them through the semester
  • Things we forgot to tell you
  • Favorite memories
  • Include a photo or two — Whether it’s one of those awkward moment photos that always brings a laugh, a family pic, or one of the family pet, a picture is sure to melt away the miles
  • Always include something fun — Stores like Dollar Tree make it affordable to send little extras like a cute mug or a fragrant candle

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Shipping alternatives

Not sure how to get your care package from here to there? Here are some viable options that make shipping easy:

US Postal Service — Flat-rate shipping boxes from USPS are the way to go, especially if you’re shipping heavy items like cans of soup. Most postal workers are happy to weigh the package first and tell you if flat rate saves you money. Free priority rate shipping boxes are available at the post office or online. The flat rate boxes ship for one price. If you can fit it in the box, you can ship it. Rates include $6.80 for small boxes, $13.45 for medium and $18.75 for large.

UPS — Whether you use your own box or order ground shipping boxes online, all UPS packages ship by weight. There are no flat rate boxes. One advantage to UPS is that it has independent stores that may ship packages later in the day than the post office.

FedEx — Need a flexible delivery option? FedEx Delivery Manager lets you manage delivery dates and times so the package arrives when your student is there to receive it.