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The 30 coolest holiday gifts college students want — and need

The college years are hard enough. These gifts can make them easier.
Best Gifts For College Kids
TODAY Illustration / The North Face / Pillow Slides / Amazon / Benq / Walmart

The college years are an interesting life space. These 18- to 21-year-olds are old enough to vote and buy a lottery ticket yet far too young to rent a car or run for president. Yes, college is this weird intersection of life where you are still fairly footloose and fancy-free, yet frighteningly aware that responsibility will soon be nipping at your heels.

This crossroads can make holiday shopping for college kids quite intense and even capable of making you cry, or walk away utterly confused. So before you throw in the towel and resort to throwing cash in a card, check out our list of the 30 holiday gifts that will help you toe the gift-giving line between fun and functional.

To shop this gift guide by category, click on the links below. Otherwise, keep scrolling to see all 30 gifts.

Don’t forget to check out Shop TODAY’s 2021 Gift Guide to find the perfect present for everyone on your list!

Best beauty and fashion gifts for college students

The North Face Hydrenalite Down Jacket

Would it be considered irony to look so cool in this jacket but be so warm at the same time? Your English or philosophy major should be able to give you the answer to this one.

Dior Lip Glow Oil

Cancel chapped lips this holiday season with this nurturing and beautifying lip oil. Available in a variety of beautiful and lip worthy shades.

H&M Short Puffer Jacket

Much like your college student, this puffer jacket is short and sweet. Available in an assortment of chic colors, and is machine washable.

The Pillow Slides

I remember the floors of my old dorm room in Clare Hall. They were cold, speckled, and probably due for a deep cleaning. Yick. Protect and pamper your college student’s precious toesies this holiday season with a pair of slides that feel so comfy they will think they are walking on pillows.

Rowing Blazers Indiana Snapback Hat

Classic cool makes a comeback with this old-school snapback.

L.L. Bean Women's Wicked Good Plaid Moccasins

The college students who teach at my son’s daycare place these cozy moccasins high on their Christmas wish list this year. My son tells me both Sami and Molly have been extra good this year. We think they have a pretty good chance of crossing these slippers off their lists, and putting them on their feet this holiday season.

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Lugged Shoe

Nothing is ever out, it’s just waiting for it’s time to come back in. These classic Chuck’s feature everything you love about the original, but reaches for new heights with a lugged-style platform. Comes in a variety of colors, but trust me, your college student wants the classic white.

Nike Men's Blazer Mid '77 Vintage Sneaker

It’s all about the vintage shoes this year, proving yet again that a classic never goes out of style.

Dr. Martens 2976 Men's Boot

Your college student may live in sneaks and slides today, but job interviews and business meetings are on the way. Help your boy become a sharp dressed man with these stylish ankle boots.

Victoria's Secret Glow Waffle Henley and Jogger Set

This soft and cozy set technically falls in the “pajama” category, but I would classify this set as “Morning Class Chic."

Men's Cuddl Duds Sleep Top

This cozy men’s sleep shirt is another wardrobe double agent. A great top to wear to catch some post-class Zzzzs in, or to throw on for a leisurely meal in the cafeteria.

Men's UA Unstoppable Shorts

All work and no play makes no sense for any college student. These light and water-repellent shorts are great for a game of hoops in the gym, or for the guy who still loves to jump in muddy puddles.

Fuchsia Sunflower Flats

Sustainable footwear that looks great and does good! Each beautiful pair of flats serves to benefit the artisans that make them.

Best practical gifts for college students

Keurig K-Express Coffee Maker

Studying into the wee hours of the night can be exhausting. Give your college student a caffeine boost with this great new brewer from Keurig. Brews hot coffee, cocoa and tea in minutes without taking up a huge amount of dorm room or kitchen apartment space.

Henson Shaving Henson AL13

Aerospace technology meets your college student’s face with this smooth take on a bathroom sink classic. Designed to limit skin irritation and amplify your college man’s smooth baby face.

Pom Pom at Home Bamboo Sheet

These sheets are so soft and comfortable, they legitimately qualify as an excuse for oversleeping and missing class. Great holiday gift meets apartment housewarming present

Drew & Jonathan Home Dash Print Sheet Sets

Another bedding favorite, these dash print sheets are designed in an elegant geometric pattern and are 100 percent cotton percale.

Food Network 10-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set

Cafeteria is closed, mom and dad are miles away, and your college kid needs to fend for themselves without burning the house down. While I can’t guarantee your college student won’t start a small kitchen fire, I can say this cookware will highly limit the chances of food getting stuck on the pan.

Michelin Jump Starter and Power Bank

I don’t want to tell you how many times I killed my car battery in college. I also don’t want to tell you how many times I have killed my car battery post-college. It’s a problem, and I am working on it. Prepare your college student for life’s little forgetful moments with this jump starter and power pack. Brings car batteries back to life in moments and revives cellphones in a pinch.

Best tech gifts for college students

Benq MOBIUZ EX2510S Gaming Monitor

Okay college kids who are making a case, and parents who are looking for justification, I have some knowledge to drop. Yes, this is a gaming monitor that provides crisp visuals and exceptional audio, but who’s to say it can't also be a study monitor, too? You’re welcome.

Sony WH-CH510 Wireless Headphones

My brother, who is currently in medical school, calls these his studyphones. Drowns out the noise, and harnesses the homework focus. These reliable headphones are wireless and feature a built-in microphone. I would say these are doctor recommended, but my brother hasn’t graduated from med school...yet.

SteelSeries QcK Gaming Surface

A favorite mousepad among esports athletes, and sure to be a super cool addition to your teen’s room and gaming experience. Who doesn’t enjoy a light show while doing homework, or while playing Call of Duty?

Apple AirTag 4 Pack

Have an absent-minded would-be professor in your life? Kid knows everything about Shakespeare and absolutely nothing about where he left his keys? Well, call off the search party and call in the bounty hunter of lost things. The Apple AirTag helps your forgetful college student keep tabs on their keys, backpack, purse, wallet, you name it! What once was lost will forever be found!

Dyson Pure Hot+Cool

This uniquely designed gift straddles the line between tech and practical. The Dyson Pure Hot+Cool is a compact 3-in-1 system which can purify, heat, or cool the air in your college student’s dorm room or apartment. Great for college students with allergies, for kids that are always hot or always cold, or hungry students prone to leaving the pizza box on the floor for days.

Scanmarker Air

Taking and sharing notes has never been so easy! With just a slide of this scanning pen, notes go from paper to screen instantly. If this isn’t efficient studying, I don’t know what is.

Suturun Adjustable Laptop Stand

A standing desk would be ideal for any college student, but limited space and limited budget always seems to get in the way. Here is the ultimate ergonomic pivot! This laptop stand promotes good posture, without cramping room space. Compatible with all laptop sizes.

Best unique gifts for college students

Tsrarey Sunset Projection Lamp

Did your college student go to Hawaii for spring break?! Nope! Don’t panic, that’s just your college kid posing in front of their Tsrarey Sunset Lamp. Let your team enjoy the relaxing sunset ambiance from the comfort of their own room.

The Cookie Joint "Fries Before Guys" Gift Basket

I thought the cookie was perfect as is, but a cookie fry basket may have me thinking otherwise. Cookies shaped like french fries paired with chocolate and marshmallow dipping sauces, this tasty basket is a must have finals week snack, a “thinking of you” basket after a roller coaster break-up, or for any day your college kid needs a sweet treat.

Kucco Knot Pillow

Decorative and cozy, this is a great accent piece for any dorm room or college apartment.

Electrohome Kingston 7-in-1 Vintage Vinyl Record Player

For the college kid who loves a smooth groove. This isn’t just a record player, it’s a 7-in-1 musical experience. With this versatile player, your teen can rock out to Mom’s old vinyl collection, connect to the tunes of today via Bluetooth or just jam out old-school to FM radio. The coolest feature of this player? It can digitize vinyl records AND CDs. Mind blown.

Still looking for the perfect gift? Be sure to check out Shop TODAY’s 2021 Gift Guide to shop for everyone on your list, including:

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