Ideas for College Care Packages

Your college student will love getting a care package from home in the mail. You have many options for making items to include or buying them online. The best care packages are laden with cookies, whimsy, and plenty of love.

If you're looking for a perfect graduation gift, the promise of care packages adds charm and love to any gift. Include a few homemade coupons for care packages for freshman year. Then mark your calendar so you'll remember.


Food Items for Care Packages

banana bread in pan on pink and white dish towel

Chloé Benko-Prieur / Getty Images

Beat mailroom delays by packing sturdy, long-lasting baked goods, such as cookies and quick loaves of bread. A moist little loaf of banana peanut butter bread will arrive looking—and tasting—as perfect as when it left.

Make a few loaves at a time and freeze them. Then when you want to send a last-minute gift you'll have the perfect thing waiting for you.​

Care Package Cookie Exchange

When you host a care package cookie exchange you're not just getting pretty treats, you're socializing with friends going through the same empty nest/emotional leave-taking. For college kids, the box that eventually arrives on campus says it's not just you who misses him.

It's the whole neighborhood. Besides exchanging items, organize labeling, boxing, and mailing the packages.

Microwavable Goodies

Every dorm room has a microwave, so why not send a package filled with easy to make microwaveable food? Start with the obvious—popcorn and soup, for example—but there are lots of other great ideas for easy, quick meals.

Brown rice comes in microwaveable packages, and there are individual cakes that can be made in the microwave in minutes. Other items to include:

  • Drinks, such as tea, coffee, and hot cocoa
  • Mints, gum, gummy candies, hard candies
  • Snacks, such as pretzels, chips, popcorn, energy bars

Birthday Cakes and Dorm Deliveries

young woman holding birthday cake

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You may not be there for your child's first birthday away from home, but that doesn't mean you can't send a celebration. The first thing to check is whether the dining hall or student life center provides for special birthday deliveries.

You may be able to order a birthday cake and even have it delivered by the school mascot. Bakeries in college towns may also offer on-campus deliveries for a customized cake.

If you decide to send your own birthday box, you will need to be a bit less traditional. Frosted cakes don't do well in the mail, so consider pumpkin bread, banana bread, or carrot cake or a batch of cookies.


Cozy Care Items

young woman wearing knit beanie and covering her face with scarf

Sam Edwards / Getty Images 

A college-themed fleece blanket will be welcomed it starts to get chilly, plus warm socks or slippers. You can continue the school color theme with a towel and washcloth. For outdoors, send a warm knit cap, muffler, and mittens.

For a better night's sleep, consider sending a sleep mask, earplugs, or noise-canceling headphones. After the first semester, your student probably needs to restock on essentials, such as soap, shampoo, hair styling products, deodorant, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and razor blades.

The inevitable exposure to others' germs may need some hand sanitizer, all-purpose spray cleaner, and cold remedies.


Fun Dorm Decorations

college girls using cell phones on bed with twinkle lights in the background

Mark Mawson / Getty Images

Liven up the dorm with a few fun, silly decorations for windows, doors and more. Twinkle lights are always a fun choice, and with battery-operated ones available they can go anywhere.

Send holiday decorations for Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine's Day—any holiday will do. You can find lots of seasonal and inexpensive decor at a dollar store.


Reminders of Home

woman writing letter

Eerik / Getty Images

Even the most independent college student can start feeling a bit of homesickness. While you may be communicating online, tangible reminders of home can be cherished.

Handwritten notes or drawings from younger siblings, photos of the family or pets, the hometown newspaper, or a favorite memento can be packed up with other items.


School Supplies

colored pencils, calculator, and books on tabletop

 jayk7 / Getty Images

You'll show your appreciation for the work your student is putting into his studies by slipping a few school supplies into the package. These can be traditional pens, highlighters, and sticky notes, but also think of cyber needs, such as extra power cords, adapters, accessory power banks, and memory storage.


Gift Cards

Young woman holding a gift card and using a laptop

Geri Lavrov / Getty Images 

When sending a package filled with things the student can eat, use, and enjoy immediately, also include gift cards so your student can stock up on needed items and small luxuries. Consider these types of gift cards:

  • Bed and bath store
  • Cosmetics or spa
  • Home decor or home improvement store
  • Movie theater
  • Restaurants or fast food
  • Starbucks or another coffee house
  • Target, Walmart, or Amazon

Finals Week Package

seeds, nuts and chips in small bowls

Andra Boda / Getty Images

Finals week needs a different approach. Instead of sending cookies, which send blood sugar skyward, then crashing to earth, send a healthful assortment of things.

  • Beef jerky or hard salami
  • Calming herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, or honey ginger
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Instant soups and instant oatmeal
  • Lavender-scented lotion or pillow for stress relief
  • Starbucks gift card
  • Whole-grain crackers and nut butter

By Jackie Burrell
Jackie Burrell is a former education and parenting reporter, experienced in issues around parenting young adults as a mother of four.