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It’s pretty fair to say college students struggle.
And if you’re reading this post, it’s because you’re either a high school student, college student, or thoughtful human being who knows a poor student, and you’d love to buy a nice gift that alleviates even just a little bit of that struggle (for yourself or for a friend).
So whether you’re buying a gift for a freshman to say, “you got this,” or Christmas has rolled around and you need to think of a great gift that won’t wind up with a “oh geez, thanks Aunt Miranda...you really shouldn’t have,” this gift list is for you.
This list of gifts for students only includes items that actually help performance.
These gifts are wonderfully unisex, which means it doesn’t matter if you’re buying a gift for a guy or girl -- they’re always going to hit the mark.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of filling my apartment with useless junk just because it looked “cute.”
We students are super busy. We want to feel in control of our lives. We don’t want clutter. Every little thing we put in our apartment or dorm better have at least 6 different uses or it’s just going to create more of a headache.
Don’t give a “meh” gift -- grab something off this list of the best gifts for college students and make an impact.
Side note: Yale University actually conducted a study of gift giving, wondering why so many people were so terrible at giving great gifts.
They found that what recipients value in a present is “convenience, feasibility, and easy of use.”
So I created this list of helpful gifts for students using that power tool, Science, in order to create a fool-proof plan to win the heart of any struggling student.
Without further ado, here is the “best-of” list that will have a struggling student singing your praises.
Best Gifts for Students that Actually Enhance Performance
Do you know about the life-changing power of a sunrise simulating alarm clock? It wakes you gently — no awful alarm jarring you out of a deep sleep — the light starts to gradually increase before your “awake time” as if you’re waking up to a wonderful sunrise (there’s a soft beep feature too if you need a backup plan).
It’s time to ditch using a cell phone as an alarm. Using your cell phone as an alarm can increase certain bad habits, like checking Instagram or email first thing after waking up which can set anxiety in motion for the rest of the day.
People who don’t use their phone as an alarm clock tend to get 1-2 hours more sleep on average!
To keep stress levels low & wake up without feeling overwhelmed, a sunrise alarm clock is the perfect solution.
It also doubles as a reading light and I have to say, the halo glow of light is so nice when I’m snuggling up in bed to read or when I want to relax before falling asleep without the high-beams of an overhead light.
Taking notes in class on a computer instead of the old notebook means all of your work is on place. During class, students can use the computer to look up definitions for words, or if they’re really gung-ho, get ahead on the topic being discussed by further researching and dropping in notes from websites while the professor is lecturing (this is advanced practice — if you’re not paying attention you’re not getting enough out of class!).
Being able to have a reliable, lightweight (for easy transportation) computer is essential to being a highly productive student. And I like to have less functionality on my computer so that I focus its use for the things I really need it for: research, homework, email, and to unwind with Pinterest or Netflix.
Wake. Me. Up. With. Coffee.
Want to get a student gift that’s a lifesaver? This is your gift. Guaranteed it will get used, loved, and appreciated.
Because not standing in line and paying $3+ for a cup of coffee saves time, money, and stress. When I’m running late, I have to choose between coffee or missing the first 10 mins of class…and I want my coffee. Bad.
With a personal coffee maker (that comes with its own to-go) prevents waste and gives me control of my mornings. So I can get to class on time and WITH my coffee.
It would be embarrassing to tell you how many times I lose my keys, my wallet, or my phone. My mom bought me the Tile set and I’ve been forever grateful.
These are so slim you can slip it in your wallet like a credit card, or clip it to your key chain, or add it to your phone like a charm (or if you have a phone wallet…you get the idea). Full disclosure: I put one on everything.
You can also use on other important things like a camera, notebook, or water bottle.
With the free app, you can quickly locate your item because the little tile attached to it will make a loud sound. It’s super simple, easy, and such a stress reliever when you’ve misplaced your stuff!
Helpful Gifts for Students Under $25
I love that I don’t feel like a garbage person when I bring my reusable coffee mug to the counter for a fill up.
I love that my Hydroflask is pretty much indestructible (I tend to GO HARD on everything that I own).
It’s important to be sustainable, and it’s important to get enough caffeine so you don’t pass out during your third class.
The bus. The gym. On a run. At a coffee shop. In the library. On an airplane. In the dorm or apartment late at night. For music. For podcasts. For lectures. For audio books. For phone calls.
Headphones are freakin’ versatile. And bluetooth headphones means you don’t have to tangle your life in wires, or rip your headphones out of your ears when you drop your phone or try to get up with them plugged into your computer (guilty).
It’s not a glamorous gift. But the colors are exciting and everyone needs notebooks. So if you’re really hurting for a gift idea this is a very practical fall back. Works great if it’s for a student’s birthday that you don’t know all that well, or for a student who you’re somewhat out of touch with and just want to send something nice, but not too nice.
When done wrong, To Do Lists add to my anxiety in college and at work.
If I see too many tasks, I feel overwhelmed.
If I don’t check enough off on my list, I feel overwhelmed.
If all of my To Do’s are piled into a notebook and I can’t escape their accusatory glare, I feel overwhelmed.
But To Do Lists done right limit my anxiety.
Instead of carrying around everything I need to do in my head, which freaks me out because it seems like it’s all too much to do, I can put them on paper and know what my actual work load is.
This specific To Do List is amazing because I can prioritize tasks, which helps me realize what’s important and what isn’t, which helps me feel less anxious when I don’t get to a low level task.
Plus, these are single, tear-off pages, so if a list is causing me stress I can just rip it off and throw it away…and voilà, less stress.
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Teaching a student to cook is like helping them level up in life x3.
Making meals that are healthy means feeling better, spending less money on garbage food, and feeling better (in both body and mind).
Meal prepping is an excellent way to save. I meal prep on Sunday’s for the week. It costs me about $2-$3 per meal. And I LOVE what I eat. It’s great fuel for the day and spending half of the day cooking is actually super calming when I’ve been doing homework and school work all week.
“Best subscription I’ve ever bought,” my boyfriend told me.
Yeah man, I know. I’ve been using Chegg for like 8 years. And I’m the one that told you about it.
“But it’s the best. Every chemistry, physics, and calculus question I’ve had that I needed answered was already asked, and answered. So it’s like, instant tutoring.”
Yeah man, I know!
Chegg is amazing. Seriously. If you’re just reading this as a student click on the link right now and get this. Having instant answers to tough homework questions is the biggest help for college students and high school students.
What student has time to read outside of class?? And yet, reading books can lower stress, is a productive way to pass the time, and help students level up skills and understanding (hellooooo non fiction!).
I switched to audiobooks when I realized I wasn’t reading anymore. My soul craved books, but I just couldn’t make the time. Now I drive a lot, so I just kick on an audibook instead of music and, to be honest, it makes transporting from one place to another SO much more enjoyable.
PLUS, sometimes a book you have read for class is on here. I tend to remember books better when I’m listening to them, so this has been exceptionally helpful for me as a student.
Some of my favorite audiobooks are:
If you have another great gift idea, let me know in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list! What’s been the most helpful item in your college career?