3 Tips for Gifting to a College Student

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College can be an equally exciting and stressful time for students.

Affording college is a top concern.  A college gift presents an opportunity to alleviate some financial stress for the student in your life. You can ditch the lava lamp in your Amazon cart--we’ve got you covered with tips and suggestions on choosing an impactful gift.

Tips for Gifting to a College Student

  • Choose lifestyle gifts over gadgets and trinkets. College is typically the lowest earning period in an adult’s life. Consider functional gifts that make the most impact on a student’s quality of life and finances.
  • Consider gifting after the semester has started. Students receive the most gifts when they graduate high school or when they start the semester. If you check in a month or two after they have started their semester, then you will get a better understanding of their needs. Plus, you provide them with support after all the other gifts have most likely been used or spent.
  • Don’t forget care packages. Care packages will never go out of style. A parcel that contains essentials, like toiletries, gift cards, and treats from home will always be appreciated.

Here are some gift ideas for every budget:


Get them Around Town with RideShare Gift Cards

The student in your life will probably rely heavily on rideshare services. Keep in mind that many city campuses do not allow freshman to bring cars. Depending on when the person is requesting the ride and how far they are going, a $25 gift card could buy two rides.

Don't Forget About Food

Helping out with groceries and/or dining out can go a long way.

  • DoorDash
  • Grubhub
  • Uber Eats
  • Instacart

Buy Gift Cards

You can opt for a Visa or Mastercard gift card that the student can use anywhere. Or, you can use gift cards to encourage better behavior by the recipient. If you are worried that your student’s main source of nutrition will be pizza, then a gift card to a grocery store near campus might steer them in the right direction.

Give them Cash

Cash Is King.


Pay for an Unlimited Transit Pass

In many major cities, a monthly unlimited transit pass can range from $75-$100. Help make the transition to a new city easeful by covering a month or two of transportation.

Buy a Textbook for the Semester

The average student spends $1,200 a year on books and supplies. A single textbook can cost $200 or more. Check out these used book sellers:  


Because we know there are overachievers in every group, here are some gifts that are guaranteed to have students promising to name their firstborn after you.

Purchase their Holiday and Break Plane Tickets

SkyScanner, Hopper, and Airfarewatchdog can help you track flight prices.

Pay a Portion of their Student Loan Balance

This is good gift for grandparents or other close family members. Be careful with timing this gift to the student. Gifts of money can count as income and reduce the student’s eligibility for financial aid.  It is safer to provide a lump sum of money to students after they have completed their final application for federal aid.

Pledge to Make Four Years of Payments on their Federal Loans

This is the perfect gift for parents to consider--even if your child has to borrow federal loans, you can help them get a head start on making loan payments while they are still in school. $5,500 may not be in your budget, but a $58 monthly payment may certainly work to help keep interest from building on your child's loans. If a student borrows $5,500 each semester of college the monthly interest amount will start at around $23/mo during freshman year end at around $187 by senior year (1).

If you are not a parent but are considering this gift, then it may be safer to provide this assistance once the student has graduated. The payments may be counted as untaxed income for the student and could potentially impact their eligibility for financial aid.

(1) We are only looking at the student's federal unsubsidized loans. The interest estimates are based on a 4.99% rate. 4.99% is the interest rate for the 2022-2023 school year. Please note that the interest rates for federal loans will change yearly. The student’s actual interest/monthly payment may vary. Students who borrow federal loans will usually qualify for federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans. The Federal Government will make interest payments on the federal subsidized loans while the student is in college. The unsubsidized loans will accrue interest while the student is in school.