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Moving away for college is an exciting time, full of upcoming adventures, new friendships, and a wealth of knowledge waiting to be discovered. At the same time, like with any beginning, adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings can take time and effort.
Thankfully, helping your loved one prepare as best as possible can make this transition smoother. On an emotional level, this can include dedicating a specific time each week for calls. And, on a more practical level, proactivity can look like making a list (and checking it twice!) of all dorm room essentials.
To help, we’ve put together a list of 30 items that every college survival kit should include, from yummy snacks to handy electronics. So, if you’re looking for high school graduation gift ideas that could also double as college survival kit material, read on!
1. Medicine bag
This is perhaps the most essential item to include in a student survival kit, as having a medicine bag lying around is always a good idea.
Kaddy’s Pill Organizer has six different compartments for easy storage and features a TSA-approved built-in lock, which will make traveling a lot easier.
As for the contents of the medicine bag, you can add things like throat pastilles, cough syrup, aspirin, and cold and flu medicine — perfect for freshers’ flu and its annoying symptoms!
2. Toiletry bag
Another vital addition to a student survival pack, a fully equipped toiletry bag will keep the prospective freshman well-groomed and polished.
The Wayfarer Supply toiletry bag not only has ample space and different compartments for toiletry products, but it can be hung from its rotating hook, too. Plus, its water-resistant fabric makes it highly functional and durable.
Quintessential items to include in the bag to consider: a toothbrush, nail clippers, cotton buds, hand cream, hygiene products and razors.
No student survival kit could be complete without snacks. These will especially come in handy during late-night cravings or early lectures.
Blue Ribbon offers the perfect combo of grab-and-go options, including cereal bars, crackers and cookie boxes. Basically, this variety pack is a dream come true for any college student!
Usually, there are maintenance services available at student halls, but a toolset will be useful to set up furniture and do minor repairs that don’t require professional help.
The ENTAI set includes all the essentials for small projects and repairs, plus it comes in a compact case.
5. Supermarket gift cards
Supermarket gift cards are an excellent way for you to ensure your loved one stays fed. Arguably, you could include some pocket money in the survival kit, but a gift card will be a good back-up if your kid ends up spending their budget on other things.
There’s a whole range of shops to choose from, depending on what’s available near the university campus. This Whole Foods Market gift card is a popular choice, especially considering the range of products available.
Student halls can get pretty loud, especially with noisy roommates or loud neighbors, or both! So, a good pair of earplugs should do the trick, especially during exam season!
Fluents offers 50 pairs of soft foam earplugs stored in a portable case to keep them safe and clean.
7. First aid kit
Adding a first aid kit to the survival pack is a wise choice. Even if never used (hopefully!), it’s always good to have access to bandaids or burn cream!
This is a fully kitted bag with all the essentials, and its compact size means it won’t take up much space!
8. Aromatic candles
Student apartments rarely boast sound ventilation systems and cracking a window open will hardly do the trick. And that’s why an aromatic candle will make for an excellent addition to any college kit ensemble.
Chesapeake Bay’s candles are a great choice. They can burn for up to 70 hours, and their fragrances are naturally enhanced with essential oils, offering a clean and natural smell.
9. Laundry bag
On a more practical note, having a laundry bag is essential for any student. Although not the most fun item on the list, it will make life a lot easier for them — especially when it’s time to do two weeks’ worth of laundry!
If you want to make this gift a bit funkier, Dalykate offers a backpack laundry bag with adjustable straps. It even has an external pocket for the cleaning products and an inner zipper for coins!
10. Sewing kit
Including a sewing set is a great idea, especially when your loved one needs to deal with any outfit emergencies.
Coquimbo’s compact sewing kit contains all the essentials for minor repairs — an ideal option for someone who is a novice with a needle and a thread!
11. Water bottle
Having a reusable water bottle has multiple benefits, including that it’s cost-effective and sustainable. Plus, it’s a great way to stay hydrated, which is a common struggle for college students.
These bottles have cool designs and are insulated, so drinks stay either hot or cold (depending on what they prefer).
12. Electric blanket
Nothing beats a soft blanket, except an electric one — which is why it will be a great addition to any student survival pack. If you’re not sure which one to go for, this electric blanket is not only super soft but also super safe, as it boasts an auto-safety shut-off feature.
In the case of a poorly heated room, this will be a lifesaver for any student, although it might make getting out of bed a bit harder!
13. Safety whistle
Although perhaps not the jolliest item on the list, a safety whistle is a must. University campuses are generally safe places, so this is merely a precautionary measure.
Noopel’s whistles are a particularly good choice. They provide up to 120 decibels, they’re lightweight and easy to carry, and they can be used in any weather condition due to their water-resistant design.
University life can get quite busy, and a good planner is always appreciated by students.
Panda Planner’s journal is a perfect gift for the busy college student. Its convenient page layout and stylish design allows room for detailed planning and scheduling, and it will help your loved one stay organized!
No survival kit is complete without a good set of stationery. Although it depends on the student’s needs, things like pencils, pens and scissors are always useful. If you’re looking for a simple option, Anker’s stationery set contains all the basics for college students.
16. Instant food items
Even though students should maintain a healthy diet during college, there isn’t always enough time for a wholesome meal. A few instant noodle pots in your kit will definitely be appreciated, especially after late-night study sessions.
That said, these don’t have to be completely unhealthy. Annie Chun’s products are an excellent example, as they contain zero saturated fats and they’re a lot more nutritious than conventional noodle pots!
17. Coffee travel mug
For the coffee-dependent student, a coffee mug is a definite necessity.
Ello’s stainless-steel travel mug is both leak proof and BPA-free, so it’s a safe and healthy option. Plus, it can keep beverages hot for nearly five hours. That way, your loved one will be able to carry a hot cup of coffee around all day and get through their 9am classes without worries.
18. Playing cards
In a long list of practical survival pack items, here’s something a bit more fun. Card tricks and games are a great way to break the ice with others — perfect if your loved one is a bit on the shy side.
Bicycle’s single deck is suited for a variety of card games and will, without a doubt, come in handy during the first days of college.
19. Power strip
A common struggle in student accommodation is the lack of power plugs for electronic devices. However, there’s a simple solution to this: a power strip.
Anker’s power hub offers overload protection for extra safety, and it can host up to three outlets and three USB ports at the same time.
A humble yet valuable addition to the list. Although it has a single function, a kettle can be a real time-saver. Whether it’s for coffee, instant noodles or tea, having a kettle will make everything a lot easier.
There’s no need to do a lot of searching for this one, as AmazonBasics offers an affordable option with an automatic shut-off function and a cordless design for easier serving.
21. Desk organizer
While some students are extremely organized, others keep their room in a state of perpetual chaos. No matter which category your loved one falls into, it’s a good idea for them to try to keep their desk as clear as possible.
The chair can remain hidden under clothes, as long as their notes are clearly divided and accessible with a desk organizer! This will save them a whole lot of anxiety.
22. Reusable grocery bag
We believe that all college survival kits should include a lightweight, sturdy bag that can be washed and reused. This will not just minimize the students’ plastic carrier bag usage, but the cross stitching and inner compartments will also ensure that their groceries make it home intact.
23. Metal wire notice board
A notice board can be a lifesaver in a cramped room: the more stuff students put up on the wall, the more free space they’ll enjoy on their desk.
A metal wire notice board can be useful because it can hold multiple things: college notes, to-do lists, and even magnetic holders for school supplies like pens, highlighters, and scissors.
24. Home gym shelf
Exercise not only helps preserve our physical health, it can also reduce stress and improve our mood, too. Even though your loved one will be grappling with a demanding schedule, encourage them to make time for workouts.
A gym shelf like this can hold resistance cables, light weights, mats, and foam rollers in one place, making home workouts more convenient.
25. Airtight food container set
Meal prepping is popular among students, as it’s a great way to save time while still eating healthily.
If your loved one complains about being too busy, suggest they cook larger portions two or three times a week. That way, they can freeze or refrigerate their meals and quickly reheat them when in a rush. All they’ll need from you is a bit of recipe inspiration and a set of food containers.
26. Handheld vacuum cleaner
Imagine this: their first exam is coming up, their anxiety is through the roof, and they only ever eat while hunched over a textbook. If something spills at a time like this (and it will), the average student will just ignore it.
If they have a handheld vacuum cleaner at hand, however, with no messy cables and hoses involved, they’ll be more inclined to restore order.
27. Wireless fast-charging pad
When your loved one is learning to juggle studying with a part-time job, a social life, and some type of exercise or hobby, they’re bound to be pressed for time. That’s what makes this little gadget an undeniably useful college survival kit gift.
Whether they’re Android fans or iOS devotees, a fast-charging station for their smartphone and earbuds will seem godsent.
28. Neck massager
Have you heard of “tech neck”? Even if you’re not familiar with the term, you’ve probably felt its consequences at some point. And, given how much time they spend looking at screens, both to study and catch up with friends, students suffer from it, too.
But while technology can be a pain in the neck, it can also be the remedy for it. Enter the portable neck massager!
29. Blue light glasses
Headaches, dry eyes, and blurry vision are some of the downsides of relying on digital books and resources for studying. To help the student in your life minimize these unwanted effects of blue light, add a pair of computer glasses to your college survival gift basket.
30. Laptop backpack
At university, the laptop is perhaps a student’s most prized possession: it’s got all their files, books, notes, and necessary software on it, and should therefore be heavily guarded.
A backpack like this, with a dedicated laptop compartment, ergonomic shoulder straps, and timeless design, is a must have for anyone heading off to college.
If you want to create a thoughtful gift for a prospective college freshman, consider adding some (or all) of these items in your student survival kit.
Going to university is a significant change, so having the essentials is a good way to help them ease into college life!
What do you think of our survival kit ideas? Is there anything else that should be included? Let us know in the comments section below!
Originally published 22 September 2019. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.