Send Your College Student Off to School With the Perfect Care Package

Aug 2, 2017 at 8:50 a.m. ET

Being in college definitely has its perks (there's a reason so many people refer to it as "the best time of their life," right?), but it's also no walk in the park. College students are broke, they're slammed with a ton of schoolwork, and they're away from home for the first time. Did we mention they're broke?

The above reasons are a recipe for homesickness, but you can help ease your child's transition to living on their own by sending them a care package filled with all the comforts of home. Care packages should be the perfect blend of fun items and essentials — all the things your kid would love, but wouldn't think to purchase on their own.

Here are some ideas to get you started in crafting the perfect package to make your child smile. Don't be afraid to add a personal touch like a sweet note or family photo — and jazzing things up with seasonal holiday items is always a good idea. They may not always let you know, but your college student is missing the whole family back home like crazy.

More: Twitter Is Bawling Over Dad's Lunchbox Gesture to His College-Bound Daughter

Foods to snack on

As soon as your kid moves into a dorm situation, minifridges and hot plates rule supreme, so foods that require little preparation are always ideal. The idea is to send snack foods that are fun, tasty, nonperishable and satiating — because most on-campus cafeterias aren't open 24/7.

Homemade cookies keep well and bring that little taste of home to your student. For an extra bonus, send a gift card to their favorite restaurant. It's not exactly the same as a home-cooked meal, but it beats the heck out of eating microwaved Cup Noodles with a plastic spork.

Here are some more food item ideas:

  • Beef jerky
  • Bottled water
  • A bag of their favorite candy
  • Raw nuts
  • Gum
  • Canned soups
  • Cereal and oatmeal
  • Granola bars
  • Chips
  • Brownie mix
  • Rice Krispies treats
  • Homemade cookies
  • Ramen noodles
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels or party mix
  • Protein bars
  • Tea or lemonade mix

Dorm room essentials

If you've never lived in a dorm or a college apartment yourself, just know that things can get nasty really quickly. Students are more preoccupied with socializing and studying than cleaning, so hygiene and a clean living space play second fiddle in most cases.

That doesn't mean your student has to live in a pigsty. Send along some things that can keep them clean, healthy and living in a space that doesn't scream, "Squalor!" And we swear every child appreciates a pair of warm, fuzzy socks much more the second they move out of your home.

  • Framed photo of family pet(s)
  • An extra set of sheets
  • A new pillow
  • Fun-smelling candles
  • Antibacterial spray
  • Clorox disinfecting wipes
  • A hairbrush or comb
  • Towels and wash cloths
  • New underwear
  • Shampoo
  • Mesh pouf bath sponge on a rope
  • Makeup essentials (like mascara and lip gloss)
  • Flip-flops to wear in the shower
  • Body wash
  • Deodorant
  • Contact solution
  • Lip balm
  • Yummy-smelling lotions or body spray
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Mini first-aid kit with bandages, antibiotic ointment, etc.
  • Air freshener
And no dorm room would be complete without a little party time, so don't forget fun items too.
  • iTunes gift cards are always welcome
  • Video games
  • Sketch books
  • Cute decorations (picture frames, framed art, etc.) 
  • Add-ons for their computer
  • Simple deck of playing cards

School supplies

When you barely have enough money to buy food, it's hard to shell out extra shekels on pens and paper, but a student's still gotta study.

Enter the perfect care package topped off with everything your little teacher's pet could possibly need on their road to academic success.

  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Calculator
  • Notebook paper
  • Brightly colored folders
  • Organizational binders
  • Construction paper
  • Scotch tape
  • Printer ink and paper
  • Bookmarks
  • A mini-stapler
  • Fun-shaped paper clips
  • Post-its
  • Gift card to their campus' supply/bookstore

What are your favorite things to send in a college care package?

Originally published July 2008. Updated August 2017.