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14 Items College Students Love To Get In Care Packages

October means crisp fall weather, Halloween and… midterms. Unfortunately. Whether your Favorite Student In The Whole Wide World is a freshman or an upperclassman, this time of year can be rough.

Well, I have good news for you: Care packages help with that! While they won’t magically cure stress and homesickness, they’ll definitely lift students’ spirits. (And keep their wallets from getting any lighter, LOL.) I asked my friends, neighbors, classmates and fellow HCUI members what items they most appreciate receiving in a care package, and that’s how the following list was born!

1. Food

By far the most popular item listed here, judging by the number of people who said they love to receive food! Snacks, in particular, are greatly appreciated. (Take it from me, popcorn and a playlist on YouTube or Spotify are enough to make even the most dull study session a great one!)

Candy, pretzels, popcorn, granola bars, Pop-Tarts and packets for mug cakes are all good options. My dad once sent a whole loaf of sourdough bread, but that’s my dad for you. You could even send homemade goodies if you’re sure they won’t crumble or spoil by the time your student receives them.

2. Anything and everything related to hot beverages

From Starbucks gift cards and K-cups for Keurigs to coffee mugs and instant coffee, most students practically live off of coffee. If your student, like me, either doesn’t like or is trying to cut back on caffeine, teabags and packets of hot chocolate mix are a fantastic substitute.

3. Gift cards

More Starbucks gift cards, anyone? In general, though, we students appreciate whatever you’d like to send our way. I’ll never forget how my next-door neighbors from back home sent me a Subway gift card freshman year: It was one fewer meal to eat in the dining hall, which matters more than you know. 

4. Cash

AKA a DIY gift card. Am I right or am I right?

5. Photos

Either old photos from childhood or more recent snapshots! Homesickness sucks, but pictures of friends and family and pets cheer us up. Plus, they can be tacked up on walls and bulletin boards as personalized decorations!

6. Handwritten notes and letters

I Freaking. Love. These. They’re adorable, and it feels so good to know that someone cares enough to sit down and write something to you! Ditto for drawings from younger siblings or cousins.

If you travel a lot for work, postcards are awesome as well. Since I’m not home much anymore, I love seeing what my parents are up to and where they’ve been.

7. Adult coloring books

These are such a lovely way to destress! Lately, I’ve been coloring while listening to audiobooks of the novels I have to read for class, and it’s SO relaxing. (Plus, it ensures that I don’t accidentally fall asleep in the middle of a chapter!) There are even coloring books based on popular TV shows, such as Game of Thrones and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Just so you know.

8. Stationery

It’s the bomb dot com. Cute little journals can be used to either take notes in or scribble down all your worries (and successes, too!). Highlighters, markers and colorful pens are also great, whether your student loves to color-code their planner and notes or just likes a cheerful, bright burst of colors in their day.

9. Books

These can be a little pricy, for sure, but you don’t necessarily have to buy your student the latest releases either: Support your local used-book store! It’s so, so important to take one’s mind off of school now and then — and a book that’s NOT assigned reading is a great way to do that.

10. Candles

Yummy scents! Also, fire. (Kidding, kidding.) On a more serious note, though, these aren’t allowed in UI residence halls, so this is best saved for when your student has their own apartment. It’s not worth getting in trouble with UI Housing & Dining over something so small!

11. Beauty/hygiene products

Whether you opt for something pampering such as nail polish and face masks or more practical items such as soap and lotion, we’re sure to enjoy it. With all the freedoms of college life come those pesky #adulting responsibilities, like making trips to the drugstore when we run out of shampoo. But sometimes we’re too lazy for that.

12. Bubble wrap

I would never have thought of this, but one of my friends said that popping it is a great stress reliever for her. Mind = blown. Plus, it does double duty by protecting the more fragile items — such as coffee mugs — in your care package.

13. Handheld massagers

Midterms stressing out your student? Time for a massage. It will make them the envy of all their friends… or something like that.

14. Socks

The fuzzier, the better. Actually, scratch that — the more outlandishly holiday-themed, the better. Ridiculous Halloween socks are where it’s at, TBH.

Is there anything you feel is missing from this list? Be sure to let me know, as I’m planning to send care packages to several of my younger friends soon and would love to hear your ideas!


Photos: cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Elizabeth Chesak is a junior at the University of Iowa. She is triple-majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies to prepare for her hybrid dream job of picture book author/National Geographic photojournalist/activist. When not in class, studying, or sleeping, she can usually be found befriending the neighborhood cats.
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