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Campus Overload
Posted at 11:08 AM ET, 12/07/2011

Practical holiday gifts for college students and recent grads


Last month I received a news release listing 10 gift ideas for college students. Three of the top ideas: “Anything Apple,” gift cards for “the essentials” like Starbucks and gift cards for “the luxuries” like Pottery Barn Dorm. The last item listed is cash.

Sigh. Really? Seriously?

In the spirit of giving gifts from the heart — which sometimes means being practical instead of extravagant — I have compiled a list of seven ideas:

1) Professional clothing: Every summer I hear interns whine about how they can only afford flip-flops and clothing that doubles as club-wear. Please help these interns out now.
Instead of buying your nephew an iPod, take him out to buy his first suit. (Marvin Joseph - The Washington Post)
Save them the misery of being ridiculed by every person in the office and random people on Twitter. That means, instead of buying your nephew an iPod, take him out to buy his first suit. (And, yes, it can be dangerous to guess clothing sizes, so make sure to ask ahead of time and include a gift receipt. Or go with a one-size-fits-all item like a tie or scarf.)

2) Professional stationery: The application process for internships, jobs, fellowships and graduate programs often requires following up with a thank-you note on grown-up stationery. Look for simple, heavy-weight cards at your local office supply store or order a personalized set online from American Stationery or the Paper Source. It also wouldn’t hurt to include some snail-mail stamps.

3) Family recipes: One of my most treasured gifts is a binder of favorite family recipes that my mom compiled for me a few years ago. If you would rather purchase an already compiled cookbook, I would suggest “College Cooking: Feed Yourself and Your Friends” or “Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One” by the Post’s food editor Joe Yonan. This is a gift that pairs well with one or two practical kitchen accessories, like colorful plastic mixing bowls or a blender.

4) A Sunday newspaper subscription: No, seriously, I think it’s a good idea for 20-somethings to subscribe to their local paper at least one day a week. In addition to insightful reading, they will also get a pack of coupons to help cut down on their grocery bills.

5) Subscription to a trade publication or industry magazine: These magazines can be expensive on a college budget, but just as educational as a college textbook. (And many of them offer digital subscriptions.) For architects, there’s Architectural Digest, Architectural Review and DETAIL. For business majors, check out the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune or Forbes. For writers and journalists, splurge on The New Yorker.

6) A gourmet care package: Most college students are heading into finals right now — and are in dire need of a care package. While most college students are craving chocolate, energy drinks and comfort food, make sure to also include some healthy items like herbal tea, almonds and granola.

7) Gift certificates that truly mean something: If you have to go the gift certificate route, give a gift with some meaning. Before my grandmother passed away, she would send me gift certificates to D.C. restaurants where she liked to go in the 1940s and 50s, along with a note of what she used to order. Some of my friends have asked for gift certificates for classes that will enrich their lives, like yoga, ballet, piano or cooking.

I asked my Twitter followers for more ideas and here is what they suggested:

@wpjenna a change jar full of quartersTue Dec 06 22:57:42 via HootSuite

@wpjenna Magazine/Netflix subscriptions, slippers, DVDs, water bottles, blankets. Magic Bullet: Great for salsa, margs and more!Tue Dec 06 22:43:36 via TweetDeck

@wpjenna Dishwashable George Foreman grill, magic bullet blender, rabbit corkscrew, knife set, rice cooker, Keurig maker #genyfoodiegiftsTue Dec 06 22:38:14 via Twitter for iPad

@dgrreen @wpjenna A crock-pot is a great gift to add to that list too. #genyfoodiegiftsTue Dec 06 22:41:22 via web

@wpjenna For the graduating senior-a business card holder and a nice portfolio holder for resumes, etc.Tue Dec 06 22:37:19 via web

@wpjenna a gift certificate for an hour massage -- the perfect combo of practical and special and awesomeTue Dec 06 22:34:39 via web

@wpjenna cookbooks, towels, storage bins/bags/boxes/plastic, nonbreakable glasses, socks, serving bowls (chips/popcorn), gloves, fun booksTue Dec 06 22:33:13 via TweetDeck

@wpjenna used video gamesTue Dec 06 22:11:23 via Echofon

@wpjenna a watch, that way they can never say they were late because they didn't know the time.Tue Dec 06 22:11:25 via web

@wpjenna Button-down shirts, ties, suits and other wardrobe updates as college students gear up for internships/post-grad jobsTue Dec 06 22:12:27 via HootSuite

@wpjenna, FIRE's Guides to Student Rights on Campus are a great gift for college students! http://t.co/Z1PixUFuTue Dec 06 22:14:33 via TweetDeck

@wpjenna If they have a kitchen, maybe a 1/2 share of a local CSA? Keeps them from eating crap in dining halls.Tue Dec 06 22:16:40 via web

@wpjenna smart phone, ipad, ear buds, newspaper subscription, IRA, 16GB flash drive, backup hard drive, metal water bottle, wine o the monthTue Dec 06 22:16:37 via web

Do you have more practical gift ideas? Share them in the comments section below or tweet them to @wpjenna.

By  |  11:08 AM ET, 12/07/2011

 
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