Do you have a kid at college? Send them something special! Here are the best College Care Package Ideas, including tips for sending and recipes for homemade treats!
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Ah, college! It's an exciting and life-changing experience to be away from home, on your own, and truly independent for the first time. It's also a little overwhelming, especially when the realities of class workloads and late nights set in. And perhaps a touch of homesickness.
Care packages for college students, sent from family or friends and stuffed full of treats, self-care supplies, and lots of love are just what they need in those moments!
What is a college care package?
Care packages are boxes of treats, supplies, and fun stuff to help them get through weeks of grueling classes and work. More than that, care packages are a way to send some love—and who doesn't want that?
The boxes can be big or small, and what you send can be practical or silly. Care packages can come from moms and dads, stepmoms and stepdads, grandparents, favorite great-aunts, family friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and best friends—you can even send a package on behalf of the family pet!
Finally, care packages don't need to be expensive or elaborate, and you definitely don't need to shell out for pricey, curated boxes from online services.
The point of a care package is just to show your student that you love them and you're thinking of them.
Before you send your package
Here are a few things to check and keep in mind as you prepare to ship your package. Then, keep reading for some great ideas for what to send, recipes for treats, and ideas for themed care packages!
Don't forget to share these tips with others in your family so they can send care packages, too!
Ask about the college mailroom service
The package processing at college mailrooms is often slow—especially at the start of the school year and during the holidays. Add to that the transit time for your package just to reach the school.
It's no big deal when you're sending shelf-stable snacks or non-food items. However, with homemade treats, you won't want them sitting unopened for days on end.
Check with your student to see how the mail/package delivery has been going so you can plan for any delays. Even better, if you have a friend heading to the area ask if they can drop off the care package for you. (A great reason to connect with local families whose kids are going to college in the same area as your kid.)
Check the weather
I'm not just talking about the temperature outside: ask your student what the temperature is inside their dorm. Unfortunately, many older dorm buildings have no air conditioning, so the rooms are sticky and hot even when it's cool outside.
If this is the case, don't send melty things like chocolate-coated cookies or homemade fudge. Instead, send sturdy cookies and snacks that will hold up in the heat. (Save the melty stuff for a winter care package.)
What To Put In A College Care Package
Food for the microwave and mini fridge
Our daughter's requests for her very first college care package? Easy Mac, Goldfish, and cans of Spicy V-8 Juice.
Even with ample dining hall options, having snacks and microwavable foods in her room made it easy to hunker down for intense blocks of studying and work. They also help students on days when there's no time to buy food between classes.
Some good choices for prepackaged foods include those Goldfish crackers, energy bars, Cup Noodles, fruit pouches, pudding cups, jerky sticks, and microwave popcorn. Even if your student has no microwave in their room, common rooms usually have one.
If your student needs snacks that are allergy-friendly, gluten-free, or vegan, a care package is perfect to stock them up, especially if the selection is limited in their area.
Games and toys
Food isn't the only treat that'll bring a smile to your student's face: include some things that are fun, silly, or heartfelt—or all three!
Help students unwind with games to play with friends. Send a deck of cards and game ideas—some of our favorite card games are Pitch, Hearts, Thirty-One, and Spoons.
Other games to consider are a cribbage board, Codenames, Uno, Catan, We Didn't Playtest This At All, and Cards Against Humanity.
Does your student love movies? Throw in a DVD or two. They're a great way to unwind, watch with dorm mates, or get through weekends when it feels like everyone has gone home except them. Send favorite movies/show DVDs from home or pick up a new release.
Send a favorite magazine, a random toy from their bedroom, a cute little stuffy, or handwritten notes from everyone at home. These are all great ways to make a care package that really reflects your unique and amazing kid.
Ideas for themed care packages:
Feel Better Box
The first time you get sick away from home really stinks! With so many students living together, dining together, and sitting side by side in classes all week long, it's inevitable that sickness will spread. Mild cold bugs, flu, strep throat, and Covid-19 are all common on campus.
A care package with medicine and self-care items is so helpful and comforting. Think tissues, a thermometer, Dayquil, herbal teas, saltine crackers, a heating pad, and instant chicken noodle soup.
It can't hurt to send some Vitamin C supplements like Emergen-C their way as well. Many elementary teachers I know swear by them to fend off colds!
Pantry and Kitchen Box
Does your student live in an apartment-style dorm? (These are pretty common for upperclassmen.) If they have their own kitchen in their apartment or suite, sending some pantry basics is a huge help. Because you know they won't remember to pick up groceries until they're too hungry to think straight!
Send packaged mixes for baked goods, spices to stock their cabinets, plus baking and cooking staples like flour, nonstick spray, and baking powder.
If your student has a favorite dish that you always made for them at home, send the recipe along with the shelf-stable ingredients they'll need to put it together. (Need a recipe idea? Give them this easy Kielbasa, Cheddar, and Rice recipe.)
Another option is to explore grocery delivery services like Uber Eats or InstaCart, where you can order groceries and treats for delivery to your student.
Mid-Terms & Finals Box
Three words: caffeine, sugar, and salt. These are the three basic necessities when they're stressed out and need to stay up late for marathon studying and writing!
Sweet and salty snack mixes hit the spot here, along with tea and coffee. Send instant coffee if they don't have access to a coffee maker. Do they have a Keurig? (Like this cool, single-serve version.) Send them a box of K-cups.
This is a good time for gift cards too: Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Taco Bell, or Dominos.
Finally, check the food service page on the college's website — in addition to special dining events to get students through exam weeks, many offer options for parents to order special treats that students can pick up.
Recipe Ideas for Homemade Treats
My informal poll of college students (my kids and their roommates) reveals without a doubt: care packages with homemade treats RULE!
There's no better way to show how much you care than baking up some tasty treats, especially if they're your student's favorite cookies and snack mixes.
Make one of these recipes for your college care package. They include sweets and treats that are not only delicious but will hold up well during shipping:
- Best Coconut Macaroons
- Simple Butter Cookies
- Walnut Coconut Cookies
- Little Lime Cookies With Powdered Sugar
- Soft Cocoa Cookies
- Peanut Butter Caramel Cookies
- Spicy BBQ Chex Mix Recipe
- Toffee and Chocolate Bark with Toasted Almonds
- Soft Molasses Cookies
- Easy Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies
- Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls
- Sweet Tooth Snack Mix
💬 What are you putting in your college care package? Leave a comment below!
I'm sure she loved these Nancy! I just Hannah a small package the other day--pumpkin mini breads and muffins, a package of gum and a note. She got it the day after I sent it thankfully!
Ooh, those sound yummy, and seasonally delicious! Glad to hear the package reached her quickly.
Wow, your daughter is a lucky girl to have such a thoughtful parent - and all those snacks look great! I don't think I ever received a care package in college (sad violin!) but I did manage to send some to my friends for their birthdays. My mom did (and still does, years post-college) send non-edibles, like crossword puzzles from the local newspaper or comics that she thought I'd like.
I love that you sent things to your friends 🙂 Newspaper clippings! There's something so heartwarming about that, I used to get those from my grandparents especially Garfield and Nancy comics. It's a sweet feeling knowing that someone is thinking of you as they read the paper!
The girl doesn't know how lucky she is...
Great post with lots of excellent advice. The glass microwave popcorn popper is pure genius.
Aw thanks 🙂 Those poppers are awesome, I highly recommend.
Such a great post! Being a student and away from home, I always love receiving care packages like this one. I'm convinced your daughter was thrilled 🙂
Thanks Juliet! What do you get in your care packages?