Gifts For College

By Anica Wong

June 11, 2010 5 min read

Whatever you do, don't give towels to a high-school graduate heading to college. The graduate inevitably will get tons and tons of them, and towels take up a lot of space in a small dorm room. "You have to look for those niche items that maybe people aren't going to find," says Jeff Gawronski, head of product development at Dorm Co, a website that specializes in dorm accessories ( "Stay away from towels and laundry bags." Getting too many of one item is common for graduates as they head off to college. They receive the standard grad gifts -- towels, laundry bags, frames that say "Class of 2010," etc. -- and these things often end up gathering dust under a bed. Though towels, sheets and laundry bags are necessities when leaving home, giving gifts to your favorite high-school grad offers you a chance to get the grad something unique that also will be useful. "I think the biggest area that students don't know is that they know dorms are small but don't know what to bring to solve that," Gawronski says. This dilemma is especially glaring when it comes to closets, which are often much smaller than those that grads are used to at home. Dorm closets are the one and only place for students to place their clothes and other items they want out of the way. But fitting all of their stuff in their closets can be tricky, Gawronski says. He suggests closet-specific organizers, such as over-the-door shoe hangers, sweater shelves or multipurpose hangers that can hold more than one article of clothing each. Gilbert Due?as -- a resident assistant, or RA, at Stanford University -- recommends that students have items that are staples at home but they don't think to bring to school. "Having a basic tool kit around tends to be useful," he says. "Nothing fancy, maybe a screwdriver, measuring tape, etc." Picking these small tools up for your grad and making him or her a special toolbox definitely would be unique. The emphasis on gifts like this is that they will come in handy later on. The dorm room will be a student's bedroom, living room, kitchen and hangout area while at school. Making the small space his or her own can be done in a couple of different ways, specifically with decorations and living accessories, which make great gifts. Grads will want to pick out their own posters of their favorite singers or sports stars, but you can always get them the sticky stuff to actually hang the posters. Gawronski suggests a product called Glue Dots, which are adhesive dots that hold up posters and won't damage the walls, a big plus at the end of the year. "I had one resident last year who covered her wall in butcher paper and just decorated/painted/drew/wrote/doodled as the year went on, and it was a cool way for her friends to add their touch, too," says Due?as, who has been an RA for three years. Creating a gift package of Glue Dots and butcher paper would be an inspiring gift for a budding artist or creative student. Adding furniture to an already cramped room can be tricky. But Gawronski says that picking the dorm-specific pieces can have huge benefits. "The SlouchBack is becoming a really hot item. It turns your dorm bed into a sofa," he says of the inflatable backrest that can be thrown onto a bed for more seating. Gawronski also suggests a mini-futon that Dorm Co has in stock. This futon is smaller than a regular futon and is not meant for sleeping on. "It's all about having your friends in the room and hanging out. You want seating besides your dorm bed. You want a spot for everyone to hang out," he says. If you are looking for a more personal gift for a graduate, focus on presents that would remind him or her of home and of the memories he or she has made. This could include a scrapbook, a book of family members' and friends' thoughts on the graduate's next steps in life or even just a small note to tell the graduate how proud you are of him or her. "Homemade food/goodies, keepsakes, photos that remind them of home, because everyone gets a little homesick," Due?as adds. If all else fails, money that can go toward textbooks is always greatly appreciated by new college students. "The best thing to help students may still be cash or gift cards," says John Parry, the director of the bookstore at Colorado State University. "If the student has made the decision on what school to attend, then a gift certificate to that school's campus bookstore is always needed. One of the biggest costs a student will incur, other than tuition and housing, is textbooks."COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM

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