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21 Delightful Items to Send in a College Care Package

A box filled with toothpaste, snacks, medicines, trash bags, and cleaning supplies.
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

If you have kids in college, you probably already gave them some supplies to start the year. Now it’s time to relax—but wait; it’s been a month or two! Do they need a restock? Let’s create a care package.

Why Send a Care Package?

You might be surprised how quickly your kid goes through some supplies while she’s at school—and how often she won’t tell you.

Even if she still has plenty of the supplies you sent her to school with, you might discover you overlooked some things. Now’s an excellent opportunity to send along any necessities you forgot or didn’t have room to include before.

A month or two after the semester starts is a good time to restock. You can make these things part of your regular grocery list, or just order them from Amazon and have the care package shipped directly to your kid.

Be sure to check with your child first, though, to find out exactly what she needs.

What to Include in a Care Package

When it comes to supplied amenities, every college is different, and it’s helpful to keep those in mind as you decide what to include in your care package. If your kid’s dorm doesn’t have a microwave, ramen won’t be helpful. And if he has access to a full stove, you might be able to step up from “instant” foods to something healthier.

Here are some items you might want to include in your care package.

Dry Non-Perishable Foods

A box of hearty chicken flavored Nissin Cup Noodles.

Most college students have a meal plan, but they still sometimes miss or skip meals. Perhaps they chose a plan that doesn’t cover every meal to reduce their tuition. Having extra food on hand is never a bad idea—college students go through food supplies faster than a half-starved lion on steak night.

Dry, non-perishable foods are good options if your child has access to a microwave or stove but not a fridge. The easiest require only water and a microwave—bonus if you can throw the container away rather than clean it. Here are some items that meet these requirements:

  • Noodle cups: This simple stuff keeps the hungry college student going. It’s easy to make, easier to eat, and then you just throw away the dish.
  • Pasta-Roni/Rice-a-Roni: A rice option is nice to add a little nutrition. It’s easy to make but also has some flavor.
  • Mac and Cheese: These servings are low maintenance, easy to make, and have good, cheesy flavor. Plus, it’s a throw-away dish.
  • Breakfast bars: This healthier option skips the artificial flavors and fructose syrup. Best of all, it doesn’t taste of regret and shame, like many of the other “health” bars.
  • Cereal: Your kid will need a fridge to store some milk for this option. It gets old quick, but the variety pack staves off the boredom.
  • Chips: Snacks are a necessity between meals (and to supply some much-needed energy). This variety bag comes in great flavors, and—better yet—small bags. This might prevent your child from eating all of them in one sitting.
  • Pretzels: A mildly healthier option as pretzels are baked instead of fried. And they still satisfy that irresistible need for crunch and salt.

Toiletries So Your Kid Won’t Stink

A tube of Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste.

Even if you sent toiletries with your kids to college, it’s never too soon to ship more. Toiletries are the thing we’re most likely to forget to resupply. This leads to the desperate attempt of filling a shampoo bottle with water and shaking to get just a bit more.

Things like shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and other toiletries don’t expire quickly. So, if you do include something your child already has, they’ll just have more for the future. Your kid will thank you. So will their professors.

Here are some of the essentials:

  • Toothpaste: If your child shares with a roommate who forgot to bring some, he might run out of toothpaste sooner than you think. Which brand of toothpaste you send doesn’t matter as much as the type of fluoride it contains. Stannous flouride has antibacterial properties that do a better job of preventing gingivitis than other fluorides. Any toothpaste is better than none, but Crest Pro-Health uses stannous fluoride, which has antibacterial properties that do a better job preventing gingivitis. That’s an extra boost for healthy teeth.
  • Deodorant for him: Any type will do, but the trick is to find something with an inoffensive neutral scent. He’s more likely to use it if he doesn’t hate it.
  • Deodorant for her: A floral scent might tempt you, but she might not like the one you pick. A neutral scent is more useful if you don’t know her favorite.
  • Shampoo for him: It’s probably best to ask for preferences, but this bare-bones shampoo and conditioner has a fairly neutral scent that doesn’t overpower.
  • Shampoo for her: Again, you’ll probably want to double-check on this one. But when in doubt, this is a popular brand, and you get shampoo and conditioner in one. This version also offers moisture renewal.

Cleaning Supplies for That Gross Dorm Room

A Hefty Strong Trash Bag box.

Dorms can be gross, and there’s a simple reason for that—most kids don’t clean up after themselves. Even if your kid is a neat-freak, his dormmates might not be.

When you replenish the cleaning supplies, perhaps it will remind him to wash some of those gross dishes. Or take care of that pile of dirty laundry building up in the corner.

These are the things your college student probably needs most to clean up his nasty dorm room:

  • Trash bags: This is an excellent place to start. Hefty bags are strong enough to withstand a little overloading. Plus, they have a drawstring so the bag can fit smaller cans.
  • Dish soap: If your child took any dishes with him to school, he’ll need some of this to clean them. And dishwashing soap cleans other things, as well. Palmolive is an inexpensive option that gets the job done.
  • Pre-measured laundry detergent: In the continuing quest to help your kid not stink, you might want to consider sending a resupply of laundry detergent. Although, a little expensive up-front, pods can help those who are new to doing laundry use the right amount of detergent. You probably know which scent to get—whatever your family uses should be fine.
  • Febreeze: And for those lazy days (okay, weeks) when he can’t get the laundry done, a bottle of Frebreeze will at least control the smell and help him keep some friends.

Pharmaceuticals to Stay Healthy and in Class

A bottle of Basic Care brand aspirin.
Basic Care

School is a haven for all things that make you sick. It only takes one sick person who insists on coming to a tightly-packed classroom to make everyone sick. Also, if your child is going to school in a new environment, she might suffer from allergies thanks to the new pollens.

And most college students will need some painkillers at some point. They can help with a variety of issues, from caffeine-withdrawal headaches to a sprained ankle. We’re not doctors, of course, so be sure to consult your family physician about which medicines would be best for your children.

Here are a few standbys it’s always good to have in the medicine cabinet:

  • Acetaminophen: Coffee and soda are great when your student needs a long night of study, but later comes the caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Acetaminophen is excellent for headaches, and this bottle contains just enough caffeine to stave off withdrawal problems.
  • Aspirin: Whether it’s due to inflammation or muscle strain, Aspirin is a good choice for any general pain. It helps with fevers, too.
  • Non-drowsy allergy pills: When classes seem like they’ll never end, a 24-hour allergy medicine might be a lifesaver. One pill a day keeps the sniffles away.
  • Antihistamine: If allergies just won’t stop, Benadryl is an antihistamine that stops symptoms in their tracks. Your child will have to take them more often, but they might help when other medicines don’t.
  • Nasal spraySometimes, the best option is to go directly to the source. A nasal decongestant like Flonase does exactly that.
  • Lip balm: As the weather gets colder, chapped lips quickly become a problem. A stick or two of lip balm (also called ChapStick, but that’s a brand name) will definitely come in handy. Burt’s Bees moisturizing balm can make a difference on even the driest, cracked lips. Buy a four-pack and keep two for yourself!

A Gift Card for Responsibility and Privacy

An Amazon gift card and envelope.

Whenever you prepare a care package, it’s a good idea to check-in with your child and ask what she needs. But she might not always be forthcoming. Sometimes, kids are embarrassed to ask for necessities.

Or she might want something fun, but she already spent the money she had on responsible things, like books and groceries.

A gift card allows your kid to order things she needs or wants but doesn’t feel comfortable requesting. You can always start with smaller gift cards first, and see how responsibly she handles the money.

Amazon gift cards are an excellent choice because it has such a large variety of stuff—even grocery items.

The Final Touch

You can’t (and shouldn’t) send everything on this list at once. Your child only has so much space to store supplies. So, keep track of what you send. If you have a rotation, it will prevent you from overloading him with chips when he needs deodorant.

And don’t forget to slip in a handwritten note. Few students want to admit it, but for all the freedoms that come with college, there’s also homesickness and loneliness.

A reminder from home might make a big difference during a bleak week.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »