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The 20 best gifts for college students they'll actually need

They'll thank you later

On left, black leather top handle purse in front of blue background. On right, digital smart watch in front of blue background. Credit: Getty / Mollypix / Coach / Fitbit

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Shopping for college students can sometimes prove to be incredibly difficult, even with so many options out there. I mean, you were that age too at some point, so it should be easy, right? But alas, they’re interested in trends that haven't reached the rest of the world yet, which makes picking out a gift they'll really love pretty tricky.

Don’t worry, though, because we have a list of both practical and fun gifts that the undergrad on your list will actually use. From the freshman to the student abroad to the one in their first apartment, we’ve got you covered. These are the best gifts for college students of 2021, according to Reviewed.

1. For the student who has to start cooking for themself:  Our favorite countertop microwave

Gray and black microwave sitting on top of kitchen countertop.
Credit: Toshiba

Best gifts for college students: Toshiba EM925A5A-SS

Most college dorms—especially freshmen dorms—are notoriously sparse in the kitchen department. If your kid wants to cook up some popcorn for movie nights or a bowl of quick instant ramen during exam season, consider gifting them a microwave. This Toshiba model is one of our favorite countertop microwaves for its quiet performance and ability to do everything from pop popcorn to prepare some frozen dinner. It's also super compact so it can easily fit in your child's dorm room.

Get the Toshiba EM925A5A-SS Microwave from Amazon for $104.99

2. For the active student: Fitbit Charge 4

Person using hand to adjust digital smart watch.
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Best gifts for college students: Fitbit

A fitness tracker makes a great gift, whether your recipient is trying to avoid the Freshman 15 or just wants to see how many steps they’re actually taking to and from class each day. This year, we recommend the Fitbit Charge 4, which is the upgraded version of the best fitness tracker we’ve ever tested. We especially love that it’s waterproof and has an updated battery life, making it our top choice for your active student.

Get the Fitbit Charge 4 at Amazon for $124.31

3. For the student who needs real sheets: Brooklinen Luxe Core Sheet Set

Messy bed in bedroom
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Best gifts for college students: Bed sheets

Is your college student living their best life on those Threshold sheets from Target? Help them sleep in style and comfort by upgrading them to a real set of sheets any adult would be proud of. Our testers loved this set from Brooklinen, which topped the charts on our list of the best bed sheets you can buy. They're not cheap, but they are long-lasting and colorful, so you can grab the set that best matches your student's personality.

Get the Luxe Core Sheet Set from Brooklinen for $121.50

4. For the student who needs to focus: The best wireless earbuds and noise-canceling headphones

Person taking earphones out of case.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Best gifts for college students: AirPods

Music is a great distraction for the walk to class and for zoning into a long study section. But to truly plug in, your student is going to need an amazing pair of headphones. Apple AirPods are our favorite wireless headphones for iPhones as they’re both trendy and feature better sound than your typical Apple headphones, with the same classic look.

If they prefer complete sound blockage, we recommend the Sony WH-1000XM4, which are the best noise canceling headphones we’ve ever tested. They’re comfortable and keep the rest of the world out, so students can (hopefully) crank out that late-night paper and be prepared for all their exams.

5. For the student who likes to party: Anker Soundcore 2

Person sitting next to black portable speaker outdoors.
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Best gifts for college students: Anker speaker

No proper party is complete without music. A portable Bluetooth speaker is what every student needs so they can bring the jams from their dorm rooms to their friend’s apartment and even on spring break. The Anker Soundcore 2 has a nice sound and it’s easy-to-use, so you don’t have to worry about getting it set up. It’s also the best portable speaker under $50 we’ve ever tested.

Get the Anker Soundcore 2 at Amazon for $39.99

6. For the student who needs a quick caffeine boost: Nespresso VertuoPlus

White coffee maker sitting on countertop.
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Best gifts for college students: Nespresso

Coffee is expensive and students don’t always have time to make it to a coffee shop before their 8 a.m. classes. With a pod maker though, they can easily and cheaply (compared to Starbucks, at least) make a cup of coffee in their dorm room in less than a minute. The Nespresso VertuoPlus is easy to use and makes the quickest cup of coffee of all the single pod coffee makers we've tested. Be sure to start them off with a travel mug, too.

Get the Nespresso VertuoPlus at Amazon for $197.95

7. For the student in need of a stylish bookbag: Coach Zip Top Tote

Black top handle purse in front of white background.
Credit: Coach Outlet

Best gifts for college students: Coach Zip Top Tote

Carrying numerous books and a tablet to class can be a hassle, especially if your giftee doesn't have the right purse to hold them. Enter the Coach Zip Top tote, designed to look both sleek and stylish and hold all their notebooks and class essentials. Available in two colors (Black and Chalk) this top-rated bag was loved by Coach shoppers for its roomy size and classic, clean design. It's even got a cellphone pocket and a zipped center compartment to keep all of their belongings safe.

Get the Coach Zip Top Tote from Coach Outlet for $99

8. For the student that wants some mood lighting: Himalayan Salt Lamp

On left, pink Himalayan salt lamp next to blue gift box. On right, person doing yoga behind pink Himalayan salt lamp.
Credit: Himalayan Glow

Best gifts for college students: Himalayan salt lamp

Students that want to spruce up their dorm room décor will love this Himalayan salt lamp that will provide a soft warm glow to their space. It's got a 4.6-star rating from more than 17,500 Amazon customers, who loved the soothing amber glow and different dimmer settings. Whether they need a nightlight or just something to calm them down during midterms, this salt lamp is the gift to give. 

Get the Himalayan Glow Natural Pink Salt Lamp from Amazon for $12.14 

9. For the student who needs to stay hydrated:  S’well water bottle

Multi-colored reusable water bottles in front of pink background.
Credit: S'well

Best gifts for college students: S'well water bottle

Forgetting to drink water throughout the day while running from class to class is easy in college. That’s why students should come prepared with a S’well, which is one of the best water bottles we’ve ever tested. The S’well comes in plenty of gorgeous patterns and will actually keep water cold throughout the day thanks to its insulated stainless steel material. I mean, who wouldn’t feel trendy with a marbled water bottle?

Get the S’well 17 oz Water Bottle at S’well for $25

10. For the student who’s always busy: The best portable charger

Gray power bank on wooden surface.
Credit: Reviewed / Richard Baguley

Best gifts for college students: Power bank

Between going to class, attending club meetings and getting dinner with friends, the last thing students want to worry about is if their phone battery will last them the entire day and night. So they don’t have to go looking for the nearest outlet in the middle of class, arm them with this portable charger from Mophie, which is our favorite battery pack. It delivers its most effective charge through its USB-C port and is slim enough to fit into a backpack or even a pocket.

Get the Mophie Powerstation PD Portable Charger at Amazon for $42.86

11. For the student who loves to snack: A microwave popcorn maker

Popcorn in red bowl on countertop
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Best gifts for college students: Popcorn maker

Popcorn is the perfect healthy snack and it's an easy way to satisfy those late-night munchies. College students can easily stick a bag in the microwave, but if they’re a true snacker (or just prefer to eat as healthy as possible), they’ll want to make their own. This popcorn maker is super fun and allows students to choose their serving size and how much butter and seasoning is going on it—as long as they have plenty of popcorn kernels stocked up.

Get the Cuisinart Pop and Serve Popcorn Maker at Amazon for $12.99

12. For the student who loves movies: The best way to stream

Roku streaming device next to remote.
Credit: Reviewed / TJ Donegan

Best gifts for college students: Roku

Netflix in bed is always nice, but it’s more entertaining when you can watch it on a TV screen instead of a laptop or phone. With a Roku Ultra, the best streaming device we’ve ever tested, students can upgrade whatever old TV they brought with them to college so they can watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and basically anything else. It’ll transform their dorm room into the best space for a movie night.

Get the Roku Ultra at Amazon for $92.50

13. For the student who’s studying abroad: The best checked luggage

Person sitting in airport terminal next to suitcase
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Best gifts for college students: Away luggage

If you're shopping for a student who’s about to be whisked away on a semester abroad, they're going to want the trendiest suitcase on social media. The Large Away Suitcase is the best hard-sided suitcase we’ve ever tested because not only is it completely Instagramable, but it also has plenty of packing space and a charging port for their phone. If the large is too big, Away also makes carry-ons that are great for quick getaways, such as when your student goes country hopping for the weekend.

Get the Large Away Suitcase at Away for $295

14. For the student who's always cold: A thick, warm sweater

On left, gray fleece jacket. On right, navy, pink and white knit sweater
Credit: Patagonia / Madewell

Best gifts for college students: Thick sweaters

Surviving those cold lecture halls or walking to class in the winter can easily be remedied by a thick, cozy sweater. There's a number of top-notch options out there for every kind of style. We've listed some of our favorites right below so you can choose between a stylish quarter-zip, a classic pullover or a colorful sweater. 

15. For the student who misses home: Candles that smell like home

Scent diffuser and burning candle in front of blue background.
Credit: Homesick

Best gifts for college students: Homesick candle

Whether they’re at school across the country or down the road, college students always get a bit homesick no matter what they tell you. To remind them of home, get them a candle that actually smells like their hometown. These Homesick Candles have scent profiles of different states so they can be reminded of the peaches and barbecues of North Carolina or enjoy the smells of apple-picking in Massachusetts.

Get Homesick Candles starting at $34

16. For the student who loves makeup: Glamcor Riki Skinny Mirror

LED cosmetic mirror next to makeup on countertop.
Credit: Reviewed / Jessica Kasparian

Best gifts for college students: Glamcor Riki Skinny

A lighted mirror can be game-changing for students trying on new makeup trends, taking selfies or creating their favorite TikToks. Our favorite lighted makeup mirror is the Glamcor Riki Skinny, and for good reason. This item is portable, compact and smart—it connects to your phone's Bluetooth! There are six buttons on the mirror that do everything from show you how much battery it's got left and a camera button that snaps a picture when it's connected to your giftee's smartphone. There are even modifiable lighting settings, so your giftee can decide how much brightness they need. Not to mention, there's even an attachable phone holder that'll capture those picture-perfect moments during their college years.

Get the Glamcor Riki Skinny Makeup Mirror from Amazon for $195

17 For the student tired of cleaning: Eufy 11S

Robot vacuum on floor.
Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

Best gifts for college students: Eufy 11S

The eufy Robovac 11S Slim is our favorite affordable robot vacuum on the market and it's also the perfect addition to a student's dorm room. It provides excellent suction and comes with smart navigation capabilities, so they won’t have to worry about it bumping into their desk or chair while it cleans. We also loved how it picked up around 11.6 grams of dirt per run (that's more than your average Roomba!) and that it was whisper-soft, perfect for those in-the-zone study hours. Just be careful if they've got throw rugs or mats around, as this affordable robo-vac can sometimes get caught in them. 

Get the Eufy Robovac 11S Slim Robot Vacuum from Amazon for $167.99 

18. For the tea-drinking student: The best electric kettle

Person pouring hot water from tea kettle into mug.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Best gifts for college students: Tea kettle

A cozy night in isn’t complete without a warm cup of tea. If your student loves tea but doesn’t have a stove or microwave to boil water, they’re going to want an electric kettle. Believe us, heating up water in the microwave is for peasants and you just end up burning your hand on the mug. Plus, there's nothing worse than waiting for a dormmate to finish burning their popcorn just to heat water.

Cuisinart makes our favorite electric kettle, and we love that it boils water really fast and lets you choose the temperature to boil the water to. Pretty neat and perfect for a dorm room.

Get the Cuisinart PerfecTemp Electric Kettle at Amazon for $86.40

19. For the student who loves gaming: Acer Nitro 5

Gaming laptop on desk next to plant.
Credit: Reviewed.com

Best gifts for college students: Acer Nitro 5

Whether they're taking a study break or just blowing off some steam, a gaming laptop is a must—especially as dorm rooms are too small for your kid to carry their entire gaming setup. The Acer Nitro 5 is our favorite budget gaming laptop for its bright full HD display, high frame refresh rates and decent battery life. It's on the heavier side (about five pounds) and has a clunky plastic body but at its low price point, it's definitely worth every penny. 

Get the Acer Nitro 5 from Best Buy for $719.99 

20. For the photography student: An easy way to print your best shots

White polaroid printer sitting on counter top.
Credit: Reviewed / Mike Yawney

Best gifts for college students: Portable photo printer

Everyone takes a ton of pictures for social media these days, especially students. But even if pictures don’t make it to Instagram, they still deserve to be printed out. The Polaroid Hi-Print makes it easy to print out photos straight from your phone, which is why it’s our favorite portable photo printer. Students can use it to print out some squad photos to decorate their rooms or quickly print out images for a school project.

Get the Polaroid Hi-Print at Amazon for $99.99

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