Let's face it. If you asked a random sampling of college students what they would most like to receive for their holiday gifts, you would probably get a lot of answers of “cash” and “alcohol.” And while both of these are theoretically valid holiday gifts, they aren't what most gift-givers are probably hoping to give the college students on their list.

Shopping for college students can be tough. Sure, you could buy them a movie, video game, or another form of entertainment, but with DVD prices dropping steadily and the wide availability of downloadable music (legal or otherwise), chances are good that you will just be duplicating something they already own.

It is still possible to find a holiday gift for a college student that is practical to their lifestyle, and likely to be appreciated.

Here are a few suggestions of holiday gifts that would appeal to many college students.

1. Socks

Clothes are a gift option, especially if you're the sort of parent who wants to make sure that their son or daughter looks his or her best. But the honest truth, however, is that most college students don't want clothes that their parents or other adult relatives have bought for them unless they specifically requested the item in question.

holiday socks

But what college student does like warm socks?! NYU student Cameron Stowell told The Strategist that they would love a pair of wool socks as a holiday gift. Stowell said, “SmartWool socks are so practical, and they’re comfortable. They’re the perfect pair of socks in the winter.”

2. Warm Blanket

Whether it's a comforter, quilt, or afghan, I know a few college students in most climates who wouldn't appreciate a nice warm blanket. If they live in the dorms, the heat in the building likely leaves something to be desired. It will either be too cold in their room, or the heater will make their room such an inferno that they have to keep their windows open all the way to compensate, thus creating interesting climate zones within their room.

warm blanket

Either way, having an extra blanket around can be helpful. For those college students who live off-campus, there is also a good chance that their heating situation will similarly not be perfect, and again, the extra blanket is useful. To make this gift a bit more personal, try to find a blanket that is in their favorite colors, represents a favorite sports team, or (in the case of a quilt or afghan) possesses some sort of sentimental value.

3. Small Kitchen Appliances

Space is usually at a premium for most college students, so it's best to keep anything bought relatively small, but here are a few small kitchen appliances that have been gift hits for college students:

  • Cordless Handheld Vacuum – Most college students don't own a full-size vacuum cleaner, so a small vacuum is nice to clean up small messes in a dorm car or inside the car.
  • French Press Coffee Maker – College students drink a lot of coffee, mainly for the caffeine. Pair a French press with a bag of coffee beans for a great gift idea.
  • Personal Popcorn Popper – Sure microwave popcorn bags are a great invention, but popping corn kernels in a collapsible silicone popcorn popper is so much cheaper (and usually tastes better).
  • Portable Blender – A blender and travel bottle all in one is convenient for college students to make smoothies!

4. Snack Food

If there is one thing a college student will always appreciate, it's free food. Snacks are always great because they allow for a quick and easy boost of energy, sometimes a substitute for a meal on a particularly busy day. There are a variety of prepackaged snack kits available prior to the holidays, but this is also something that you can construct on your own.

candy basket

Buy some sort of basket or tin and fill it with a variety of snack food. You can cater the types of food to the student's personal tastes: some may prefer “junk” food, while others might appreciate healthy snacks more. Either way, try to fill the container with things that can be prepared with minimal use of kitchen facilities. Even for those students who don't live in the dorms, something that can be microwaved or requires no preparation at all is quicker and easier than something which involves the use of the stove.

5. Cash, Gift Cards & Alcohol

And, of course, if all else fails, remember cash and alcohol (if they are over the legal drinking age of 21, of course). Gift cards can be an acceptable substitute for the former.

5 Holiday Gift Ideas For College Students