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The Best DIY Collage Care Package: 7 Things You Need to Include

Kimberly Hirsch

September 20, 2022

8 minutes

Would you believe it if I told you that 94% of all college undergraduates experience some form of homesickness in their first semester after college move in? That’s right, longing for home affects almost every single college kid to some degree in the first ten weeks of college.  

When I heard this statistic, the mom in me wanted to immediately drive to campus to pick up her homesick child. But the other part of me realized that feeling a little separation anxiety is a completely normal part of the college experience.

While I don’t advise giving up your kid’s dorm and letting him commute after a few weeks of missing home, I do suggest helping to ease his homesickness by bringing a little bit of home to him in the form of a cozy college care package.

It even sounds cute, right?

What is a College Care Package?  

It's a box filled with lots of goodies that a college student would enjoy. Most college kids don't have the money to buy extra things they might want or need, so to some, a care package is like an extra birthday gift for no reason at all.

Some online companies will package up a charming, store-bought basket of random stuff. For some, those convenient services work just fine. One click, and you're done!

These types of care packages seem a tad impersonal. That--and I'm a glutton for DIY projects! A custom-made box from home (filled with stuff he will actually use) is more meaningful than anything found nicely bundled in a fancy basket on a website. What's better? It can be simple to make and much more practical. So, let's get right down to it.

What Should Go in a College Care Package?

I like to pick 7 items. It’s an idea that I have been using every Christmas to fill up my kids’ Christmas stockings for as long as I can remember. It's a tradition I have used for my Littles and have adapted now for my Bigs. Also works great for birthdays, other holidays, and now—for a sweet college care package. The best part is that the idea can be recycled throughout the year and interpreted how you want.  

How it Works:

Include one item from each of the 7 categories below. Your items do not need to cost much.

Let me repeat that.

Your items do not need to cost much!

Most items that I include are $10 or less. If I put too much thought into anyone item or spend too much time or money, I dread the thought of sending care packages at all. Then they sit all dusty on my "to-do" list and never actually get done. My advice to you is to keep it simple and inexpensive. Most importantly, don't look on Pinterest for ideas that will take forever to get done (unless you want to!).

Item #1- Something They Want

No one knows your kiddo quite like you do! What are some of his favorite things? Peek in his Amazon shopping cart (which most likely you already share) to see what’s on his list of “wants”. For me, this tends to be the most expensive of the 7 items in the package. Some ideas might be:

·        Favorite sweets or snacks

·        Dorm room décor (A tapestry or string lights are timeless and fill a room with character.)

·        A room diffuser with essential oils

·        Teas or coffee-pods

·        A portable appliance (Like a blender or single-cup coffeemaker.)

Item #2- Something They Need

Don’t feel the need to spend big here! What is he running low on in the dorm? What would help with study time? Daily living? Here’s a good start:

·        Nice Pens

·        A battery pack or long charger for his cell phone

·        A cool planner

·        Dry shampoo

·        Earplugs

·        Dorm room storage

·        First aid kit (Because moms always think of these things!)

Item# 3- Something to Wear

While you probably haven’t picked out his clothes in years, you can always think outside the box on this one!

·        Warm socks

·        A high school alumnus hoodie

·        Dorm slippers

·        Shower sandals

·        A college beanie (Check out the campus store after college move in,)

·        Handmade scarf

Item #4- Something to Read  

Let’s be honest…he probably has plenty to read at college already. Consider adding one of the following:

·        A non-academic best-seller (Here's a great list of books for college students.)

·        A magazine

·        A book light for reading

·        A bookmark with a funny saying

·        A favorite quotation, or mantra, framed to read each day before he leaves the dorm

Item #5- Something to Do  

College life has plenty of downtime and you know the saying about idle hands? Well, let's keep them busy! Here are a few ideas that can be a big hit:

·        Silly card games

·        A step tracker

·        A yoga ball

·        Craft kits

·        A new journal

Item #6- Something from Me

Cue in the sappy, sentimental card…kidding! You don't need to be sappy at all (unless that's your thing). Just something simple that screams “Love, Mom” will do.  

·        Food delivery gift cards

·        A lucky charm

·        Vitamins (a daily reminder to be healthy!)

·        A homemade treat (Read here first about how to safely send homemade treats in the mail.)

Item #7- Something from the Family

Let the rest of the family be involved in the fun too. Let them help by including a little something from each of them or a collective something from everyone (even the family pet!). Can you think of an inside joke that might invoke happy memories of home? If so, include it! I remember in college being sent an old home video of my sisters and me. Of course, I didn't dare share it with my roommates but it made me smile and gave me something to watch when I was feeling homesick. Or you might consider one of these:

·        A quick note from each member of the family

·        A family picture in an eclectic frame

·        A travel mug with a family picture

·        A photobook with pictures of the family

·        A photo puzzle (Check out the ones on Snapfish)

Whatever You Do, DO NOT:

Spend too much money on each item. Your college kiddo will come to expect big ticket items regularly. The idea is to ease homesickness, not go broke.

Send junk. Trinkets and silly gag gifts will clutter his small dorm room and be a waste. Choose your 7 items wisely and be practical.

Overdo it on junk food. College kids are notorious for eating junk food and there's no need to add to it. One junk food item in a care box plenty!

Include heavy or large items. You'll be shipping everything together in a box and you don't want to spend more money on the shipping than the actual items. Keep each item small and lightweight. You may consider having one main, larger item, but keep everything else smaller.

Hand deliver. Give him some space at college and send it in the mail.

When is a Good Time To Send the Care Package?

There are many times throughout the year that he may need a pick-me-up. He will likely be fully stocked and busy navigating the new semester in September but come October or Early November, feelings of homesickness are starting to settle in. Cue the college care package! Then when December hits, just before finals, a “good luck” care package is just what he might need as another little nod from home. Birthdays, holidays, sick days (because you know those college kids SHARE everything!), "I aced my bio exam" celebration, or any little milestone can be used as an excuse to send a little something special. If you’re like me you might even look at your calendar and schedule them into your planner now.

What’s the Best Way to Send a Care Package?  

Walking into the post office with a 50-pound package can be pricey. Going in unprepared can be even pricier! I recently discovered Pirateship for shipping needs. You can set up a free account in minutes and compare shipping options before you go. Equip yourself with a cheap scale and some measuring tape. This scale is one of my favorites. It will come in handy later if you use a ship to school or a college moving company service.  

Find an unused, sturdy box that will fit your items. I like to wrap each item in tissue paper or bubble wrap to make them fun to open and keep them safe in transit. Don't forget to fill in any space with crumpled paper or recycle the little air pillows inside your Amazon packages (I always save that stuff to reuse!). Then when you're ready, you can pay for and print the postage right from home and skip the lines completely. It's been a total lifesaver for me and the frugal me knows I am getting the best rate possible for shipping.  

A Final Thought

College care packages don’t have to require a lot of work. Pick your seven items and start a new tradition in those first ten weeks after college move in, when homesickness is at its peak. Resist the urge to add trinkets and gifts that will clutter his dorm room. Instead, opt for things you know he will use. Don't lavish him with expensive gifts, instead be practical so that you can repeat the tradition over and over again throughout the year when it might be needed the most. Remember your goal here is not to shower him with gifts. Your goal should be to ease his homesickness with a sweet little reminder of home.  

Do you send your college child care packages after college move in and throughout the year? What are some of your favorite items to send? We'd love to hear!

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