Care Packages For College Students

Want to let your college student know he or she is on your mind? Send a care package. These tips will get you started.

No matter how old or mature your college student might be, there's always a good chance that he or she will adore a care package from home. It doesn't have to be ornate or cost lots of money; it just requires a little patience, some shopping, and lots of love (which you have already, of course).

Ideally, your student is making it on his or her own and won't necessarily need a case of noodles or a huge bag of rice to make it until payday. If this isn't the case, remember to take care of necessities like this first. You may not have room for all the stuffed animals and photos that you might want to pack, but they can come next time. The important thing is to make sure that your student is well-fed so he or she can succeed, especially during finals week.

THINGS FOR THE SHOPPING LIST:

-Food. This can range from your student's favorite snacks to staple items like canned goods and cooking supplies. If you're concerned about the package being heavy, or that the food will spoil, send a gift card for the grocery store instead. It's lightweight, rechargeable, and won't expire anytime soon.

-Photos of the family and friends. Even if your student has twenty million of these things in the scrapbook and on the walls, it doesn't hurt to send updated pictures. If he or she can't be home for the big picnic you had last week, send the photos. It's not quite the same as being there, but it helps remind the student that he or she is still part of the family.

-School supplies. College students can never get enough printer or notebook paper, pens, pencils, and notebooks. If you aren't sure of exactly what to send, get a gift card or ask the student what he or she prefers. It's better to get exactly what is needed than to waste money hoping it's the right thing.

-Small items to help decorate the dorm room or apartment. These can be ceramic figurines, postcards, lampshades, or other decorations. Package delicate or fragile items carefully so they won't be crunched by the time they show up at your student's door. It's also a good idea to call ahead so he or she will know to expect something from you.

-A few of the necessities of college life. Re-stock your student's personal-care supplies (toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, and the like). See if he or she needs more towels or another set of sheets. Laundry detergent never hurts either.

Note: most students still have to pump quarters into the machines to do laundry. Send a small coin purse filled with quarters. If nothing else, your student can use them in vending machines or at the video arcade.

-Any of the "little things" the student left at home, but misses now. Many students leave quite a bit of stuff behind when they move out for college. At some point, these students miss something. It could be a favorite blanket, a scrapbook, computer software, or even a throw rug. Whatever the case, try to get that item to your student; he or she will feel better knowing that it's there.



Note: this obviously requires communication with your student before you make the care package. It's a nice excuse to call him or her.

-A letter, note or card that you've personalized. We might have phone calls and e-mails, but sometimes it's nice to have an actual, written letter to read and treasure. This is especially important if it's your student's first semester away; this is when homesickness can be at its worst, so any word from you will help.

-Pre-paid phone cards were very useful in the past, but not so much anymore. Instead of sending a card that eats up tons of minutes simply to connect, make a payment on the student's cell phone. If he or she is using prepaid, send a card for it. Either way, you know you'll be able to call and get in touch with him or her (instead of hearing that annoying "not in service" recording).

-Money. Students can always use a few extra bucks for supplies, a night out to help relax and ease the stress of studying, or food. Don't send cash in this package; write a personal check or obtain a postal money order. Either way, keep the receipt and instruct the student to confirm that he or she really did receive the package, and that the money was there.

TIPS FOR PACKING:

-Make sure easily-damaged items are bubble-wrapped, or at least separated with several layers of newspaper.

-Put the heaviest items on the bottom. This is another good reason to make sure the bottom of the box is reinforced and sturdy enough to handle a long trip in various postal trucks and planes.

-Use the best box for the job. Everything should fit into it as snugly and securely as possible to prevent unnecessary jostling and rubbing.

TIPS FOR SHIPPING:

-Use a sturdy cardboard box and plenty of clear tape. Reinforce the bottom with extra tape or even an extra cardboard insert.

-Make sure you print addresses and names clearly. Use a felt-tip pen or dark marker so the writing is easy to read against the dark cardboard.

-Leave the box unsealed until you reach the post office. Depending on its size and weight, the postal employee might have to examine its contents before you can send it.

-Don't forget correct postage!

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