Holiday Shopping Guide: College Corner

Gift Card versus Actual Present

Gift Card

For all the flak they catch as being the typically thoughtless gift, in reality gift cards are still really valuable (and not just monetarily) for recipients.

They can have personal value, as well as a dollar-amount face value, because the business from which you purchase the card is presumably a place you know the person would like to spend money.

You have to know enough about them to know that, for example, they wouldn’t use a dollar of an American Eagle gift card, but could easily use up a Banana Republic card in one visit.

And let’s face it, for college students deciding whether they’d rather forego nice meals for that new jacket, or those who love coffee but have a conscience about buying a latte every day, what could a gift card hurt?

To pick, you have to decide if you’re willing to risk appearing thoughtless to save shopping time and to give the person the choice of picking for themselves. Also, it’s important to decide how much money you want to gift to them.

Actual Present

It’s vague by nature, but in opposition to gift cards, things that are actual presents are a genre all their own.

They are the things you could see or play with in a store, or look at online. Things you can read, watch, use in your room or exchange for better things.

There are merits to these gifts. Choosing one means that, presumably, you looked through other similar things and thought this was the best one for the person. You made an effort, and knew enough about the person to guess what they would like. Whether it’s a scarf, book, toy or the newest tech gadget, it’s something you thought they would like.

Guessing what a person would like comes with its own perils, including the fact that he or she might actually hate it. If this is a concern, try to leave the tags, and just remove the price, so that the item can be returned or exchanged if need be.

To choose whether to pick a “real” gift or a gift card, you have to figure out your own abilities to choose a likeable gift, depending on a host of factors, like how well you know the person and how much time you have to shop for them.


Dial-a-Drink cocktail shaker

Sick of bland or boring mixed drinks? Give the gift of tasty mixing to your 21+ college pals. You still have to buy the ingredients to make the more complicated concoctions, but this handy mixer helps by providing the recipes and the vessel for mixing. Twist the base to a drink you want to make, and it will show you the ingredients.

Shaker, stainless steel: $19.99
From Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond

Personal filter water bottle

Even with a filter pitcher or faucet attachment back in the room, a student always on the run would appreciate a portable water filter in its own bottle. Plus, one filter claims to replace up to 150 plastic bottled waters – a good move for the environmentally conscious.

Brita water bottle plus one filter replacement pack: $18.99
From Amazon, available at other retail locations

Portable external hard drive

With all the other ways students sometimes shirk responsibility and mess up, it’s horrible to actually lose your paper instead of “losing” it. Any college student could use an external hard drive to make sure precious files are safe in case of laptop malfunctions, or to store music and movies.

Western Digital My Passport Elite, metallic blue, 320 GB: $58.02
From Amazon

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