Gifts by Activity

12 Productive Gift Ideas for College Students They’ll Really Use

College is a circus of early morning classes, term paper deadlines, organized meetings, that minor subject that assigns more work than your majors do, and various other interests vying for attention. Trying to balance all these obligations feels like a juggler walking a tightrope to get a bachelor’s degree at the end!

Whether you’re shaking your head at all the knowledge young’uns have to stuff into their heads these days, or if you’re a fellow student yourself just trying to survive until the end of this semester, this gift guide will help you pick presents for a college student that will help them get everything sorted and increase their productivity!

How to choose gifts for a college student

They’ll be thanking you when they’re hitting all their deadlines, getting to class on time, and passing all their tests. Here are some tips for choosing presents for a college student that are 100% sure to boost productivity!

1 – Organizational

Many of the items on this list were chosen for their ability to get your college student’s life in natural order – calendars that work hard, sorting tools that make mornings go by faster, a multipurpose bag with a jillion compartments. A missing object can derail an entire day’s schedule, a forgotten exam or deadline could mean the difference between passing or failing a class. Give gifts that will keep everything in its proper place and help them keep track of time.

2 – Portable

Be mindful that your gift is a good fit for small spaces like on-campus housing or tiny apartments. A sophisticated filing system might be the last word in an organization, but if it’s bulky, it won’t serve its purpose in a crowded dorm room. For maximum mileage, go for the gift option that can be squeezed into a backpack and taken anywhere. This list, for instance, features a portable scanner instead of a big boxy one. Keep your gifts small, compact, and good to bring anywhere to win big points.

3 – Durable

College students are busy as all hell, so the last thing they’ll need is their things breaking down on them – and probably the last thing on their mind is treating them with delicate care. Expect your gift to be stuffed hurriedly into backpacks, kicked off the top bunk while asleep, or drenched in coffee after an untimely spill – and make sure it can withstand the rigors of college life!

4 – Sustainable

The youth these days don’t just look at the usefulness of a thing. They know if they wanted a certain item, there are thousands of products to choose from. They’re more discerning now about looking for stores, creators, and companies who have values consistent with theirs particularly concerning fair labor and environmental consciousness. Do your research and ensure that your present will be made from sustainable, environmentally-friendly materials.

5 – Timeless

It’s tempting to buy a college student cool, trendy gifts that will score them high popularity points. That kind of thinking is so high school, though! It’s much more grown-up to invest in gifts that will serve a purpose and won’t be thrown out next semester. Don’t worry about your gift being boring or stuffy – if it serves them through all four (or more) years of college and beyond, it will be much more worth it.

Your Guide to Productive Gifts for College Students

Below, we’ve lined up a dozen productive picks that would make practical gifts for college students!

For a pleasant start to a productive day

1 –  Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock HF3500 with Sunrise Simulation

Available from for $46.20

Science tells us sleep is regulated by a hormone called melatonin, which is supposed to decrease in the mornings as we’re exposed to sunlight. You’ll be more refreshed in the mornings if you leave the blinds open and wake to gradual exposure to sunlight, as opposed to a jarring transition from a pitch-dark room to a fully-lit one. That’s part of what puts you in a lousy mood within moments of waking.

But what about windowless dorm rooms or places where it’s just wiser to leave the curtains shut? Here’s where the Philips HF3500 Wake-Up Light kicks us off. The Philips HF3500 Wake-Up Light simulates sunrise by gradually filling the room with yellow light thirty minutes before your scheduled alarm time. By the time your alarm goes off, your eyes will have gotten accustomed to the change in light. Your body will be primed to wake up gently and comfortably, ready for the day ahead. Waking up naturally is one less reason to detest the mornings!

The Philips HF3500 Wake-Up Light also works as a bedside lamp, with ten adjustable brightness settings to suit your needs.


  • Clinically-proven light therapy lamp and alarm clock
  • Yellow light with 10 settings up to 200 lux
  • The light simulation begins 30 minutes before the alarm
  • Tap-to-snooze alarm clock (snooze lasts for 9 minutes)
  • No replacement light bulb needed
  • Cool to touch – safe for children
  • Large, easy to read LED display
  • No assembly, simply plug and go
  • Pleasant, natural bird song alarm (plays for 1 1/2 minutes)
  • Dimensions:5 x 7.2 x 7.2 inches
  • Weight: 1.15 pounds


  • Proven easy to use by users
  • Has adjustable light dimming and screen dimming options


  • No backup power source; if the power goes out while you’re asleep, the system will reset and the clock won’t ring to wake you
  • No adjustment for volume and the alarm can be very loud!

For smart note-taking

2 – Moleskine SmartWriting System (with Notebook and Smart Pen)

Available from Amazon for $199.00

Moleskine’s Smart Writing System brings your college student the best of both notetaking worlds – the familiarity and comfort of traditional note-taking with pen and paper, the absolute ease of digitized, ready-to-share notes!

Writing on the Moleskine Paper Tablet encodes your notes on the Moleskine Pen+ using Ncoded paper technology. The Moleskine Notes app then saves what you’ve written on paper in digital form, sparing you hours of typing and taking you straight to formatting, editing and sharing your notes. Other features include uploading to your email address or cloud (compatible with Google Drive and Evernote, quickly searching through your text using keywords, and syncing recorded audio with your notes.

With the ability to rapidly organize written text, drawings, and related audio, you’ll be saving your college student hours and hours of time, and replacing it with sky-high study productivity!



  • Moleskine Pen+ digital smartpen
  • Moleskine Paper Tablet with encoded dotted paper
  • Smartpen USB charging cable
  • Pen tip ink refill (1)
  • User manual
  • Paper Tablet sheet size: 5 x 11 inches
  • Pen+ Point type: Medium
  • Requires 1 lithium polymer battery.
  • Shipping Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight:2 ounces


  • Incredibly convenient note-taking
  • The app is compatible with both Apple and Android systems


  • Pen pressure detection issues may arise; make sure you write with a firm hand so the pen will pick up the dots on the paper!

For smooth workdays, five days a week

3 – 5 Days a Week Paper Mousepad

Available from Knock Knock Stuff for $10.00

There are so many different options college students have to keep track of their days – planners and desktop calendars come to mind. The thing is, these trackers take up space on their desk, which is already bound to be cluttered with books, papers, cups of coffee, and a computer and its accouterments.

Save on desktop real estate with Knock Knock Stuff’s 5 Days a Week Paper Mouse Pad! This way they can keep the week’s progress permanently visible on your desk, while also doing away with cumbersome mouse pads that take up space but don’t do anything else. Users can also save on planner space in their bag by tearing off the page and carrying it around with you all week. At the end of the week, just flip or tear off the page and start productivity all over again!


  • 60 sheets
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 8 inches


  • A real space-saver: you can see your schedule in front of you and save on a mousepad in one go


  • Some mouses might not run well over it

For the only friend they’ll need in their bed

4 – Linenspa Shredded Foam Reading Pillow

Available from Amazon for $39.99

Here’s the perfect cuddle buddy for those of us who like to read and do work in bed instead of at a proper study table!

The Linenspa reading pillow is ingeniously designed to hold you keep your college student comfortable as they take their work to bed. The pillow is stuffed with shredded foam instead of polyester, which improves airflow, so the pillow holds its shape better. No annoying lumps or shifting stuffing here! A handle on top allows for portability and shaking in between uses to fluff the foam up again.

The Linenspa reading pillow is shaped with a supportive base for the lower back, to prevent slouching and plump arm supports for the elbows as they prop their material up to read.

The Linenspa reading pillow comes covered in soft plush velour in tasteful, subdued colors – despite its bulk, it won’t be an eyesore in any dorm bed.


  • Filled with shredded foam for optimal airflow and support
  • Covered with soft velour
  • Features plump arm supports for maximum comfort
  • Includes a carry handle for easy transport
  • Dimensions: 22 x 8 x 8 inches
  • Weight:3 pounds


  • Very supportive
  • Holds its shape well


  • Can be bulky to store
  • Takes a couple of days to get it to its final shape
  • Not one-size-fits-all

For maximum reach

5 – Anker PowerLine 10-Foot Double-Braided Nylon Lightning Cable (for iPhones)

Available from Amazon for $17.99

College students in the digital age live a lifestyle that’s always on the go yet constantly plugged in. That can be hard to do in student lounges, classrooms, or coffee shops where there’s a shortage of conveniently placed outlets. This Anker PowerLine Lightning Cable makes a perfect gift! It reaches up to 10 feet long when unraveled, so they’re comfortable and securely plugged in even if the outlet is located on the other side of the room.

Give the gift of the “Anker Advantage” with this heavy-duty charger cable for Apple devices. Anker prides itself on lasting six times longer than a regular charger cable, featuring external reinforcement with double-braided nylon, reinforced stress points, laser-welded connectors, and a tough aramid fiber core for end-to-end protection.

The Anker PowerLine cable is built to withstand stretching, twisting, and tugging. It comes with a hook-and-loop cable tie to keep the extra-long cable from chaotically unraveling while in a bag, or to keep it at a manageable length when charging.

The Anker PowerLine Lightning Cable is certified safe by Apple for use across all their devices.


  • Reinforced stress points with a 6000+ bend lifespan
  • Double-braided nylon exterior, toughened aramid fiber core, and laser-welded connectors
  • Hook-and-loop cable tie for easy transport and length adjustment
  • 18-month warranty and friendly customer service.
  • Certified safe by Apple

Compatible devices:

  • iPhone 7/7 Plus 6s / 6s Plus / 6 / 6 Plus / 5s / 5c / 5,
  • iPad Air / Air 2, iPad mini / mini 2 / mini 3 / mini 4, iPad (4th generation),
  • iPod nano (7th generation)
  • iPod touch (5th generation)
  • Dimensions:1 x 0.4 x 0.2 inches
  • Weight: 08 ounces


  • Sturdy make and convenient length
  • Excellent customer service by Anker for repairs and replacements


  • Exclusively for Apple devices
  • Does not come with an adaptor

For everything, a proper place

6 – Mele &Co. Rory Charging Station

Available from Urban Outfitters for $54.00

“A place for everything, and everything in its place” isn’t just something parents say when they’re nagging you to clean your room. For a busy college student who has to keep track of their keys, wallet, watch, various cards, phone, and phone charger, misplacing any of these essentials can throw off their whole day and bring productivity to a screeching halt.

Minimize these episodes with this tasteful accessories organizer and charging station made by Mele & Co. It features different-sized compartments for all the essentials. One compartment has a lift lid for storing valuables like jewelry beneath it. Two smaller compartments feature removable padded cushions for watches and bracelets. The long, high-backed compartment works well for leaning up gadgets like phones and even large tablets and comes with a hole for your charger cord to pass through as well.

This gift will help your college student keep everything in the right place – and in one place! – and save them precious time and energy.


  • Materials: Suede, fabric, wood
  • Care instructions: Spot clean
  • Dimensions: 10.75 x 9.5 x 3 inches


  • Looks elegant and works hard – a hard-to-beat combination
  • Easy to clean


  • Not waterproof
  • May be a bit pricey

For no-mess mornings

7 – Bathroom Organizer (with Flat Iron, Curling Iron, Hair Dryer, and Brush and Comb Holders) by Twin Mountain Collections

Available from Etsy for $51.35

Tiny bathrooms and vanities tend to get cluttered easily, especially when you’re rushing to book it outta there to get to class on a busy Monday morning!

Help your college student free up some space with this gorgeous handmade bathroom organizer by Twin Mountain Collections on Etsy. It features pegs to cradle a flat iron and curling iron, as well as dedicated slots for a hair dryer, brushes, and combs.  The woodworking is made from real pine, no artificial wooden veneers that’ll peel off after a steamy shower.

Store hairstyling tools vertically to save on real estate on the bathroom counter or vanity. Make their morning routine a breeze (instead of a hurricane that seemingly devastated the bathroom)!


  • Material: Authentic honey-stained pine (no plywood, no wood veneers)
  • Handcrafted item

Features pegs and slots for:

  • Flat Iron: hooks up to 2.50 inches
  • Curling Iron: hooks up to 1.50 inches
  • Hair Dryer: opening diameter up to 2.50 inches
  • Brushes: up to 1 -1 3/8 inches
  • Comb: 1/4 x 1 3/4 inches
  • Specialty Comb Holder: 5/8 x 1 7/8 inches
  • Overall dimensions: 7 x 23 x 5 inches


  • Beautiful workmanship
  • A valuable space-saver in the bathroom


  • Dedicated for use with specific items, will be hard to repurpose for other uses
  • Not adjustable if your items don’t fit

For all their big plans

8 – Wall Calendar Chalkboard Decal (with Liquid Chalk Markers and Eraser)

Available from Amazon for $26.77

Big plans, big tests, big deadlines, big college parties, big dates – big dreams deserve a big space! Keep your college student on pace for all their big days with this giant chalkboard wall calendar decal. The daily squares measure 4 x 4 inches for tasks, deadlines, appointments, while the free space panel on the side is perfect for miscellaneous notes and reminders.

The decal comes in two separate pieces – the calendar and the free space – for easy mounting on smooth walls. You can even trim the free space board down into smaller pieces for a customized setup. The package includes a pack of four chalk markers in neon colors that contrast wonderfully with the black background so your college student can start planning as soon as the calendar is mounted. The calendar wipes clean with the included eraser.

Post this giant chalkboard wall calendar decal up on their workspace to remind them constantly of their deadlines and important dates. Alternatively, post it in a communal space to share with their roommates. Assign each roomie a colored marker and keep everyone on pace towards their goals!


For the last word in school bags

9 – Aer Gym Duffel 2

Available from Aer for $170.00

It’s not a college gift ideas list if it doesn’t recommend a proper school bag! Our pick is Aer’s Gym Duffel 2. The Gym Duffel 2 is basically a gym bag with compartments for your laptop and school gadgets – while still looking dressy and sophisticated. It’s designed to take you everywhere from the most formal of student halls to getting down and dirty at the gym.

The Aer Gym Duffel 2 features a spacious main compartment for your gym or school things, a separate shoe compartment, a designated laptop pocket, a compartment for your clean clothes, and two water bottle pockets (one inside and another outside.) Also pockets. Pockets on the inside for your smaller things. An outer pocket to keep your essentials within easy reach. Lots of pockets.

Reviews have deemed it “some of the strongest options around” (Everyday Carry) and “perfect for commuters” (Wired). The Gym Duffel 2 is comfortable to carry thanks to its padded shoulder straps and carry handles. Its exterior is made from 1680D Cordura® ballistic weave nylon – was originally developed for use as military body armor. As such, it’s incredibly durable, tear and puncture-proof, and water resistant. Save time on switching bags in the middle of the day, or when the weather changes, this is the only bag your college student will need for the next four years.


  • Material: 1680D Cordura® ballistic nylon exterior, YKK® Japanese zippers, Duraflex® plastic hardware
  • Colors: Black, navy, gray
  • Ventilated, spacious main compartment
  • Ventilated shoe compartment (fits up to men’s size 13 shoes)
  • Padded laptop pocket (fits up to 15.6” laptop)
  • Separate compartment for clean clothes
  • Quick-access front pocket for small valuables
  • Multiple internal pockets
  • Padded, adjustable shoulder strap
  • Dual grip handles for versatile carrying
  • Exterior and interior water bottle pocket
  • Dimensions: 19 x 13 x 11 inches
  • Capacity:4 L
  • Weight: 1 pounds


  • Roomy and easy to organize
  • Actually looks more like a professional work bag than a gym bag


  • Can be bulky when packed with too much stuff

For a paperless, clutter-less home

10 – Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100 Wireless Mobile Scanner for Mac and PC

Available from Amazon for $189.99

There’s a crazy amount of papers to keep track of in college – reviewers, receipts, references, pictures, documents…meanwhile, storing these documents creates clutter at home, and photocopying papers means waste produced and thousands of trees chopped down.

Introduce your college student to a paperless lifestyle with the Fujitsu ScanSnap portable scanner! This scanner is a stand-alone Wi-Fi device – no need to have a computer on hand for every use. The Fujitsu ScanSnap sends the scanned documents straight to the user’s desktop or cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, or Evernote) so scans can immediately be accessed on any device.

To make things even more convenient, the Fujitsu ScanSnap converts scanned papers into searchable PDFs or even Microsoft Word or Excel files. Automated image processing also allows for cropping and aligning of images, and even stitching two images together.


The Fujitsu ScanSnap scans at 600dpi in just five seconds and can scan up to over 200 documents in one go.


  • Optical resolution of up to 600 dpi
  • Capable of a full-page colored scan in 5.2 seconds
  • Can scan up to 260 documents on a full charge
  • Scans directly to your desktop or cloud drive (integrated with Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, and more)
  • USB rechargeable battery

ScanSnap specific driver:

  • Windows: Does not support Twain/ISIS,
  • Mac OS: Does not support Twain
  • Dimensions:8 x 1.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Weight: 14 ounces


  • Simple and easy to use
  • Portable and small
  • Excellent image quality


  • May have battery life issues after extended use

For faster, more productive research

11 – Safari Books Online Subscription

Available from O’Reilly Media starting at $39.99

Safari Books Online is a book resource by O’Reilly Media and Pearson Education, featuring an electronic library of about 10,000 books sorted into the following categories: Technology Collection (programming, operating systems, network administration), Creative Professional Collection (graphic design, web development, photography, film), Business Collection (marketing, finance, management), and Personal Enrichment.

Gift your college student with full access to the entire library year-round, or go on the Ten-Slot Bookshelf option, which offers ten books a month and tokens to download individual chapters of selected books – perfect for one-off papers where you only need a certain chapter of a book you will never pick up again.

Safari Books Online offers a neat function where you can search the text of all the books in their library for your needed phrase – increase productivity by cutting down on search time!  Buying print books from the library while subscribed to Safari Books Online will also lead to discounts.

While nothing can replace public or school libraries, it’ll be handy for your college student to have the breadth of their knowledge right from their phone or computer – just in case.


Full features for individual plan include:

  • Live Online Training
  • Unlimited Books
  • Unlimited Video Courses
  • Unlimited Audio Books
  • Unlimited Conference Talks
  • Unlimited Rough Cuts
  • Notes, Syncing, and Highlights
  • Personalized Recommendations
  • Online and Phone Support
  • iOS/Android App

View all plans here.


  • Both plans give great value for money; the Ten-Slot Bookshelf plan will be great for students needing changing resources for college papers every semester


  • The system’s interface and customer support could use some work

For productivity AND fun all-year-round

12 – Trendy Memo Monthly Subscription

Available from Crate Joy starting at $34.99

College is a time for pens and binder clips, clipboards and file folders, and cheerful notebooks that get you psyched for learning. Trendy Memo’s (formerly MemOh Box) subscription box service makes studying more of joy by sending you supplies that brighten your day instead of making another biochemistry or history module feel like a chore. This gift is geared towards anyone who likes hip and trendy school supplies!

Receive surprise items regularly ranging from rose gold steel office supplies, nutritious snacks, lunch containers, charm pens, scented candles, notebooks and notepads, and pouches and pencil cases. The items come in a sturdy cardboard box, enclosed with an informational card detailing its contents. On the back of the card is a template for ticking off your priorities for the month ahead so you can use your supplies to get to your goals!

Trendy Memo subscription boxes are delivered on a monthly or quarterly basis to keep the fun going all year round!


  • Includes 4-6 unique and useful items in every monthly box; 5-7 items in every quarterly box
  • Items may range from office supplies, desk accessories, beauty products, healthy snacks, relaxation aids, and more
  • Ships to select countries from the USA between the 1st and 5th of the month


  • Box includes truly useful items
  • If ever the recipient can’t find a use for some items, they have excellent regifting value


  • Items included may have quality and consistency issues

A grand balancing act

This gift guide features presents for college students that aren’t just geared to increase productivity but are also organizational, compact, sturdy, sustainable, and long-lasting.

It may not feel like much, but a carefully-considered gift could change the game for them as they plow through piles of paperwork and trudge through exam after exam. Through your productivity-centered presents, you can give them something solid that they can rely on in the grand balancing act that is college life.


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