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The Art of the College Care Package

The Art of the College Care Package

Going away to college can be a daunting experience for college students as they adjust to their new, unfamiliar surroundings. Parents can help ease the transition by sending care packages during the school year. Care packages don’t have to cost a lot, and they can be as much fun to put together and send as they are for the student to receive.They can help cure loneliness, and they create happy college memories that students will cherish for a lifetime.

Going away to college can be a daunting experience for college students. Sometimes it can be daunting for parents, as well. It is not easy to predict how well a student will adjust to the college environment, especially during freshman year. Much will depend on how students feel about their roommates, their dorms, and their classes. Some students are naturally ready for independence, and for them, there is no looking back. As a parent, you can help ease your student into the college experience, and help create fun memories: Send care packages.

First, you do not have to spend a lot of money.

The United States Post Office offers free boxes called "flat rate boxes" that are perfect for sending care packages. They are available in different sizes. A medium-size flat rate box, which is a good size for care the package costs about twelve dollars to ship.

How often should you send care packages? That, of course, is entirely up to you! You can send one at the beginning of each month, and incorporate items appropriate for the month; however, the best rule of thumb for sending care packages is "Whatever works best for you." Care packages should be as fun for you to send as they are for your student to receive.

Your local Dollar Store, Target, or Walmart can be your best friends. These stores stock inexpensive seasonal decorations that college students can use to brighten up their dorm rooms. Care package items can include:

  • instant oatmeal soups, and cocoa mix,
  • fun teas or coffee,
  • microwaveable popcorn,
  • post-it notes and highlighters,
  • homemade brownies,
  • protein bars,
  • fruit,
  • trail mix and nuts,
  • dried chip,
  • clips quarters for laundry,
  • breath mints and gum,


In an October care package, consider including a strand of whimsical Halloween lights with bats, skeletons, ghosts, or pumpkins, Halloween-themed gel cling-ons' for dorm mirrors and windows, a small pumpkin, a CD of spooky, Halloween sounds like a large poster board, Halloween monster for the dorm room door, a glow-in-the-dark skeleton to hang on a wall. Include a bag of Halloween candy that your student can share with dorm-mates-a sure way to cure loneliness!

A February care package can include Valentine's Day decorations and red items such as pens, even socks and underwear, and of course, flowers or a box of Valentine's Day candy.

A March care package can be lined with green tissue paper and filled with green items for St. Patrick's Day.

An Easter-themed box can be filled with paper Easter grass and some traditional Easter candy and decorations.

Birthday care packages can include a roll of birthday-themed crepe paper, a "Happy Birthday" sign, gift cards (small denominations are fine), wrapped gifts from you, and a batch of brownies (and some birthday-themed napkins) for sharing with friends. Some college cafeterias will even bake an affordable, personalized birthday cake for your student; check with the college to see if that is an option for you.

Consider sending a finals week care package with food items your student might enjoy during study breaks. Include an inspiring card from both parents, with your own words of encouragement for finals week.

Finally, be careful not to send too much junk food in your care packages. While it is tempting, weight problems often begin in college, where cafeteria food is not always the healthiest. In addition, college freshman seem to be especially prone to sickness-which sugary foods exacerbate. Keep the sweets to a minimum and instead include healthier food items such as nuts, dried fruit, and protein bars. And one last thing: don't ignore the roommate!

Consider including one or two small items labeled with the roommate's name, in each care package. You will make his or her day, too, and a happy roommate is a good roommate! There is no right or wrong way to put together a care package. The most important ingredients are your love and thoughtfulness. Not only do care packages express how much you care, but they also help create happy college memoriesthat your student will cherish for a lifetime.

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