It's birthday gift selection time again for the college student in your life but he hasn't dropped a single hint. Looks like you're on your own, but it will help to consider what Hendrix College senior Marli Kaufmann of Weaverville, California discovered after surveying 1,000+ classmates in 2005: material gifts--like iPods, cash and department store cards are always welcome--but an impressive number of students answered, "We want to be surprised." Take that as your challenge to come up with something so clever you may never again look for carefully dropped gift hints.
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Food Cards and Gifts
At first blush, a gift card may not seem like the most inventive idea on the planet, but that's because your mind immediately heads for big box stores, boutiques and chains. Boost the appeal of the card by making it a meaningful one: find out which pizzeria is closest to campus and buy certificates for several pies, give the health-minded student a grocery card for an organic market or store or purchase several seasons worth of fruit in advance from growers so regardless of the time of year, your student has a supply of pears, apples or peaches to counteract the chips and sweets.
Survival Basket Gift
Students experience sticker shock when they move to campus and realise that they're on the hook for everyday staples. Gift wrap a basket full of basics so the birthday boy can save his cash for more important things---like beer. Bundle up band-aids, antibacterial salve, muscle pain relief cream, foot soother, aspirin, cough drops, a freezer compress, toothache medication and the other personal aids that always appeared, as if by magic, in the family medicine cabinet back home.
Event Ticket Gifts
Head for the birthday girl's college website to see what's on tap for the upcoming entertainment season on campus. Search headliners, dates and prices. Choose an event the student would likely attend if she weren't living on a budget and then order two tickets to the concert or show. Add some movie tickets if you haven't used up your birthday gift budget on the event tickets. Mail the entertainment tickets to the celebrant tucked into a supply of microwave popcorn.
Students spend lots of time with their heads in textbooks and rarely think about extra-curricula reading, which is why a couple of magazine subscriptions for the sporting, entertainment or computer magazines they read and love back home offers a full year of reading pleasure sent to the dorm room. Pick a couple of the student's favourites, purchase the most recent issues of each, roll them up and insert them into a mailing tube. Include a note that says subscriptions have been ordered so they know to look for the arrival of upcoming issues. If you've used a big mailing tube, fill up the empty space with wrapped treats so the mailer is also a little party.
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