Coffee Talk: Let's talk college care packages, gift baskets and dorm packages - the ones I don't like and the one I love

We have a child going off to college this week, and as usual, we got the mass mailing trying to guilt us, as parents, into buying 'gift packs' to send to our kids while they are at school.

The thing is, this isn't our first kid to go off to college.  It's actually our third - so I'm not a novice at this and I know a little bit more than I did for the first kid.

The first thing they do is give you a letter with some kind of a quote from a 'student' saying how wonderful the packages are and they are SO excited to get them.  The second quote is from a 'sad' student saying how depressing it was to not receive one.    There are gift packages for 'welcome to college' followed by 'exam time' and 'Valentine's Day' and many other 'themes'.

The thing is, I already send little packages to my kids while they are at school... and they aren't the typical boxes full of half smashed Dorito's and other junk food.  Oh, I send some junk food of course, but knowing my kids personalities, I also include other items, as well as healthy foods, or homemade items they love...  along with fun new school supplies, fun socks, goofy Spiderman themed things for my son or makeup or lip balm I know my daughter likes, etc.

But getting back to the letter I got last week - this time around they tried to sucker me in with a 'freebie'.

Fill out the purple card information on the front and write a personal message to your student on the back.  Mail it in and the little 'Welcome' gift is free.  But please consider buying the other 5 gift packs.  And I did consider it.

But decided our daughter really likes her personalized gift packs from me better.  So perhaps I'd just fill out the 'free' card.

Parents name, address, email address, phone number, cell number...
Students name, school address, dorm hall, room number, cell phone number, email address, etc.

Hmmm.  That's a lot of information.  If they are going to drop them off at their rooms,  and they have their names, rooms and dorm names... why does the school need their personal  email address or even their personal phone number?  The school should already have....  wait.

These packages are not actually sent or provided by the school.

This is a fundraiser of sorts for the school - but the school gets very little money.  The bulk of the funds go to the company selling their products (the packages) - a company in New Jersey.

So by giving my child this little 'free' gift box of a couple bags of chips and some cookies - I've just sold her name, address, dorm, room number, personal email address and PHONE NUMBER.  And because we requested the package we therefore have done 'business' with the company - skirting the laws about them doing sales calls to us and our college student.  All her information can now lead to her being bombarded with marketing and sales - but also, sold to third party companies who also want to sell and market to her.

Needless to say, the card was ripped up and I went back to my original plan of sending MY OWN gift packs to my kids.

With that topic in mind, I decided to look  for some college gift packs available from Amazon.  Here are a couple full of fun foods, snacks, energy drinks and more - if you know that is what your college student likes!

Exam Time Care Package
Classic Campus Survival Kit (Small)


After having 3 kids in college, I know THIS is one of the things they not only like, but NEED.  We didn't think it would really be needed back when our oldest child was a Freshman, and we didn't purchase one.  Unfortunately, she did need one and she went out and bought her own!  When you are at college, sharing a bathroom, you will want to take your things with you.  Our oldest had to travel out of her room and down the hall to use the community bathrooms.  Our son had a shared apartment style dorm and shared a bathroom with 2 other people.  Our youngest is in her 2nd year of college and just shares her bathroom with 1 person.  But more than likely, if you leave your bath products in the bathroom, they will get used by someone else.  For poor, starving college students, that $3 bottle of shampoo is liquid gold.

  • Super lightweight bag at only 5-ounces makes for easy transport
  • Perfect for use in barracks, bathrooms, gyms, showers, swimming pools and during travel
  • Breathable polyester mesh fabric dries quickly and resists mold/mildew
  • Total of 7 storage compartments
  • Portable shower caddy is Pink with grey trim - measures: 9" h x 8" w x 6" deep

Honey-Can-Do Quick Dry Shower Tote, 7-Pocket, Blue or a ShowerMade Shower Tote

  • EXTRA LONG 20" HANGING STRAP to easily hang on faucet - BAG MEASURES 7" x 7" x 9.5" high.
  • PREMIUM QUALITY MATERIALS & DOUBLE STRENGTH STITCHING allows us to provide 2 years no questions asked GUARANTEE!!

More than junk food, and because she already has a shower caddy and supplies... THIS is the gift basket my youngest loves to get.  REAL products she needs and wants for her dorm room, but no one wants to spend their own money on!  Cleaning products and bandaids and air freshners and duct tape and more.  The mesh laundry bag they mention in the description?  From someone who knows!  My daughter learned the hard way last year that it can be embarrassing to take your wet clothes from the washer and walk to the dryer, only to find a trail of wet undies following you on the floor.  This year she has a large mesh laundry bag.  Love this gift basket!

Dorm Essentials Kit - Gift for the New College Freshman

The Dorm Essentials Kit is perfect as a high school graduation gift or to send to a freshman experiencing their first week in the dorm. Full of handy necessities such as a Dry Erase Board, the mini Survival Tool (box opener, screwdriver, wrench and ruler all in one), Dirty Roommate Tags (fun sticky notes say things like "Wash This", "Put This Away", "Gross"), a 'Wordle' Can Koozie, Dorm Tape (hang posters and other items on the wall without damage), Febreze (because sometimes dorm rooms like dirty socks and leftover pizza), Mesh Laundry Bag, Band-Aids (travel size pack), Duct Tape (tape with a 1000 uses), big Bouncy Ball Stress Reliever, and the 'Dream' mini pop open card with an inspirational quote, such as 'If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to meet it.'