You’re looking for a great gift for the college guy in your life. But you’re not sure what to get.
It’s his first time living on his own and away from home. He’s working hard to do well in classes. And also exploring new ways to have fun with friends. You want to show him your love and support. And get him a gift he’ll love and use!
I’ve worked with college students for over 10 years. And my nephews are away at college now and recently had a birthday! So it seemed like the perfect time to enlist their help to come up with a gift guide for college guys. Even hallmates chipped in with opinions and ideas about the most practical, fun and sought after items.
Good news! I’ve got you covered if you’re having a hard time finding the right gift for a college boy. Whether you’re shopping for the holiday season or a birthday, you’ll find ideas for clothes and shoes he’ll love. Plus, tech gadgets to make life easier. And games for having fun with friends. And, of course, stuff for his room and apartment that he’ll love to find wrapped up in a box.
On a college student’s budget, there’s nothing more fun than getting small or big gifts of all the things he can’t afford to buy for himself.
Let’s go shopping for gifts!
The 61 best gifts for college boys in 2022
A vest is a great option. It’s perfect for trekking across campus. It’ll keep his core warm, but he won’t get overheated and sweaty. Patagonia is a brand that’s well-loved for its environmental sustainability and durability. He can layer this with a sweatshirt or hoodie underneath if he needs a little extra warmth on a super cold day.
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North Face jacket
A good jacket will take him on new outdoor adventures and get him through walks to class on the coldest, windiest, or wettest of days. College kids love an insulated jacket from North Face. It’s the best jacket ever. It’s lightweight and warm and will last him for years and years.
Champion hooded sweatshirt
A staple item. This mid-weight hooded sweatshirt has a soft brushed interior and is a good quality cotton-poly blend. It’s double-stitched to last and one he will keep forever. The mid-weight is perfect for walking to class or jogging outside. He won’t get overheated and can layer it with a vest over top for super cold days. They also have a sweatshirt without a hood, if he prefers that.
These are the quintessential college sweatpants he’ll want to live in. Made with mid-weight soft flannel cotton-poly fleece with a brushed interior. They are made with extra stitching to be durable over time. The elastic waist has an interior drawstring and classic side pockets.
Sports jerseys are easy to throw on for game days or just a night out. A jersey becomes a go-to talking point and a conversation starter when meeting new people. Choose one for his favorite team or player. For football, consider Tom Brady. For basketball, Steph Curry. For soccer, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Buy them online from his university bookstore or the team shop of his favorite sports team.
College or University Sweatshirts
A go-to staple of college life when you’re rolling out of bed rushing to class. Get him a nice one from his college or university bookstore website. Consider getting the one he can’t quite afford on his college student budget. If he follows the school’s sports teams, he’ll love having the university’s colors to wear to the games.
Nike Air Force 1 Sneakers
Sneakers are essential. He’ll wear them for everything from going to class, studying, working, and going out with friends. You’ll see this classic, anything but basic, white leather tennis shoe everywhere on a college campus.
Nike Dunks Sneakers
Nike Dunks Sneakers are super popular with college guys. There are several styles and colors to choose from.
Nike Air Jordan’s
Nike Air Jordan 4’s are still pretty popular. If your son is a fan of Michael Jordan or is a basketball player or athlete, this may be his tennis shoe of choice. Also check out the Air Jordan 1’s (pictured below). These are the high tops that are iconic and legendary tennis shoes that’ve been popular for years.
New Balance tennis shoes
New Balance tennis shoes have also been around forever as a running shoe. But they’ve become more popular with college guys more recently for their comfort. They have classic vintage style sneakers and more colorful options.
Converse are still in high demand too. Good old classic Chuck Taylors are still holding a spot as a go-to shoe.
White Nike socks
Is it possible to have too many socks when you’re a college guy? The more you have, the longer you can put off doing laundry. White Nike tube socks are so popular with the younger set that they’ve even drifted into my social media feed.
If his college campus gets cold, windy and rainy, a knit cap will get him out the door and off to class. It’s an absolute essential. You’ll see Carhartt beanies everywhere on a college campus.
North Face Jester 27.5L Backpack
A backpack is a practical gift that he’ll use every day at college. This is a super hardy backpack that’s well-loved. With plenty of room for a 15-inch laptop in the padded laptop sleeve, it has exterior side pockets that hold a 32-ounce Hydroflask.
Cool Student 15-inch Jansport Backpack
This is a classic bag option that has over 10,000 5-star ratings on Amazon. It has several front zippered pockets and space for a water bottle. Owners swear that these backpacks are durable and hold up over time.
Fjallraven Kanken Classic Kanken backpack
Walk across campus and you’ll see the Fjallraven Kanken Classic Kanken backpack everywhere. It has a main zippered compartment that easily fits a laptop. And a front zippered pocket and two open side pockets. It’s made from water-resistant material that easily wipes clean. For an extra cost, get one with a designated 15-inch laptop compartment.
Patagonia’s Black Hole Pack
Patagonia’s Black Hole Pack is a best seller. The padded laptop pocket fits most 15-inch laptops. It has a large main zippered compartment and large front and top pockets. Plus, a woven side pocket for a water bottle. Padded straps and a sternum strap make it comfortable to carry.
Nike Brasilia Backpack
The Nike Brasilia Backpack has a big main compartment and a laptop pocket with a separate sleeve just for your laptop. There’s also a pocket to stash small items and a side pocket for water bottles and energy bars. It has over 2,500 five-star ratings on Amazon. And people rave about how sturdy and durable it is.
Carhartt water-repellent backpack
If he’s in a wet climate, go for a waterproof backpack. Carhartt makes a cool water-repellent backpack that has it all. A padded 15-inch laptop sleeve, 2 zippered front pockets, mesh side pockets and padded shoulder straps. This one has over 5,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.
Wallet or money clip
A simple leather wallet is always a good idea. But also consider the Ridge wallet. It’s a minimalist wallet that fits easily in the front pocket and is exceptionally slim while holding up to 12 cards. It has over 23,000 5-star reviews. Reviewers call it “epic” for how small, lightweight and non-bulky it is to fit in the pocket. They come with the option of a cash strap or money clip or both.
Hidden Slot Phone Case
The easy way to carry cash, a credit card and student ID is without a doubt on his phone. This hidden slot case holds 3 cards and cash. It’s compatible with a wireless charger, when the case is removed. This gets 5-star ratings and is superior to the standard hidden slot phone case because it’s so easy to use, well made and durable. Select the model that’s the perfect match for his phone.
The Apple Watch is a great way for him to feel like he’s still connected when he wants to be away from his phone. Like when he’s going to the gym and lifting weights or playing basketball. He can still workout and listen to music using AirPods. But he doesn’t have to always have the cellphone in his hands. The Apple Watch also encourages and tracks daily movement and exercise with a screen that displays how close he is to meeting his daily goals.
If he’s trying to study, he can put the cell phone away and configure only the most important notifications to come through on the Apple watch. That can lead to better time management because reading a simple text message doesn’t lead to mindless scrolling on social media.
Apple watch band
This stainless steel watch band looks great, is super comfortable and has good value for the money. It’s also adjustable when you follow the instructions and use the kit included.
Speakers are important if he wants to stream music from any device. If he streams television on his laptop, pairing it with speakers to watch movies or a game elevates the whole experience.
This JBL Charge 4 wireless portable Bluetooth speaker has an audio jack and Bluetooth and has “amazing” and “fantastic sound” quality. The JBLXtreme2 is a bit of a splurge but has over 12,000 4.5 star ratings on Amazon.
Spikeball is a lawn game that’s “massive” at every university. It’s a cross between volleyball and four square and is a guaranteed good time. When I worked at the local university, I always saw a group of guys playing Spikeball on the quad. He can play it at the beach, tailgating or at a field party. Give him a ball pump too if you buy the linked set. It’s not included and he’ll need it to pump up the balls.
Cornhole is another lawn game where you toss bean bags into a hole. This cornhole set is well-loved and the perfect size for tailgates, field parties or the beach.
Catan Board Game
This is a super engaging and fun strategy game for a chill night hanging out with friends. The goal is to settle, build, and develop the isle of Catan. This board game has over 31,000 5-star ratings and is the perfect gift idea if he loves board games.
Walk across any college campus and it’s super common to see students studying, reading or napping in a hammock they’ve strung up between two trees. Laying in a hammock is great for reducing stress and getting out in nature. This one will fit easily in his backpack. It’s a thoughtful gift if he loves to camp but doesn’t love sleeping on the ground.
A poker game is a good excuse to get together for a night of banter and friendly competition. This set is one of the best gifts if he loves playing cards. It includes 2 decks of playing cards, a spinning carousel and chips.
Tossing the football is the perfect way to blow off some steam between classes on the quad. Or to throw around during a football tailgate or field party. This is also great to include in a college care package.
When he has a basketball, he can head into any college gym or outdoor basketball court and get a pick-up game of basketball going for fun and exercise.
It’s a great idea for him to have a backup pair of iPhone AirPods. They’re easy to lose, but also vital to life. He’ll wear them walking to class, working out, on Zoom calls and for virtual class sessions. These come with a charging case.
Everything Apple Gift Card
Not sure what Apple supplies he wants and needs? Get him an Apple Gift Card you can wrap up for him. Available in increments of $50 to $200. He can use them for an iPad, AirPods, Apple Watch, iPhone, MacBook, iCloud and accessories. The gift card is used for purchases at Apple stores or the App stores.
If he gets annoyed by AirPods falling out of his ears when he’s working out, or prefers actual headphones, this is a great alternative. These wireless Bluetooth headphones have noise cancellation, great sound quality, up to 40 hours of battery life, and charge quickly.
If he’s living in his first apartment, this is one of those gifts that he probably really wants and would love to get as a gift since they cost a bit of money. Essential for watching movies, sporting events and video gaming. Choose a Smart TV that will easily work with all of his devices.
The Roku replaces cable boxes to stream video and audio through wireless internet for a very affordable price. It’s more affordable than cable and gives access to free TV, news, sports, movies and more. Setup is easy. Turn on the Roku device, connect it to the internet, create a Roku account and activate the device. The Roku players and streaming stick connect to the TV’s HDMI port. The Roku account allows them to access thousands of streaming channels without a monthly equipment rental fee. The account also allows them to subscribe to Netflix to rent or buy movies on demand.
Amazon fire stick
The Amazon Fire Stick is a streaming device with Alexa Voice remote. It has over 306,000 4.5-star reviews on Amazon. He can stream more than 1 million movies and TV episodes from Netflix and a variety of different streaming channels, with subscriptions. He can watch live TV sports news with a subscription to Sling TV, YouTube TV and others. And listen to music on Spotify, Pandora and Amazon music. The stick plugs into a TV HDMI port. Pick up the HDMI extender, which is recommended for the best Wi-Fi reception.
This mini Keurig machine is single serving sized and perfect for small spaces. It’s travel mug friendly, so it’ll be easy for him to grab a cup of coffee on the way out to morning class. It will save him time and money to make his own cup of Joe.
Yeti Rambler Mug
Get him a stainless steel BPA-free mug that will keep his cold drinks cold and coffee hot on the way to class. And for hours longer than other mugs. When he’s done drinking from it, he can easily fit this 20-ounce mug in the mesh bag on the side of his backpack.
Mattress in a box
Once he goes from living in a dorm room to living in an apartment, he needs a decent bed to sleep on. This queen memory foam mattress has over 129,000 4.5-star ratings. Reviewers say this mattress is very comfortable and affordable on a tighter budget.
If he has space in his apartment for a pool table and loves to play, his apartment will be a favorite gathering spot for him and his friends. You can, of course, buy one new. But if it were me, I’d look for one used in his college town on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
A quintessential college game for having fun with friends. Another one to look for used.
Joola ping pong table
Ping pong is a great way to have fun. It’s easy to pick up. And he can blow off some stress with a few games of ping pong. This is an affordable and quality ping pong table.
Yeti Roadie Cooler
There’s something about the Yeti cooler that’s coolness personified. This one keeps refrigerated drinks cold all day without ice. It’s durable and easy to clean. Perfect for a road trip, camping trip or tailgating.
Having his own private mini fridge can be a great addition to his room in his apartment. It’s perfect to have if his roommates like to eat all his food. And he can keep a stash of his favorite beverages and whatever else he needs to have.
Nintendo Switch gaming console
It’s called the Switch because it’s so versatile and he can play it in 3 different ways. He can game at home or on the go, using a tabletop display, on the TV, or on the handheld console. This one has over 125,000 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Xbox gaming console
Go for the Series X if he wants to play physical games. Go for Series S for digital only games. Wi-Fi is required to set up and download the games, but it can be used off-line once they’re downloaded. Series S has over 23,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. Series X has over 18,000 5-star reviews.
If he’s a gamer already, check to see what games he already has before spending any money. Super Smash Bros, Madden, Rocket League, and NBA 2K are super popular with college guys. Or consider a Game Stop gift card so he can select his own.
Sunrise Alarm Clock
This is such a unique gift if he has his own room. The sunrise alarm clock will gently wake him up as it slowly brightens the room. Going from 10% brightness to 100% in 10, 20 or 30 minutes. This model is also a bedside lamp, nightlight, and a reading lamp. There’s also an audio alarm that has a snooze feature, an FM radio, and seven alarm sounds.
Amazon Echo Dot 5th Gen
It’s a bedside clock and Smart speaker. He can listen to his music, podcasts or audiobooks, and set timers and alarms. And tap it to snooze. The LED display shows the time, alarm, weather, song titles and more.
Segway Electric Scooter
If his college campus is really spread out, having an electric scooter lets him get where he needs to go in the blink of an eye. This one lets him travel 12.4 miles with a max speed of up to 12.4 mph. It’s easy to fold up and light enough to carry on public transportation or stash in his car. It holds an adult up to 220 pounds.
A bike just needs to get you places in college. Try Walmart brands or Trek, Specialized or Cannondale. And include a high quality bike lock.
Parking a car on campus can be such a hassle. A moped offers a quick and easy way to get around campus. And parking it is much easier. The Vespa is a popular option in my college town, but they’re not inexpensive. If it were me, I’d look for one used on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Hydroflask water bottle
This is a practical gift that will get high mileage. You’ll see the Hydroflask on college students everywhere. Water fountains are being upgraded on college campuses to work hands-free with reusable bottles to reduce the use of plastic on campus. That means it’s easy to fill up anywhere you go.
Bean Bag Chair
This bean bag chair is super comfortable. This one is filled with shredded foam, so after he unpacks it and allows it to expand, it never goes flat. And it has a removable and washable cover that’s soft and durable. It comes in multiple sizes and colors.
Protein Shake Blender Bottle
After a workout, this shaker is the best thing for him to make protein shakes and smoothies in. It has a blender ball wire whisk that thoroughly blends and breaks down protein mix. It’s leak proof, dishwasher top-rack safe and easy to clean.
Team flags or pennants
Flags and pennants are quintessential wall decor. Buy one from his favorite team’s store website.
Custom Neon Sign
When I saw this on my nephew’s list, I was skeptical. But I did some investigating and it’s much more affordable to have a custom neon sign made than I thought. Make him a sign to decorate his wall. Use his favorite team name or a favorite saying of his. Or buy a “good vibes” sign ready made.
LED String Lights
Stringable lights have come a long way since we used to hang Christmas lights up in a dorm room. These LED strip lights have a remote control and timer so you can schedule them to automatically turn on and off. They sync with an app and react and change to music and voices.
If he’s using a very old cell phone that he has to carry a portable charger everywhere to recharge throughout the day, he’ll be the happiest guy in the world to get a new cellphone.
High Speed Portable Phone Charger
When you need your phone charged, you want it charged fast. And he will love being able to carry this in his backpack for those long days away from home. This charges up to 3 devices at a time using USB-C cables. 1 USB-C cable is included with the power bank. Compatible with a wide variety of devices including the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Smart Watch, iPad, Apple AirPods.
The no-fail gift for college boys
It can be hard figuring out what to get for young adults.
As a college student living on a tight budget, there’s nothing more joyful than getting gifts of all the things he can’t afford to buy for himself. If you’re stumped about what to get him, cash and gift cards are always the right shape and size. You can’t go wrong. You’ve got this!