Great Holiday Gifts for College Bound Families

‘Tis the season for holiday gift lists, so I thought I’d throw my santa-hat in the ring with some great gift ideas for families looking ahead to college.


Before I start, I want to acknowledge that for some the prospect of college-planning- themed gifts sounds about as appealing as dental- or tax- themed gifts.


    teeth earrings   tax preparer

(they actually exist by the way.)

There are a lot of opportunities for stress during the college process — essays, college admissions tests, FAFSA — but there is a lot to be excited about too.  It’s a time to explore the vast array of wonderful options out there, anticipate the next steps on a journey toward adulthood, and celebrate the accomplishments that got your student this far.  If you can get to a happy place about the college process (and I hope you can) read on for some gifts ideas…..

Gifts for the College Bound Senior

Logo Wear: If your senior already knows the school he or she is attending, a sweat shirt or tee from that institution might be nice.  If your senior is still in limbo, as many are, how about a shirt or mug from a local landmark?  Those heading out of town are probably already feeling pre-nostalgic.

owc t-shirts
Shirts from One World Cafe in Moscow


Rolling Duffle Bag: Regardless of whether your senior will be near or far next year, a rolling duffle bag would be a great gift and would help him or her do a lot, from carting laundry to studying abroad.  They come in a wide range of sizes, styles and prices.


 A Five Year Diary:   Your student is on the threshold of a big journey, and what could be better than a place to capture the end of high school, the college years and next steps beyond?  There are a number of five-year diaries out there with space for brief daily entries and reflections….  Gretchen Rubin, creator of the Happiness Project, has a one-sentence journal that might be just right for your student.


Gifts for the College Exploring Junior, Sophomore or Freshman

If your junior, sophomore or freshman is thinking about college, here are some creative books to help explore:

Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late Blooming and Just Plain Different, by Donald Asher.  If you know a student who marches to the beat of a different drummer, it would be great to find a college where he or she can be in sync.  This book has some great places to  cool collegesexplore.  It’s written in an intelligent way that doesn’t talk down to the student. It was written in 2007 so some of the website resources are out of date.  But the school descriptions are still pretty spot on.

The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2016 is a big fat catalog of schools all over the country, cross referenced and easy to navigate, with great fact summaries and narrative descriptions of schools.  When I was a little kid I used to wait for the Sears catalog to come at Christmas time.  It was calledfiske“the Wish Book” and I used to pour over it for weeks planning and dreaming about presents.  The Fiske Guide reminds me of that.  A student with college aspirations and a good imagination could get lost in it, in a good way.  The Fiske Guide is also available in an online searchable version.

College Match by Dr. Steven Antonoff is a great handbook to help students and parents through the college exploration process.  It is easy to use and upbeat.  It helps students determine and prioritize the features they want in a college and shows students how to find great schools that match.  Palouse Pathways college match reviseduses College Match in its College Exploration Classes, and will provide the books to students for a donation.  (New classes will be starting in January)

Colleges that Change Lives written by Loren Pope and revised by Hilary Masell Oswald, is a terrific book for students and parents who want to learn about highly-regarded student-centered colleges all over the country.  These small liberal arts colleges provide great opportunities for ctclstudent research, prepare students well for graduate school, and offer terrific need-based and merit aid.  And because these schools are not overwhelmed by applicants students have a great chance of securing admission.  This book tells the story of each of the schools.  You can also learn about them on the CTCL web site.   Either way, a good college search should include consideration of CTCL schools, since they can provide a life-changing and affordable education.

Gifts for Parents of Future College Students 

The College Solution by Lynn O’Shaughnessy is a book that should be on every parent’s bookshelf.  It is subtitled “A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price,” and it really is.  As I explainedin this blog post, the book is clearly written and will give you  a broad college solutionworking knowledge of the admissions and financial aid processes, references for further reading, and a game plan.  It would definitely be one of those practical Christmas presents, but one that is going to improve the quality of your family’s life over the next several years.

If you’ve gone through the college admissions process with your child (or parent) or you’ve watched from the sideline, you know that it is a complex relationship-straining process with psychological, financial and even cultural dimensions.  College Admissions Together by ​By Steven Roy Goodman and college admissions togetherAndrea Leiman explores all these facets.  According to the book summary “College Admissions Together is . . . a guide to healthy family relationships during the college admissions process. This invaluable book looks at the often stressful process of finding the right college for your child not as an ordeal but as an opportunity to bond as a family and to give your child safe passage to adulthood as he or she determines which colleges are the best fit.”  I haven’t read it yet, but it is on many “best college books” lists and comes highly reommended.  I don’t think it’s an easy read, but it looks like a very valuable one.

A Gift for the Whole Family

If you know a family with students dreaming of college, making a financial gift to a college savings plan for the benefit of those students would be a fantastic gift.  Studies show that students with money put aside for college — as little as $500 — are far more likely to have college expectations.  They are three times more likely to attend college than students without savings and they are four times more likely to graduate.  College savings plans even correlate with better middle and high school performance.  Making a contribution to the student’s aleady-exisitng college savings account is easy.   You can also establish an account on your own, but you’ll need to take care to use a device that will serve your goals and provide the best financial support to the student.  Here’s a discussion of some of these issues;  and Lynn O’Shaughnessy discusses them here.   It’s really worth talking to a professional.  But don’t let that stop you, since helping to support a college dream is the best gift money can buy.

piggy christmaspiggy christmas

Best holiday wishes from Palouse Pathways!!!!


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