Gifts idea - 18 year old HS senior headed to college

Buy him a donkey. A very lasting gift and one that all his friends won’t be getting.

Small dorm fridge.

Also, if his university is big on sports - let’s say, hypothetically, that he’s going to the University of Michigan - then you could get him a customized Michigan Wolverines jersey with his name on the back.

I doubt an 18 year old freshman would really grasp the significance of this, unfortunately.

A trip to Costco will yield yellow pads, mechanical pencils, highlighters, a rice cooker, a bag of rice and a piece of luggage to carry them in. These will be very useful in college. Not to be bought at Costco because they are not priced right there would be a collegiate dictionary and some SD cards. Let his parent supply him with the laptop and printer.

The OP is the parent and the student in question already has a notebook computer. Plus, how many yellow pads or mechanical pencils do students need today? Most work is on the computer.

No, I was thinking more like the assistant to a professor, but not necessarily Teaching Assistant, as he is a Freshman. Don’t know the terminology.

Ever heard of helicopter parenting? That’s what the OP would be doing if he/she arranges an on-campus internship for the student in question. Let him make his own arrangements for an on-campus job.

He is still a senior in high school, so a mini-fridge would be sitting around for 9 or 10 months before he could use it. He could keep it in his room, I suppose.

Gift certificates aren’t a bad idea, but I usually shy away from those. I’d almost rather give cash so he can do with it what he wants. If he wants food, he can get food with the cash.

The laundry bag is a good idea. I checked on those today. He does his own laundry and his clothes are generally just in a pile on the floor. The laundry bag might help with that.

I did consider a nice set of clothes as well. He doesn’t have anything formal at all, so I thought he might want something between a suit and t-shirt and jeans.

Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I’m still wondering what to get him.

A small fridge is useful. If he drinks coffee, a coffee maker is useful. How about an extra charger for his laptop so he’ll have one to stay in his dorm and one to go in the laptop/messenger case? Or, for that matter, an extra battery for the laptop? A microwave oven?

Cool shit from www.thinkgeek.com to decorate with. It’s nice when you don’t have to describe what you’re in to - people can just looks around your room or at your shirt and see.

Don’t buy the fridge unti you see if he needs one. I believe in my nephew’s dorm, the rooms were equipped with refrigerators and microwave ovens. (Makes sense, as it’s easier just to buy it once rather than making the parents buy and transport the things.)

Even though I am usually not that big on gift certificates, in this case I think it would be useful and fun to get several from the usual suspects (Starbucks, Chipotle, etc) which will be nicer than cash when he is at college, because it’s easier to treat new friends on a gift certificate than cash (cash feels too immediate and weird for a college kid to spend on friends).

Also yes on the suit, or at least a semi-nicer set of clothing because he should be thinking about jobs, internships, and interviews in college. If you want something more personal/sentimental, a very nice watch or wallet.

Students in the dorms get a lot of mileage out of a good coffee maker.

I work at a college, and this is my perspective of what freshmen use/need.

Ferrari Enzo.

Luggage - a solid (antique?) trunk would be good - I still have the suitcase I was given at 18 - hasn’t been used except for moving. A chest can be so many things, and a good one will last decades. Get one that can withstand being stood on, sat on, and dropped. Rounded corners - young people are noted for not always being the best at walking…

For clothes - forget a suit (walk before run, Grasshopper) - but a nice jacket with both complementing (for dressy) and contrasting (casual). At least one dress shirt and a couple of real (not clip-on (should those still exist)) ties. Obviously, the jacket must be acceptable with jeans.

Investment counsel at 18?
No. Just NO. He’ll be spending - a nice ebook on personal finance. If he is interested in how money works, he can find all kinds of info at a decent school.

I’m guessing the modern dorm (Is he going to be in a dorm? Huge difference!) is wired for students using things like refers in their rooms (I was in one in which hair driers were and issue, let alone space heaters).

If he is to be a proper college student, he will be driving a beater - a AAA card or a GPS or a good jack, screwdriver set, and combo wrenches, and Fix-A-Flat. The attache case sized jumpers and tire inflator is absolutely required if he will be driving any distance (or is likely to leave the lights on overnight).

What did you end up doing without, spending way too much for when you were 18 and on your own for the first time?

A good battery-operated light source: flashlight or lantern.

A card with an IOU, redeemable Christmas, for 500 cash or 600 worth of useful stuff.
By then hell know what he needs.

You need to Personalize that gift. You’ve spent 18 years with him and all you know about what he is into is

Think about that. Its Sunday & you have less than a year to get to know him a whole lot better than that.
You may end up getting him a camera because he likes taking pictures or a bike because he loves to ride or even a cheap beater-car that will get him through til his first job. Get to know HIM. Good Luck.

PS- re: sitting him down with an investment counselor: I rank that right up there with sitting him down with a priest/rev/rabbi/imam to put the fear o’ Og into him about the evils of sex, drinking, and music that can lead to dancing. YMMV.

I disagree. I don’t think that should be his starter car. Perhaps an older 360, or even a 430. An SLS Black Edition may suffice for community college or welding school…

Anyway, my son’s university gave the kids packets of stuff, and one sheet was "what to bring to college. I couldn’t find it, but there are plenty on the web to pick and choose from, and they’ll have a couple of things that no one really thinks of ahead of time unless you visit a tricked-out dorm room.

Quarters are so last-decade! No retina scans, or Gattaca-type blood test yet, but they have a student ID or special card tied to their main account - think prison :smiley: - that they swipe for laundry and vending machines.
Most of these are redundant, but the last one is pretty thorough.

http://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/1EACE6EF/Dorm-Essentials-A-Freshman-s-Dorm-Checklist/

Outfitting the room is a whole 'nother world!

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/dorm-room-decorating-ideas-207145

You get the idea. There are many out there.
Here’s my couch potato in his recliner watching TV. They’re both de rigeuer for the college experience.

I’m going to buck the trend, and say I like the idea of the investment possibility. A sit down with an investment counselor may be overkill, but I think there’s nothing better than $500 in a Roth, and a good book on budgeting.

May of you seem to think all 18 year olds are too stupid/lazy/instant gratification to understand and appreciate investment and the future. But, not all of them are that way - my 18 year old daughter works and was saving money back when she had an after school job at a hair salon. She can certainly appreciate savings and investment, and really like the $500 my sister and split to open up a Roth in her name for her graduation present.

Also - if you guys really think that this 18 year old/all 18 year olds are morons about money, then wouldn’t this be a good gift? Almost any line graph showing the value of investment over time will be instantly grasped by even the dumbest person, and having $500 already set up makes it tremendously easier for it to be added to - he can carry that account his whole life, add how even much he wants when he can, and it will remain there, growing for 40 years. Often for a young person, the reason “responsible” things aren’t done earlier is because they’re nervous about doing it, not because they’re dumb/irresponsible. And contacting a broker or investment guy is super intimidating for even older people.

To me, even the greatest dorm fridge or super back pack isn’t quite right for a symbolic birthday like 18. Send some fun money on something small, but fast food gift certificates? That’s crazy to me.

It’s not that 18 year olds are stupid, it’s that there isn’t that much specialized advice out there to give to an 18 year old heading to college. He likely doesn’t have any real clue what his future salary is likely to be. He won’t have a good idea of what his spending habits are or what his budget pitfalls are. His immediate goal is “graduate college” and he probably doesn’t have much of a timeline for things like starting a family, purchasing a home, etc. WIth just that to work with, all a financial planner is going to be able to do is give generic advice that you could find anywhere.

A gift card to the nearest decent department store, or grocery store. He’ll use them sooner or later.

My standard advice to kids moving away to college is to do everything in their power to prevent people from giving them physical objects as gifts. No matter how thoughtful and heartwarming it seems at the time, you will grow to loathe it the moment you realize you’re going to have to carry it in from the parking lot and up three flights of stairs on move-in day.