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How to send perfect back-to-school care packages for college students

Care package being packed with snacks and school supplies.

It’s that time of year when students everywhere prepare to head for college.

For parents, the feelings can be bittersweet. It’s a delicate balance: how to let your child fly the nest while still showing that you care?

That’s exactly the purpose of a college care package. Care packages are a great way to let your child know you’re thinking of them while they’re away from home. They also provide a little extra support as a young adult learns to live independently.

As back to school draws close, it’s never too early to plan what to send.

Why send a back-to-school care package?

A back-to-school care package for college students can provide the perfect message of hometown support for freshmen or returning students settling into a new environment and a new academic year.

A student care package can also serve as a loving guide for a young person figuring out the best ways to look after themselves. For young minds, college can be physically and emotionally demanding in many ways.

Care packages for college students provide great opportunities for your child to share things with their fellow students. Snacks and assorted goodies can be the perfect icebreaker with new dorm mates. Who didn’t appreciate the college buddy with baked goods to share, or a pack of gum to spare?

But, most importantly when it comes to a back-to-college care package, it’s the thought that counts.

Care package ideas: what to include

There are as many variations on the college care package as you might wish to consider. But a few trusty staples should give you a good place to start:

  • Snacks are a perennial favorite. Think of foods you can ship that won’t get squished in transit – trail mix, dried fruit, granola bars, and so on. Home-baked goods, properly packed, are great choices too. But don’t leave it there. Consider including a gift voucher for a meal at a local restaurant, or for sweet treats at a cupcake store. How about protein powder for sprinkling into shakes? Aim for a mix of treats and nutritional balance when preparing a food care package for a college student.
  • You can’t go wrong including hygiene and healthcare items in your college care package. Cold medicine works wonders in the winter months, and is handy to have throughout the year. Chapsticks, toothbrushes, dental floss, even a first aid kit are useful things to have around a dorm room. Include a water bottle to encourage good hydration. Add a favorite lipstick or a new male grooming product for a little pizzazz and to keep the spirits up.
  • Think of ways to support good sleep. Your young adult will find every excuse possible to stay awake in the evening when the best course of action may be an early night. Comfortable nightwear, scented lavender bags, essential oils, even an LED reading light can encourage lights-out, while channeling the inner bookworm.
  • School supplies never go out of style. Buy them discounted during the back-to-school season. Mix in something particularly grown-up, such as a leather-bound journal, if you’re feeling inspired.
  • Clothing essentials, such as sweaters and leggings, make great choices for shipping. Pop in a memento to remind your child of shared memories, maybe a family photo in a frame or an item you can only get regionally. Wrap the memento in the clothing for secure packaging and an extra nice surprise.
  • Finally, everyone enjoys a hot drink at some point in the day. Include a selection of coffee grounds or beans, tea bags, hot chocolate powder, and a personalized mug for good measure.

Don’t forget to include a handwritten note! Long letters may be a thing of the past, but a handwritten message does the trick every time.

Sorry, we forgot socks. Lots of socks for every season. Oh, and rolls of quarters for the laundromat. 

How to send a care package

With a little thought and planning, preparing a care package for shipping can be a rewarding experience.

Consider wrapping items individually to place inside the package. Make it a fun “unboxing” experience for your loved one.

Next, select a sturdy box big enough to fit all the contents of your care package. Find top tips from The UPS® Packaging Advisor, or visit a The UPS Store® location for help. Consider purchasing a specialty care package box or sending a gift basket for maximum effect.

Use filler items like bubble wrap to provide additional cushioning and minimize movement of your goods in transit. Nobody wants a damaged gift.

Be creative in the way you pack the box. Soft items like socks and gloves can act as additional padding and fill empty space.

Remember to tape your box securely to keep it intact on its journey and to prevent moisture getting in.

Time to ship your package

Is your care package time sensitive? If not, UPS Ground will probably be the most economical option for you and offers day-definite delivery within the United States.

If you need your package to arrive as soon as possible, consider UPS Next Day Air® and UPS 2nd Day Air® expedited transit services. Perhaps you have a birthday to make or you’re including perishables in the box.

If your loved one is overseas, there may be additional considerations around shipping internationally, particularly when it comes to food – check out The UPS Help and Support Center for advice and to inquire about any restrictions for specific countries.

Stay on top of your package once it’s on its way. Enable shipment tracking notifications straight to your smart phone so you’ll know exactly where your shipment is, and when it reaches your loved one!

Finally, don’t forget The UPS Store can ship your package and pack it for you too.

Care packages for every occasion

Care packages aren’t just for back to school – they work great at any time. Mark your calendar to send them at various points throughout the college year. For example:

  • Show that Cupid cares with a love-themed Valentine’s Day care package.
  • Give your loved one an extra boost on their special day with a college student birthday care package.
  • Help keep the energy up when it’s time to cram with a college finals care package.

And for anyone traveling on a gap year or studying abroad, there’s never a bad time to send them a special something. A study abroad care package will go a long way for young adults already a long way from home. Just make sure whatever you put in the box complies with customs regulations at your foreign port of entry.

Finally, why not suggest to another family member that they take a turn sending a care package. A grandparent, aunt, or uncle who sends a parcel will provide a nice surprise for your college student. It takes a village, after all.

Helping take care of care packages

Receiving a care package can brighten up anyone’s day. For college students away from home, they’re a practical and helpful way to keep homesickness at bay.

Stay involved in your loved one’s welfare and enjoy the satisfaction of preparing a care package that sends smiles across the country and even around the world. Show you care and let UPS help get your college care package delivered safely and securely today.  

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