Introduction: College Care Package on a Budget


The following instructions will take you step by step through the ideal way to put together a care package for a college student. Whether you are a parent, friend, or significant other, a care package is a great way to show someone you care! When your college student retrieves it in the mail, it will let them know that they are in your thoughts.


Care packages should be personal, so the materials are flexible. Below are several types of items to put in your care package divided into several different categories.

  • Microwave food (popcorn, macaroni, ricearoni)
  • Granola
  • Packaged Food
  • Energy Bars
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Cereal or Instant Oatmeal
  • Homemade Goods*
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Hygiene Essentials
  • Gift Cards or Money
  • Quarters for Laundry
  • CD or DVD they like
  • Magazine they like
  • Card or Board Games
  • Silly things such as Glow Sticks or Silly String
  • School Supplies
  • Anything they forgot!
  • Tea
  • Lotion
  • Headphones
  • Candles for those not living on campus
  • Electric candles for students in dorms
  • A handwritten letter from you or loved one
  • Picture of Family, Friends, or Pets
  • Homemade Good or Favorite Meals
  • Decorations for their dorm or apartment
  • *Caution: allergies, mailing rules, perishables, weapons

    Be wary of the food you send your college student, espeically if they have any allergies. Do not send food that will not go bad or spoil. Packaging foods are best for travel and will stay fresh. Do not send your student anything that, if used, will get them in trouble with campus police (i.e. illegal substance, weapons, etc...). According to postage rules, you should not mail any hazardous materials or animals, living or dead, via mail.

    WARNING: The heavier your package is, the more it will cost to send!

    If you want to decorate your package and make it colorful, you will also need:

  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Construction paper/wrapping paper
  • Markers, pens, or colored pencils

    For ideas on creative ways to decorate your box, see this link or this link.

    Some places to find decorative items that cost less include:

  • Dollar Store
  • Walmart
  • Your local grocery store

    To pack and send your package, you will need:

  • Packing Tape
  • Packing peanuts to cushion the fragile items inside of the package
  • Use old newspapers or magazines to cut down on cost (replaces packing peanuts)
  • Step 1: Pick Your Items

    The list in the above section gives four categories that are typically included in college care packages. Selecting one or two items from each category is sure to let your college student know they are in your thoughts.

    Step 2: Pick and Put Together Your Box

  • Tape bottom of box with packing tape.
  • Tape over all of the flaps so it is secure.

    There are many options for which box to choose. If you have an old shoe box that will safety fit all of your items, then feel free to use that. You can also select a box at your local post office. Keep in mind, it is easier to pick your box size if you already selected the items you plan on sending. It helps you to visualize what size box you will need, and it keeps you from buying a bigger box.

  • Step 3: Decorate Box, If Desired

    The simplest way to decorate you box is to pick two colors of construction paper, or any other paper you have, and cut them to fit on the inner flaps of the box. This will give your box color and excitement. For examples of creative decorating, see this link or this link.

  • Measure the 4 outer flaps of box
  • Cut paper to the same size as the flaps
  • Tape paper to flaps
  • Decorate paper/write personal message and designs onto paper
  • Step 4: Place All Items in Box

    Fitting all of your items in the box can seem like putting together a puzzle or playing Tetris.

  • Put the largest items in first and on the bottom

    Be sure to wrap any fragile Items with newspaper or bubble-wrap to protect it.

  • Place smaller items in where they will fit
  • Step 5: Tape, Secure, and Label Your Box.

  • Close the flaps and tape them down securely
  • Write the TO and RETURN addresses on the package. Make sure the addresses are legible and correct.
  • Step 6: Mail Package

    Take your package to your local postal office. They will weigh it, and then charge you for that weight.

    To get an idea of how much your package will cost, you can go to your postal service's online site. They typically have a calculator that you can enter the address and size of the box. It will then tell you how much you should expect to pay. If you want the box sent with priority, or faster, shipping, then there will be a higher price.

    The FedEx calculator can be found here.

    The United States Postal Service calculator can be found here.

    Step 7: FINISHED

    Congratulations! You have completed your care package!

    We hope that the person receiving this package will appreciate it and will know that you are thinking of them.