Freshman College Survival Kit: An Easy DIY Care Package Idea

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How to Create a Survival Kit for College Freshman

pink and cow print College Freshman Survival Kit sign in foreground, care package for college freshman in background

College is an exciting time for freshman students, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. There’s so much to see and do, but also to remember. Even with a packing checklist for college, it’s easy to forget some things in the whirlwind of back-to-school shopping.

With all the new adjustments, college life can be difficult for young adults who are away from home for the first time.

That’s why a college survival kit is the perfect care package for college freshman. It’s a thoughtful gift that will help them feel more prepared and less homesick as they start their college journey.

College Freshman Care Package

A survival kit for college freshman is filled with useful items, including a mix of comfort and essentials that are commonly needed, forgotten, or simply overlooked.

From favorite snacks to indispensable school supplies, this college freshman care package will provide them with everything they need to stay organized and self-assured during their transition into college life.

It’s a wonderful dorm gift to show your support and remind them that you’re always there if they ever need anything!

Freshman College Survival Kit Example Idea

While there are lots of great care package ideas for college freshman, a freshman college survival kit is a popular choice you can’t go wrong with. It’s uncomplicated, easy to put together, and a welcome surprise for a college student.

Here’s some pictures of a care package I put together to send to a first year student!

freshman care package with blue tissue paper and an assortment of dorm essentials

Flat rate boxes are my go-to packaging choice for mailing care packages. I used a large size flat rate box for my DIY college survival kit.

closer view of care package idea for freshman year college student

I found it quite challenging to arrange everything in a box so that it was all visible in one picture. 😅 But don’t worry—I go over all the things I included further down in this post.

college student care package with pink printable "college freshman's survival kit" sign decorating box

For some added fun, I created a college freshman survival sign to go along with the care package.

You don’t have to get it, but just know that cow print is trendy with Gen Z. This design is sure to prompt a “holy cow” response.

college survival kit idea for guys - featuring blue printable sign for decorating care package

Here’s another style I came up with so it works as a college survival kit for guys, too. Or for students who like blue more than pink, regardless of their gender.

I made 5 different versions of the survival kit sign in total. All of which you can snag as free printables!

College Survival Kit DIY Guide

Now let’s go over everything you need to put together a DIY college survival kit.

Step #1 is to secure a box.

This is a great opportunity to upcycle an Amazon box or other leftover packaging you have lying around. And if that’s not available, a flat rate box from the post office always works well.

What to Put in a College Survival Kit


There are almost endless directions you can go with what to put in a college survival kit. That’s part of the fun of it! Many freshman student needs are universal, but there’s still plenty of room for personalization.

Here’s what all I included in my college freshman care package to give you ideas:

small pastel colored folding crates stacked

1. Collapsible storage crate —these are one of the best organizers for dorm rooms. Cheap, light, can be stacked and oh-so versatile, these little plastic crates are perfect for anything really!

I got mine from Etsy, but you can also find them at Urban Outfitters and Tillys if you live near those stores. 

2. Small trash bags —often overlooked, this is something students don’t realize they need until they need it. Small trash bags come in super handy; they’re great for quick cleanup, storage, moving stuff, and whatever.

pink sand Women's Floral Ankle Socks

3. Comfy socks —college is a time in your life when you truly come to understand the value of a good pair of socks.

And Bombas socks are the best! I’ve actually run out of people in my life to convert them to at this point haha. 

college girl holding college survival book

4. Distilled wisdom in the form of a book —shameless plug, 175+ Things to Do Before You Graduate College is an ideal book for freshman year students.

It’s not a challenge, but instead, a source of ideas. The book encourages college kids to take advantage of everything collegiate life has to offer and to explore what’s most important to them. 

uni-ball Jetstream Extra Fine roller ball pens

5. A nice pen —not all pens are created equal. Thankfully, a quality pen in inexpensive. 

Post-it Super Sticky Notes, 3 in x 3 in, Aqua Blue, 1 Pad

6. Sticky notes —college students can never have enough! 

Pen+Gear Invisible Tape, .75" x 36 yd, Clear Matte Finish

7. Tape —this make your freshman very popular in the dorms. Everyone will want to borrow it.

Tape is something most students neglect to bring with them to college. 

SPA BELLA Satin Sleep Mask, black

8. Sleep mask —a cheap little luxury that can make all the difference when your roommate is studying late by lamp light and you need to get some sleep.

It really is the little things that elevate a survival kit for college freshmen. 

Nuun Sport Hydrating Drink Tablets, Strawberry Lemonade Electrolyte Supplement

9. Electrolyte tablets —the perfect pick me up for when the common cold starts going around the student population. Or for when a freshman is feeling dehydrated or a little blah. 

linen wrapped college planners in 4 colors

10. Academic planner —the absolute BEST tool to set a college student up for success.

The Centered Student Planner is amazing for teaching freshman how to effectively manage their time—it’s the only one with a Professor in a planner. 

Zebra mildliners 5 pack

11. Mildliners —a more opaque version of a highlighter. They’re easier on the eyes, come in lots of cute colors, and are the perfect study session companion.

Nite Ize KMTSE-11-R3 DoohicKey Keychain Multi Tool

12. Multi-tool carabiner —I love this idea because it has so many uses! It can be used as an easy key ring, for clipping things to a belt or backpack, threaded through plastic bag handles to carry 5 at once, and more.

Plus, the DoohicKey Multi-Tool packs 8 tools into one design, including a screwdriver, a serrated edge and a ruler. 

black  Mini Travel Umbrella with Carrying Case

13. Compact umbrella —this is easily one of the top items college freshman regret not bringing with them! 

Tylenol Extra Strength Caplets with Acetaminophen, Travel Size, 10 ct

14. Tylenol —or any headache relieving medication will be much appreciated. 

Johnson & Johnson First Aid To Go Portable Mini Travel Kit, 12 pieces

15. Travel size first-aid kit —a must-have for any college survival kit. You never realize how often you need a bandaid for little injuries here and there until you don’t have one available. 

Sof Sole Sneaker Balls Shoe, Gym Bag, and Locker Deodorizer, 1 Pair

16. Sneaker deodorizing balls —dorms are small, cramped, and prone to trapping…unpleasant smells.

Any freshman student will be SO glad you thought to send them this.

Downy Fresh Wrinkle Releaser Fabric Spray, 3 fl oz

17. Downy Wrinkle Release Spray —ironing your clothes while living in a dorm room is a huge hassle.

Wrinkle release spray will keep your college kids’ clothes wrinkle free without skipping a beat!

USB-C Wall Charger [2 Pack]

18. Extra wall charger/s —having a spare for charging phones, laptops, and other devices is always a good idea. 

J Way Instant Boba, Passionfruit, 3 Drink Kit

19. Instant drinks/portable snacks —convenience is king in college!

The student I made my care package for loves bubble tea so I knew this instant boba drink kit would be a perfect inclusion. Starbucks Via is another great option. 

Great Value All Purpose Travel Size Lint Roller, 30 Sheets

20. Travel size lint roller —a lint roller is the last thing on a college student’s mind when packing for their first year. It’s a great inexpensive item to include in a DIY college freshman care package.

Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes Trvl Pk, Tropical Splash, 20 Ct

21. Antibacterial wipes —spills, messes, and germs happen.

Plus, the average dorm room is filled with bacteria. A pack of wipes makes cleaning up no sweat. 

Mainstays Personal Desktop, teal

22. Small fan —many dorms aren’t equipped with A/C. A small fan is a literal life-saver during the warmer months when things get stuffy.

It’s inexpensive to put in a freshman college survival kit but it’ll make a huge difference in a student’s life. 

College Survival Guide Book

A book makes for a nice addition to a college student survival kit. If you want to stick with the care package theme you might opt for a college survival book.

Here are four excellent books I recommend for students in college:

Or if you know your freshman’s favorite author or favorite book series, you might include the latest book release. Either way, your student is sure to appreciate it!

College Survival Kit Printables

I created some free printables to assist in creating your own DIY college survival kit!

I considered coming up with a college survival kit poem, but, sadly, I am no poet. So here’s what I’ve got for you.

College Survival Kit List

College Survival Kit List

For starters, I condensed all the items I covered into a convenient college survival kit list.

College Survival Kit Sign

free printable college survival kit sign decorative tags for college freshman care package

In addition, I made some printable college survival kit signs in a variety of styles you can use to decorate your care package. They can easily be used as a tag for a college survival kit gift basket, as well.

Want to snag the College Survival Kit List, plus the College Survival Kit Sign Tags as a printable PDF?

How to get the FREE printables—you have two options:

More College Survival Kit Ideas

When I was thinking about what to put in a college freshman survival kit I considered many different items. I started by writing down a list of all my ideas. Once I had it all on paper, I then narrowed it down until I landed on my final decisions.

I thought I would share all the other care package ideas for college freshmen that I came up with. Each college student has their own preferences and individual needs to consider. So I thought this might be helpful for you.

Here are 20 more ideas for a DIY college survival kit:

1. Slippers —cloud slippers and smiley face slippers are very in right now

2. Shower shoes, like flip-flops

3. Hot cocoa or tea

4. Stress ball or stress squish

5. Keychain mace

6. Playing cards

7. Reusable water bottle —Stanley water bottles are really popular with college kids

8. Dude wipes

9. Clip-on reading light or a small desk lamp

10. Yin chao —I swear by this stuff for stopping a cold in its tracks

11. Popsocket or Popwallet

12. Face masks —TONYMOLY face masks are always a good pick 

13. LED strip lights

14. Board game

15. Command hooks

16. Lip balm

17. Tide to Go

18. Robe

19. Bedside caddy

20. Ball aluminium cups

college survival kit decorated care package idea for college freshman with cute sign and blue tissue paper decorations

College freshman survival kit final thoughts

So that concludes this post on how to make a college survival kit care package for a college freshman.

Have you made a college starter kit before? Do you have other college survival kit ideas? I’d love to hear your suggestions, share in a comment below!

Pin it for later 📌:

College Survival Kit: Starter Pack for Freshman Year; assortment of items to put in a care package for a college freshman to be prepared for classes and more comfortable living in a dorm room

College Survival Kit: The Perfect Care Package for College Freshman

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