College enrollment among adults is rapidly increasing. Chances are you know someone who’s going back to school—maybe even your spouse or child. Showing appreciation to that adult student in your life for working hard to better their life and professional opportunities can go a long way. Whether it’s for the holiday season, a special birthday, or just because you care, the right gift tells your loved one you’re thinking about their needs and investing in their happiness. Rather than sending a gift basket or shopping the sale aisle at the last minute, try taking some time to weigh which gifts might improve your loved one’s quality of life.
Here are the gifts that we think make great gifts for adult students in your life.
Words of Encouragement
You don’t have to spend much money to give your loved one a gift that means a lot. If you’re short on cash or looking for something unique to add to a present, try writing your loved one a letter telling them how much they mean to you. Returning to school as an adult learner can be tough, especially for those who have kids or full-time jobs. Help your loved one stomp out guilt and frustration by telling them how proud you are. Cite real-life examples if you can, and make the note as heartfelt as possible. Your goal should be to give them something that they can return to when they feel overwhelmed or unmotivated.
It might not seem particularly exciting, but money remains one of the best gifts for college students. Unless you have a great gift in mind that you’re certain they’ll love, consider giving them the gift of freedom to choose their own present. Cash can make the holidays a bit less stressful, give them the funds they need to buy a new laptop, and encourage them to treat the family to a night out. If money feels too impersonal, try a gift card instead. Then wrap it up with a bouquet of flowers or cute stuffed animal, and include a note telling them how proud you are that they’ve decided to return to school.
Time is our most valuable resource. After all, when it’s gone, it’s gone for good, never again to return. Harried adult learners are perennially short on time, especially if they have kids. Give your loved one the precious gift of time by:
- Offering to baby-sit the kids. Only offer this if you really mean it and you know they’ll feel comfortable letting you watch their little ones.
- Buying them a gift card for home cleaning services—or, if you prefer, stepping up to clean the house yourself.
- Getting them a membership to a nanny service or childcare organization that offers drop-in or as-needed care.
Eating nourishing food is critical to good health. A great meal can make it easier to face an evening of studying. Yet for many adult learners, food is forever on the back burner. This can affect their health, their motivation, even their self-esteem. Give the gift of food. Bring over a favorite meal. Purchase a membership to a meal delivery service. Buy a gift card for a great evening of fine dining. Food doesn’t just nourish the body. It helps nourish the mind, too, giving your loved one the motivation they need to keep plugging away at their degree.
Gifts for a Hobby
Beloved hobbies might seem like a waste of time to a busy student. They’re not. Hobbies connect us to who we are and who we hope to become. They are a vital break from the stress of studying, yet many adult learners feel guilty for indulging. Make it impossible for your loved one to neglect the things they love. Get them a subscription box for their favorite hobby, a class on a new hobby they’ve been itching to try, or a gift card to their favorite craft store.
Time management is critical for the success of adult students. The right planner can make juggling a packed schedule easier, and maybe even a little fun. Yet adult learners on a tight budget might be reluctant to invest in a quality planner. Encourage your loved one to invest in self-care with a quality planner. Time management tools are highly personal, so rather than buying a specific planner, try purchasing a gift card to Franklin Planner, Filofax, or Chic Sparrow instead.
Stylish New Backpack
Shopping for school supplies as a child was exciting. Would you get a Ninja Turtle backpack, a Hello Kitty lunchbox, or a Spiderman pencil box? As an adult, these characters might not spark the same level of excitement they once did, but that doesn’t mean school supplies can’t be fun. The right backpack makes it easier for your loved one to learn on the go. Rather than shopping for traditional book bags, try upgrading their academic wardrobe to something a bit more stylish. Etsy is chock-full of artisan backpacks and tote bags, so search for something custom-tailored to your loved one’s taste. Jansport is still making great backpacks like the one you had in school, but with a number of distinctly adult styles. If you’re hoping to get a true gift of luxury for your spouse or another close loved one, check out one of Saddleback Leather’s backpacks, which are guaranteed to last forever.
The Gift of Self-Care
Being a student doesn’t mean everything your loved one does has to revolve around school. Indeed, they might crave a break from academic life. Consider finding a gift that reminds them of their identity outside of school. This valuable present of self-care can give them the motivation they need to keep going. Some options to consider include:
- A massage. Make it an in-home massage for people who are truly strapped for time.
- A gift card for your loved one’s favorite beauty service or for a spa day.
- A weekend getaway at a cabin or resort.
- A self-care package. You can make it as simple or extravagant as you like. Try throwing in some favorite drinks, food, a cozy blanket, or some beauty products.
When you’re going to school, juggling a family, and working a job all at the same time, electronics are more than just a staple; they’re a lifeline. A broken laptop may mean your loved one can’t complete their homework, and problems with their smartphone can make it difficult to connect with the kids when they're studying. Consider helping your loved one update their electronics. Be sure to ask first, because these devices are highly personal and your loved one may have preferences. Not every present needs to be a surprise, and some of the best are a cooperative endeavor. A new laptop is always one of the best gifts for adult students, especially those attending college online.
A great interview outfit can make a world of difference. It impresses interviewers and helps your loved one feel confident as they make their entrance into the working world. Invest in your loved one’s future by hooking them up with the beginnings of a professional wardrobe. Try getting them a gift card to their favorite store or scheduling a date with a personal stylist. To give your loved one a chance to try out many different options, consider a subscription to a service such as Stitch Fix.
If you’re considering a return to college of your own or counseling your loved one about their next educational step, you probably have many questions. College for adult learners is much different than it once was. With flexible financial aid options, adaptable schedules, and plenty of support, SNU works with adult learners to help them graduate faster, with better grades and more professional connections than they ever thought possible. To learn more, check out our free guide, What to Expect from Online Adult Education.
*This article was originally posted on December 3rd, 2018 and was updated November 2nd, 2020.