Going away to college is a crash course in culture shock. Students have to process living with at least one stranger, among more strangers, in a strange city, with strange paths leading to class and to the dining hall and to the nearest pharmacy. Even if students don’t want to admit it, homesickness is just part of the deal — but if high school grads pack a few reminders of home, it may help them settle in and calm their nerves.

What’s the key to a gift that will make college feel like home? Think of the things the student likes to do with their family — be it their immediate family, extended family or chosen family — and help them hang on to those memories.

  • For the Foodie

    Practical Option:  A set of nesting Tupperware. They can store leftovers, stack together when not in use and withstand countless spins in the residence hall microwave.

    Life-Hack Option:  A miniature spice rack. For grownup tastes on a student budget, a few shakes of garlic powder, lemon salt, and red pepper flakes can elevate pizza, ramen, popcorn and other essential college foods.

    Thoughtful Option: A recipe from your family’s favorite restaurant. If Mr. Shake Shack or the granny at your beloved neighborhood trattoria won’t hand out the exact recipe, search the web for an approximation, then write it by hand on a pretty index card. Optional add-on: a grocery store gift card.

  • For the Outdoor Enthusiast

    Practical Option: A rugged new backpack that can carry books during the week and several pounds of trail mix while out adventuring on the weekend.

    Life-Hack Option: If the grad’s new school is near a national park, treat them to a National Parks pass. This grants the student, their car and up to three friends entrance to all national parks.

    Thoughtful Option: Press a wildflower, fern or other plant from a favorite hiking trail, campsite or park, and tuck it into a small frame to bring a beloved location inside.

  • For the Cinephile

    Practical Option: Movie passes to the theater closest to the student’s dorm. Add a note, if you like: “[Insert movie name here] opens on [date]. I can’t wait to see it — call me with your review!”

    Life-Hack Option: Shakers of seasonings to spice up movie theater popcorn, or reusable beeswax pouches — an eco-friendly alternative to plastic baggies — for taking snacks to the drive-ins.

    Thoughtful Option: Two copies of the same not-available-on-Netflix film on DVD or Blu-Ray, especially if you know it’s a family favorite. Wrap up one for the student, and the other for the parents. If they miss each other, they can settle in to Citizen Kane or Frances Ha.

  • For the DIYer

    Practical Option: A miniature tool kit. That new IKEA furniture won’t put itself together, especially after someone misplaces the tiny allen wrench that came with it.

    Life-Hack Option: Build a room decor tool kit. Include everything a student could need while turning those blank walls into a medium of self-expression. Pack poster tack and thumbtacks for hanging up favorite prints, and throw in colorful rolls of washi tape for hanging snapshots — washi tape doubles as a frame and is gentle on paint.

    Thoughtful Option: A miniature sewing kit, ideally in a decorative hamper or box. If you’re the sewer in the family, write down your best tips for replacing buttons and darning socks — or print out your favorite tutorials from the internet and tuck them in a pretty envelope. With a little direction, that needle will actually get some use, and not just for piercing a roommate’s nose.

  • For the Athlete

    Practical Option: A gift card redeemable for tickets to a major league, minor league or college sports game. Students can root, eat snacks, bond with friends and generally kick back — an ideal break for a busy college schedule. (Pro tip: Don’t gift tickets to a specific game — they can be difficult or impossible to exchange if the date you choose conflicts with your student’s schedule.)

    Life-Hack Option: A sports channel add-on for their residence hall TV, or an online viewing membership, so they never miss a game with their favorite team.

    Thoughtful Option: A vintage pennant for a hometown sports team. Nothing makes a wall look more collegiate than a pennant, and the city or team name can help spark conversations with new friends.

  • For the Individualist

    Broaden your focus and think about the student’s hometown. Search for dorm-friendly scent diffusers designed to evoke the seaside, the mountains or the desert. Pack up a preemptive care package filled with local and regional treats. Far-flung Chicagoans might miss eating giardiniera, and East Coast kids may be surprised when they can’t find Moxie soda out west.