It’s a few weeks into the semester, and your college student is missing home. Despite today’s  technology, one of the best ways to remind your child or grandchild you’re thinking of them while they’re away is through snail mail.

It’s a few weeks into the semester, and your college student is missing home. Despite today’s  technology, one of the best ways to remind your child or grandchild you’re thinking of them while they’re away is through snail mail. Sometimes, just a card or simple note is enough — other times, a care package can really brighten their day.


Don’t forget the cookies!


At the University of Minnesota, school officials take their care packages seriously. Several tips from parents and grandparents have been shared, along with standby favorite shipments like chocolate chip cookiesor rolls of quarters for laundry.


“Parents still want to do something for their student, particularly at the beginning of the academic year and any time they sense that their student might be unhappy,” said Marjorie Savage, U of M parent program director. “And the first birthday away from home is harder on parents than on the student, so that’s another common time to send something.”


Savage, who also wrote a book for parents of college students called “You’re on Your Own (But I’m Here If You Need Me),” said students are content with gift cards, “but those personal touches and a real ‘package’ feel the most special.” Sending treats to share with roommates — especially for a freshman student acclimating to college life and new friends — also is appreciated.


Consider living situation


Darion Page, assistant director for Huskie Family Connections at Northern Illinois University, said for those living in residence halls, everyday essentials or organizational tools to maximize space make for good gifts.


“Basically, it’s a mini apartment,” Page said of dormitory rooms. “Linens are always beneficial, bedsheets and bath towels.”


To help your student build a sense of community among his or her neighbors, Page suggested sending packets of microwavable popcorn and new DVDs for a group movie night. Or something he remembered well while he was in college: a simple check for $10 or $15, with a note in the memo, “have coffee on me.”


What do students want most?


Food, Scordato said.


While students like junk food every once in a while (From-Mom.com has a package for just that called “Junkalicious”), Scordato’s main focus is healthy snacks.


College students “don’t really care to have cutesy-style baskets, mugs, water bottles. They get so much free stuff like that on campus anyway,” she said. “The kids love to get packages, and they appreciate the love and support that comes along with them.”


What not to send


While sending cookies is a popular option for parents and grandparents, some advise to place baked goods in modest containers — such as a check box or small coffee can — so they can easily fit in a dorm mailbox. Some colleges and universities place restrictions on what can be sent in packages, or won’t accept items not packaged or delivered through a standard carrier, Savage said.


Likewise, any packages bearing fruit should be avoided, as they can pose delivery problems and spoil if not picked up by the student right away. Keep in mind that for large packages, students might have to travel to a U.S. Postal Service or UPS office that might not be within walking distance of campus.


It’s what’s inside that counts


Stuck on what to put inside your care package? Try these items:


• Instant coffee or a single-serve coffee maker.


• Hot chocolate and single-serve drink packets.


• Easy-to-make food: microwave popcorn; instant macaroni, Ramen noodles, soups or oatmeal; cans of fruit or vegetables with lift-off lids.


• Cereal or energy bars.


• Kleenex, cleaning wipes, antibacterial soap and sanitizer, paper towels.


• Personal items such as shampoo and toothpaste, deodorant and contact lens solution.


• Rolls of quarters for laundry.


• Money or gift cards (iTunes, grocery store, etc.), coupons to local eateries.


• CDs, DVDs, Netflix free trial.


• Extra linens, towels, weather-appropriate clothes.


• Containers from homemade treats that can be reused for organization or extra storage.


• Holiday decorations, including extras for roommates or floormates.


• From home: photos, cartoons, stories from local newspapers, church bulletins, magazines, recipes for off-campus students.


• Postage stamps and envelopes, to send thoughts back home.