Gift Ideas for an 18YO Girl
April 12, 2005 2:31 PM   Subscribe

What are some good gift ideas for a girl turning 18? She's a good student (I think 4.0), likes playing sports (volleyball and basketball) and is going to college this Fall to study microbiology. I'm willing to spend about $20-30.

This is the daughter of one of my best friends. I know both the birthday girl and her brother fairly well, but it's not like I spend a lot of time with them. The party is this friday and I'm sure it will quickly devolve into the kids in one room and the adults in another.
posted by friarjohn to Shopping (32 answers total)
Get her the book Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs to shake up her reality a little bit before she goes to college.
posted by pwally at 2:36 PM on April 12, 2005

Think practical. Tools. Oh man, tools. I can't tell you how many times I wished I had tools. A basic toolkit saves a trip to the RA or the housing office. Or if toolkits are too expensive, a Leatherman, or some similar good quality multitool.

Dishes, silverware, pots and pans are also good things. There's gobs of stuff that people use regularly that they need but wouldn't think of giving as a gift.

Gift certificates are nice. A gift certificate to CVS (if they give them)? Not glamorous, but very useful if Mom and Dad aren't going to foot all her bills.
posted by Anonymous at 2:50 PM on April 12, 2005

Response by poster: Those are good suggestions for the graduation party and the going-off-to-college party. :)
posted by friarjohn at 3:24 PM on April 12, 2005

I second the tools idea. You could equip a pretty decent little tool box with a hammer, a variety of nails, philips and flathead screwdrivers, screws, thumbtacks, sticky-tak to hold posters on the wall, some putty to fill in the holes where she didn't use the sticky-tak, etc. for about $30.
posted by Coffeemate at 3:26 PM on April 12, 2005

How about an iTunes gift card? Or a gift voucher to some place Bath & Body Shop, Barnes & Noble, etc?
posted by riffola at 3:27 PM on April 12, 2005

One of the best gifts anyone ever gave me was a black leather folio. I took it with me to conferences, job interviews, and the like. With places for pens, business cards, loose papers, and a notepad, it has served me very well through my college years; a lot more so than I thought it would when I first got it.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 3:29 PM on April 12, 2005

I will second schroedinger's tools idea and raise you one with the Leatherman Squirt. For a girl I would reccomend the S4 which has scissors instead of the usual pliers. Well within your budget and something she can put on her keychain and actually use. I have one and use it daily.
posted by sophist at 3:54 PM on April 12, 2005

I just AIMed this thread to my daughter, who's also 18 and in college, and she immediately suggested these microbes - very cute, and well within the budget. Her favorite is Athlete's Foot.
posted by iconomy at 4:15 PM on April 12, 2005

I have one of those rhinoviruse plush toys. Since getting it I have caught more colds than in any previous time period I can remember. I'm sure moving to England from sunny Texas had nothing to do with it.

I think a multitool would be a great gift. She might be living in a dorm room, so might not have room or need a whole toolkit.

Typical dorm gifts also include beanbag chairs or DVDs.
posted by grouse at 4:29 PM on April 12, 2005

If you are going for practical, I third/fourth/? the tools idea. Especially a hammer.

Or, you could get her a scientific calculator. They run about $20.
posted by luneray at 4:40 PM on April 12, 2005

Tool kit, absolutely. Also consider a wallet full of gift cards for major department stores or chains in her area. If her future residence hall will have coin laundry, maybe a few rolls of quarters will help too.
posted by cajo at 4:52 PM on April 12, 2005

Dont bother with a scientific calculator. All the kids these days use graphing calculators, and they run upwards of $100. It is not particularly exciting unless you your idea of fun has to do with integrals and she probably already has one.

How about iTunes music $$$ credits. Calling cards are frequent gifts, as are any gift card. Even a metafilter subscription. I bet that would raise a few eyebrows and maybe even shake up her reality as much as Naked Lunch.

Or one of those USB flash memory keychain thingies? For when she forgets her disk. My favorite is still the mini Leatherman though.
posted by sophist at 5:00 PM on April 12, 2005

Speaking as a freshman 18year old girl.

Things I really needed/was glad to have:

A giftcard to the university bookstore
iTunes gift certificate
Cute cushions
A Brita Water filter
A Map of the city I moved to
A cordless telephone
A bulk box of ramen noodles/instant soup
Cool lamps/hanging lights

Moving is a bitch...don't get her anything that'll be a pain to transport if she's going far.
posted by stray at 5:37 PM on April 12, 2005

I second the microbes idea (frightening and cute). The tools idea though--- since you didn't specifically mention you were going for practical, I might stay away from that. Its been a couple years since I was the 18 year old leaving for college, but I am pretty sure that sort of a gift would have been left in my closet at home. If she is living on campus her university will likely be responsible for any repairs that would require tools. I lived on campus for two years and I never needed any, but if I had, a quick call to an RA would have been more efficient than dragging out a box whose contents I didn't really know what to do with anyhow (but I am only speaking for myself here).

Generally speaking, though, when it comes to gifts for teenagers, I stress gift cards/certificates. Books, DVDs, music and food are things that most teenagers could enjoy, so a gift card to a store that sells that kind of stuff should work well. For example, if you happen to know the major grocery store in the area of her university, a certificate there would probably be appreciated (dining halls get old fast).
posted by liverbisque at 5:50 PM on April 12, 2005

I'd avoid the gift cards thing, and I'd avoid anything that's physically large. Remember, she won't be leaving for college for several months, and when she does, she'll have a lot of stuff to take with her. She can buy things like beanbag chairs when she gets to college. Gift certificates for things in the town her college is in aren't a great idea, since she won't be able to _use_ them for months. She'll probably have lost them by that point. Also, gift certificates are pretty dull to receive. [If you do decide to go the gift card route, make sure you have some idea what she's interested in... not all teenage girls are devotees of Bath and Bodyworks, for example.]

I would also avoid things like books, DVDs, etc unless you [or her parents] have a very good idea of what she likes, what she owns, and what she dislikes. Most teens have pretty strong opinions about that kind of stuff, and something that's useful but not very exciting is better than something she'd outright dislike.

Seriously, though, a leatherman would be great. My leatherman is one of the most useful things I own. I always have a knife/pliers/bottle opener/etc on hand. An actual toolkit would also be great - it'll be useful to her even after she's out of college. Being able to use simple tools is a skill everyone should have, and she won't always be able to call the RA to fix things for her. Heck, she might even want to, say, build a loft, and things like measuring tape, drills, and screws are pretty handy for that sort of thing.
posted by ubersturm at 8:24 PM on April 12, 2005

posted by borkingchikapa at 9:33 PM on April 12, 2005

haha that dude who said a hammer or a scientific calculator is hilarious. whoever you are, keep up the good work.
posted by foraneagle2 at 9:39 PM on April 12, 2005

My boss got me a Leatherman Micra for Xmas. I've got a pliers-based Leatherman, but the micra..well. I use it daily - from tightening wire contacts to opening beers (!) to trimming my nails. I know it's a bit more than the 30 you wanna drop, and granted I *am* a mechanic of sorts, but it's a damn useful thing to have.
posted by notsnot at 9:44 PM on April 12, 2005

I brought a took kit to college. So far, I've used the scissors for paper, and the pliers to try and break into empty rooms. Not really that useful. There's not really all that much to fix in a dorm room, and you can't hang pictures on the wall, so a hammer's pointless. Then again, as people have said, maybe she's into that sort of thing.
posted by stray at 9:59 PM on April 12, 2005

And you don't want to give something too boring. Maybe get some tupperware (tupperware is soooo useful), fill it with a survival kit of sorts: bottle opener, a set of cutlery, an insulated coffee mug, a keychain (maybe a lanyard from her school?), the Worst Case Scenario Guide to College, a city map, a phone card, a nailclipper, miscellaneous cute crap...
posted by stray at 10:07 PM on April 12, 2005

Tupperware is great, as are all those other ideas, except the worst case scenario guides get old pretty fast.

Other good gifts: plug-in teapot (for making ramen), transit map if she's going to college in a big city, b-day themed beauty products, books, basic kitchenware (plate, bowl, cutlery, a good knife, cups) that's not super-boring (everyone has the same annoyingly bright colored plastic). Towels. My grandma bought me towels when I was going away and I thought, what a weird gift. Best gift ever - you can never have too many.

Oh and maybe some chic office supplies - like a nice adress book and planner, a stack of moleskine notebookes.
posted by mai at 11:29 PM on April 12, 2005

My vote is for a gift certificate, specifically That way she can buy books, music, DVD's, electric teapots, jewelry, clothes, video games, almost everything everyone has already mentioned above. She could use it now, or when she gets to college. It's not an exciting gift, but there's no way she's going to throw it in her closet and never use it either. Or for her to get some posters or prints for her dorm room?

If you're looking for something more fun, try Uncommon Goods. Lots of neat stuff like this wishbone necklace, "wishing" her a happy bday and all that, or this mouse radio that doesn't take up much space in a dorm room.
posted by Ugh at 1:10 AM on April 13, 2005

I loved my Leatherman that my dad gave me before I went off to college - we weren't allowed to nail things into the walls, so really the only thing I needed was a screwdriver. Regular tools are an awesome first-apartment-housewarming gift, but are probably kinda useless for dorms.

Anything that is in a theme/color of her school is cool. Towels in school colors, a trashcan with the school logo, a hoodie, etc. will all go over well if she is going to a university - but if its small and liberal artsy college this might not be as welcomed.

One thing that I got from my aunt that I especially loved was a nice little photo album/scrapbook - I was able to put together all my favorite pictures/ticket stubs from my senior year and bring it all to college with me in a nice little compact book.
posted by gatorae at 6:29 AM on April 13, 2005

"Oh The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss.
posted by grateful at 7:44 AM on April 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Yikes, if you had given me towels in my school colours, I would have been very confused. Be careful with that one. How about a little USB thumb drive?
posted by fionab at 8:27 AM on April 13, 2005

I second the "Oh The Places You'll Go" - a graduating senior likely only needs one or two more of those before they can wallpaper their dorm with the covers.

Do you have her email address? She may have an Amazon Wish List. If not you could just get her an Amazon Gift Certificate.

I agree with someone above who commented to the effect that she might well just leave behind the tools not yet appreciating their usefulness. You could give her the certificate and suggest she might find XYZ helpful when she gets there... or just buy some CDs and make RIAA happy. :)
posted by phearlez at 8:44 AM on April 13, 2005

Along the lines of the gift card suggestions, I remember reading (here?) a suggestion about giving multiple small ($5-10) gift cards to places like local coffee shops and ice cream places, movie theaters, bookstores, iTunes, etc. That might be fun.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:21 AM on April 13, 2005

Whether or not the tools will be useful depends on her personality, not the college. My college didn't let us put holes in the walls, but I used the tools I brought frequently. For example, many dorm beds can have their frames flipped if you have a wrench. That gives you a lot of nice storage space under your bed. I took the sliding doors off my closet and set them up between a couple of pipe clamps on the top to make an extra wardrobe. There was the fridge in the lounge that had the door opening the wrong way for the space, so I swapped it. Then there was rewiring the phone to add a modular jack and setting up splitter cables and extensions in each room in the quad.
From my point of view, tools are key.
posted by plinth at 9:27 AM on April 13, 2005

How about a prepaid session at a spa in her college town? a nice soak for a break from school stress.
In my kids' opinions certificates are boring, music and books are too much individual taste to have anyone lese get for them, and though tools are cool they're not really what they want.
posted by anadem at 9:46 AM on April 13, 2005

As a college student, the gift certificate idea sounds pretty good, and if she can't think of anything she *wants* to buy with it, she can always put it towards textbooks (Amazon is most always cheaper than university bookstores).

And as for tools, well, I keep asking for them, but apparently my parents think I'm joking. A set of screwdrivers and some pliers would make me very happy -- although I'm sure plenty of girls wouldn't immediately understand just how useful basic tools will end up being.

Also, if she's going to be driving between home and college (or around her college town) much at all, gift certificates for regional gas station chains are nice. I quickly used up the ones I got at graduation.
posted by katieinshoes at 12:47 PM on April 13, 2005

"For a girl I would reccomend the S4 which has scissors instead of the usual pliers."

Right, b/c a girl would never need pliers.

posted by Raspberry at 6:29 PM on April 13, 2005

My dad gave me a can of WD40 and a roll of duct tape a few Christmasses back. I was not wildly enthusiastic about them at the time, but whenever I need to use them (and it's an emergency situation half the time) I bless the man. If you go for the extremely pragmatic route, be prepared for initial polite expressions of thanks and realize you'll get silent, fervent gratitude at some later point.
posted by orange swan at 8:37 AM on April 18, 2005

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