Good gifts for a college freshman in the big city?
May 30, 2012 9:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find a cool high school graduation/birthday gift to give to a young woman who will be moving to NYC for college in the fall

So my baby sister will be moving to NYC in the fall to attend the school of social work at NYU, and she's got a high school graduation on Friday that I'm traveling out for. I'm coming up empty on finding a hip but useful gift for her. My budget is not huge.

I'm in the NYC area and have been trying to brainstorm ideas for things that she'd find useful or enjoyable for her freshman year in college. Ideally I'd like to find her some kind of subscription/monthly care package/gift certificates, but suggestions for one-time gifts that keep giving are useful as well.

She's not particularly "girly", so even though I'm looking for something like the items covered in previous askme gift subscriptions, I'm searching for care packages that are not so "beauty" centric, and maybe local to NYC rather than shipped in from elsewhere (although I won't rule those out).

Since she'll be on a meal plan and her department is known for the amount of free food it provides, I'm not sure how exciting or useful food care packages would be either. All ideas (especially from those of you who were recently freshmen in NYC) are welcome.
posted by stagewhisper to Shopping (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about a gift certificate for a Timbuk2 or Chrome messenger bag? I couldn't imagine not having one. Or a pair of noise canceling headphones for studying (or for the subway)?
posted by kdern at 9:47 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe an Amazon gift card to help with the expenses, or, see if the NYU bookstore has gift cards.

Cash is always the perfect thing.

Wine Coolers.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:49 AM on May 30, 2012

How about a 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard? Or a couple of pre-loaded MetroCards?
posted by gyusan at 9:55 AM on May 30, 2012

A copy of the not for tourist guide and some metro cards. (i'm on a mobile so no links)
posted by Mr. X at 9:55 AM on May 30, 2012

I hate to say this but a Starbuck's gift card is useful, social and when you're a broke student, a treat. If you feel like that isn't swanky enough, a Dean & Deluca giftcard is local and hey, they make coffee! Otherwise, yeah, a MetroCard.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:57 AM on May 30, 2012

I'm ~15 years out of the NYU dorms but some things I would have liked are:

- lots of earplugs, especially if she has never shared a room before
- metrocard!
- someone to do my laundry (potentially an unrealistic expectation)
- maybe a refillable sbux gift card?
posted by elizardbits at 9:58 AM on May 30, 2012

Thirding a 30-day unlimited Metro card *if* NYU doesn't provide students with one already. A FreshDirect 6 month unlimited pass is great, as is a gift certificate to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:00 AM on May 30, 2012

A bit of minutia re: MetroCards. Get her a pre-paid MetroCard, not an unlimited. She needs the unlimited either way, but most people don't think to have a backup. It's really useful to have an effectively unexpirable card with some cash on it, just in case it's the day her card expired and she's in a hurry, or she needs to swipe a friend through or something like that.
posted by griphus at 10:01 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Not For Tourists Guide to New York City was incredibly helpful to me when I moved to NYC for go to NYU (especially since NYU dips below the number grid- all those named streets, ahhhh). Didn't leave home without it for almost a year.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:02 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

As far as subscriptions go, Time Out New York is a pretty swell thing to have around, although it skews somewhat older than college-freshman.
posted by griphus at 10:05 AM on May 30, 2012

elizardbits: "- someone to do my laundry (potentially an unrealistic expectation)"

Wow, this is an awesome idea, and thankfully, in New York it is entirely possible! There are TONS of places that will pick up, wash&fold, and deliver your laundry to you. And compared to paying at the machines to do it yourself, they are actually not very overpriced. You can definitely pay with credit cards, so you could set her up with one and have them charge your card for it!
posted by Grither at 10:06 AM on May 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers so far, everyone! I am concerned about getting her a metrocard because I think she might be able to get a reduced/free fare through NYU.

I gave her a copy of NFT last year, but the noise-cancelling headphones/earplugs are something I never thought of, that's a great suggestion.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:09 AM on May 30, 2012

Stuff you need in NYC that you don't need elsewhere, or not as much:
-Rain supplies! Adorable rain boots and a couple of sturdy umbrellas are a must. When walking is your commuting, rain can ruin your day.
-Agree with the laundry service thing. That would be cool. There must be a few right by her dorm.
-One of those Visa/other "cash gift cards" would be great, with a note like "treat yourself to a taxi!" When I was young and broke in the city, taking a taxi was a big treat.

If you get her anything that she can't fit in her wallet, ship it to her after she gets there. Getting stuff to NYC on the plane/car/whatever can be a PITA.
posted by manicure12 at 10:11 AM on May 30, 2012

I loved my Streetwise laminated folding map.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:12 AM on May 30, 2012

Umbrella. Appropriate footware. (What's the new manhattan storage ad? NYC: accepting of you, tough on your shoes?)
posted by Brian Puccio at 10:20 AM on May 30, 2012

Best answer: An IFC Center membership would be great for someone living near Washington Square.

A student membership to MoMA? (Free movies!)
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 10:51 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

A jar full of quarters would also be nice toward the laundry-doing (maybe they're not coin-op anymore, I suppose, but they were BACK IN MY DAY). It'd be not so expensive and super useful.

Gift card to Think Coffee (significantly nicer to hang out in than Starbucks, several in the area, including one in the bookstore).

If you ultimately do decide to go the MetroCard route, I'd second griphus and suggest just putting some cash on one rather than getting an unlimited. She may be more adventurous than I was as a freshman, but I didn't leave the Village often enough in any given 30-day period to make an unlimited worthwhile.
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:02 AM on May 30, 2012

A gift card for the Strand!
posted by mlle valentine at 11:14 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I want to second the idea of an emergency MetroCard. It can just have money for a few rides on it and be part of a larger present. But having your card crap out or be expired is high on the list of things you know you should be prepared for, but aren't.

It's not that exciting, but office supplies--stapler, three hole punch, etc.--are super useful and something that is easy to forget to buy. Also, a decent stapler is surprisingly expensive, so she's liable to have sticker shock and buy a cheap plastic one that keeps breaking (or at least I did). That's a $15-$20 object that she'll have for a long time.

If she drinks coffee or tea a good insulated travel mug is always useful. It's almost as far from New York as you can get in the US, but Peet's does recurring coffee and tea deliveries. Somewhere in New York might do the same. In a similar vein, an electric kettle or a coffee maker. You'd need to check that they're allowed in the dorms.
posted by hoyland at 1:39 PM on May 30, 2012

What is your budget?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:12 PM on May 30, 2012

A cfl or led torchiere .
posted by brujita at 9:25 PM on May 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions- will probably be doling some more of them out once she is in nyc and settled. For now I replaced the sportswatch I'd given her a couple years ago (it died) and gave her a Moma membership so we'll have lots of art dates this year.
posted by stagewhisper at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2012

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