Take Two #27: The College Care Package

By Kyra-lin Hom

For most college students, the school year is about to come to an end. And unfortunately, blocking that glorious if temporary exodus are the finals. Papers, tests, projects – they're all due soon. Now, speaking from experience, some colleges like to suck in naïve, well-meaning parents with pre-made 'care packages.' The college or the food companies in charge of bundling these kitschy parcels give them cute names like 'Chocolate Lovers' or 'College Survival.' Don't be fooled. Not a one of these actually has the stuff necessary for those final hell weeks. So here's a bit of advice from recent college graduates on what college students can really use.

#1 Caffeine: I don't care how well your college student has kept up with their studies or paced themselves throughout the duration of their classes. Come the end, they will be facing some fairly sleepless nights – assuming they care about their final grades. Caffeinated tea, coffee grounds (if they have a coffee maker), instant coffee, energy drinks, caffeinated gum, gift cards to local cafes or even the school cafe if that's possible are all great ideas. My personal favorite are chocolate covered coffee beans.

#2 Snacks: It's not so easy to toss ready meals or home-cooked dinners in the mail, but you can bless your college student with some healthy and sustaining snacks. Candy, for the most part, is a no. Think of studying like an all-day sports event. Athletes snack on things that keep them constantly ready to go; too heavy and they'll feel sluggish on the job; too sugary and they'll just spike with unfocused energy then crash. Replace that Twix or Snickers (yes, I know they're delicious) with energy bars like Luna and Cliff bars, Nature Valley's granola bars or even cereal snack bars.

If you really want to add something a bit more fun to the mix, consider a bag of chocolate chips or light microwaveable popcorn. Here we're going for snackables that are easy to eat while studying – small pieces and not sticky or greasy. (In that vein, drinkable soups also rock.) Remember that nearly all finals involve using hands in one way or another. Fingers covered in sticky sugar or oil don't exactly expedite that process.

Another great thing to consider is protein. Toss in a thing of mixed nuts or a bag of beef jerky because that all-necessary compound is direly absent in most college care packages.

#3 Vitamins: The one thing no student wants during finals is to get sick, and the combination of stress, sleep deprivation and likely poor eating habits is a perfect storm for germs. On top of that, the unavoidable increase in caffeine intake has drastic effects on the body's absorption of vitamins. When the tests and term papers started baring down, my roommates and I all stocked up on Airborne, Emergen-C and those tasty gummy multivitamins you can pop like candy.

#4 Study Breaks: Study breaks aren't two hours so don't send movies. Rather they're in the range of 15 to 45 minutes. Consider including those hot neck warmers, iTunes gift cards, soothing eyedrops and even silly toys or comic books. During one of my years, a girl's parents sent a mini Bopit unit. It became the thing to do during study breaks. It was perfect for taking our minds off the crazy for those necessary ten minutes of goofiness that, as simple as it sounds, was the difference between finishing a paragraph and wanting to crawl in a dark corner and forget the world.

If it's childish, silly, goofy – good. Nerf guns (if you send at least two), self-propelled toys, paddle balls – all are awesome. I even used to keep a jump rope by my desk and hop around outside when I just couldn't focus for another second. My other favorite study break was my dorm room's impromptu dance parties. We'd turn on my strobe light, pump the music and rock out for about three songs. After that, it was lights back on and back to the books like an extended game of musical chairs.

The four basics, that's all there is to it. Add your own flare. Ask your college goer if there is something in particular they really want. Besides that, cover these bases and you've got yourself a better college care package than you could ever buy. Happy hunting!

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