10 Fantastic Christmas Gifts for Students

Are you struggling to know what to buy for your student friends, children, grandchildren or other loved ones for Christmas?
Gift-giving can be tricky, especially if your student-aged loved ones are busy at school or university so that you don’t see them so often to keep up with their interests. Luckily, there are some things that students will always welcome, from secondary school to university. In this article, we take a look at the gifts we know that students would be thrilled to receive.

1. An online course from ORA

Image shows a student wearing headphones, in front of a laptop.
Our online courses can be done any time, anywhere.

Our range of online courses is great for curious students who want to explore subject areas that they might not have encountered in school, or who want to improve transferable skills such as essay-writing or presentation skills.
If you know exactly what the person you’re buying for is interested in, then you can buy them a single course on that topic. But if you’re less sure – or maybe you know they’re interested in exploring a variety of different subjects – then you can buy them access to all 30+ of our online courses for either 3 or 6 months. For students trying to expand their intellectual horizons after focusing on a single subject for too long, those wishing to work out which subject they should study at university, or those who simply want to enhance their general knowledge, membership for 3 or 6 months should prove popular.

2. An ORA summer school course

Image shows students on our Introduction to Medicine course.
Introduction to Medicine is popular for students who hope to become doctors.

If your budget stretches further, you might want to consider treating your loved one to a two-week summer school course with Oxford Royale Academy. Our two-week courses are available for students aged 13 to 25, and if you want to buy a gift for a younger relative, we also have one-week courses available for students aged 8 to 12.
What would a gift like this entail? First of all, you’d be gifting them an unforgettable holiday. Our summer school courses are all based in stunning locations, from our own International Study Centre, based in the 17th century Yarnton Manor, to the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Imperial College London and Yale. In each of these locations, students enjoy an exciting and varied programme of activities, excursions and parties to make the most of their time with us.
More importantly, you’d be giving them an educational experience that’s second-to-none; the chance to learn new skills, to see their favourite subject from a new perspective, and to get ready for university study. If you’re not sure which course they might enjoy most, you could consider New Perspectives (for students aged 13 to 15) or Broadening Horizons (for students aged 16 to 18), where students can choose from a wide range of study options depending on their interests or what they’d like to explore.

3. An ORA Gap Year programme

Image shows two students in a lesson as part of our Gap Year programme.
Help your loved one grow in confidence before university.

For older students, a truly special gift would be an ORA Gap Year programme. This would represent a significant investment in your loved one’s education, providing them with a boost to their studies ahead of attending university that could make all the difference to their academic success. Gap Year programmes are for students aged 17 to 19, based in our International Study Centre just outside Oxford, and last 10 weeks with the option to start in September, January or April.
Gap Year programmes are built around a choice of academic courses, plus electives that build transferable skills, and an extended project to prepare students for the kind of self-motivated study that will be required of them at university. As with our summer school courses, there’s a lively programme of activities, excursions and extra-curriculars such as debating sessions and the opportunity to attend public events at nearby universities and museums. If you have a loved one who’s feeling nervous about whether they’re ready for the demands and challenges of higher education, our Gap Year programmes can help them build their subject knowledge, academic skills and confidence to give them a head start for when they go to university.

4. A newspaper or magazine subscription

Image shows a stack of magazines, all open.
The range of magazines available means you’re sure to find something that matches your loved one’s interests.

A less extravagant gift – but nonetheless sure to be appreciated – is a subscription to a magazine that’s relevant to the subjects your loved one is interested in, or in some cases, to a daily or weekly newspaper. A 12-month subscription makes for a thoughtful gift where each time they receive their subscription, they’ll think of you.
For instance, any student who is currently studying any of Politics, Economics, International Development or related fields, or considering studying them in future, would undoubtedly welcome a subscription to the Economist or Financial Times. A subscription to the New Scientist makes for a great gift to the future scientists of the world, or simply students who are interested in enhancing their general knowledge. If you’re not sure what to go for, think about what’s relevant to the subject that they’re most interested in – the London Review of Books is perfect for prospective English students, for instance. And if you’re really stuck, it’s sometimes possible to buy a subscription that can then be used for the magazine of the recipient’s choice from a range of options.

5. A subscription to something practical

Image shows a red mailbox on a blue wall.
Give your loved one a reason to look forward to the post arriving.

If you like the idea of a subscription to remind the recipient of you every time it’s delivered, but you’re not sure if a newspaper or magazine is right for them, then you have lots of other options as well. A vast range of subscription boxes has appeared in recent years, for everything from flowers to cheese to cosmetics, and many are perfect for students. That’s especially the case if they’ve recently moved away from home and appreciate some home comforts, or if they’re struggling through an exam year and need a pick-me-up. Students don’t often receive post that’s welcome, so amid the bills and responses to university applications, it can be lovely to get something that they can look forward to receiving.
The kinds of things you could send vary widely. You might want to get a subscription to a snack box service, if the student you’re thinking of is inclined to sit in the library for hours and forget to eat. A subscription for fresh flowers is less practical but can go a long way to brightening up student accommodation. Other options include novels, socks and coffee.

6. Noise-cancelling headphones and other useful library gear

Image shows a pair of headphones.
The secret to undisturbed studying.

Noise-cancelling headphones are perhaps the ultimate practical gift for students who do a lot of work in noisy environments like cafes, student halls and shared working spaces – which is to say, most students. But this is a gift that isn’t just about work; noise-cancelling headphones also enable the recipient to watch their favourite show without being disturbed by their flatmate’s party, for instance.
There are other practical gifts to help with studying too, many of them in the “stocking filler” price range. For instance, spare battery packs, extended or heavy-duty charging cables, or lightweight e-readers can be invaluable for students but often aren’t the kinds of things they think of buying for themselves. If they’re inclined to work while wrapped up in a duvet, a lap tray can help avoid their laptop getting clogged up with dust. There are all kinds of useful, practical gifts that students might not think to ask for themselves, but that they will appreciate greatly once they’ve got them.

7. A professional-looking rucksack

Image shows a student texting, their rucksack in their lap.
A quality rucksack can last a long time.

Student rucksacks tend to be cheap and scruffy, not to mention constructed in a way that isn’t usually very good for their backs. That’s a problem because students tend to have a lot to carry around, including laptops, textbooks, and any equipment that’s required for their specific subject. What’s more, a really high-quality rucksack is often out of the student price range. A good, professional-looking rucksack is another gift that a student might not realise how much they’ll value until it arrives under their Christmas tree.
Look for something hard-wearing; don’t assume that a busy student will take good care of soft leather, for instance. Ideally, pick something that will stand out; you can assume that any student possession will be dumped with those of many other friends and housemates, so it’s best to have things that can be easily identified. One stylish way of achieving this is personalising it with their initials, such as embossing leather or embroidery on a cloth bag.

8. Bookshop gift cards

Image shows shelves of books with a wooden ladder to access them.
A gift card lets your loved one decide if they want a book for their studies or for pleasure.

Gift cards have a bad reputation. Many people think that giving a gift card is a sign that they don’t know the recipient well enough to buy them a gift that they’ve chosen themselves; that picking out a gift for them shows more interest and understanding of their needs, hobbies and taste.
But for students, that’s not quite how it works. Yes, they’ll be pleased that when you picked out “50 ways to knit a beret” that you remembered their interest in handcrafted headwear, but not nearly as pleased as they might be with the knowledge that they can now afford to buy half their reading list for the next term instead of needing to go to the library. Even if they’re happy to get study materials from the library, they might be very pleased to be able to buy themselves something to read for pleasure instead of all of their reading being focused on their studies. A gift card might not feel as special as a carefully selected present, but ultimately the value to the recipient may be considerably greater. And if you want to give them something elaborate to unwrap, then you can always put it in a box.

9. Support for their hobby

Images shows someone's hands knitting.
A hobby like knitting is unlikely to turn up in anyone’s personal statement, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

There is a lot of pressure on secondary school and university students to sacrifice their present enjoyment for the sake of the future, whether that’s putting their energies into getting good grades, taking up internships or other opportunities to enhance their future career prospects, or committing to the kind of hobbies that look good on a university application. What can end up falling by the wayside are the hobbies that they do simply to have fun, that are very unlikely to impress an employer or an admissions tutor, such as knitting, colouring or similar activities.
Yet these are the activities that make all the stress that secondary school and university students face bearable. Encouraging your loved one’s studies can also mean encouraging them to relax – and one great way to do that is to buy them the things they might need or enjoy for their hobby. For instance, knitters will always appreciate more yarn! Other hobbies, such as skiing or other sports, can work out expensive over time, and even if you don’t know exactly what’s required, a gift card to a relevant store may be appreciated. That can be better than just giving them cash because then they’ll have to spend it on enjoying themselves, rather than feeling obliged to buy something for their studies.

10. A new laptop or tablet

Images shows a laptop on a desk.
Gifts of tech usually go down well.

Perhaps the gift that is most certain to be used by a student is a new laptop or tablet; and in many cases, these are cheaper than you might expect. If you know, for instance, that your loved one has a desktop or a large gaming laptop, they might well appreciate a lightweight tablet or netbook that they can easily carry around to study groups or lectures. The inverse might also be true (though more expensive) – if they have a laptop sized for carrying it around with them, they might appreciate a larger machine or even peripherals such as a screen or projector to enable activities like watching films or playing games.
Do make sure if you go down this route that you also get any essential software; for instance, if your loved one’s school or university requires citations and bibliography to be in a format that requires Windows software, then supporting your loved one with a laptop will not help much if they then can’t afford a licence for the software they’ll need. If you go down the tech route, it can be better to give your loved one an IOU and let them choose exactly what they’d like, for instance in the Boxing Day sales – then you can be sure that you’re getting them what they’ll value.

Image credits: gifts; magazines; letterbox; headphones; backpack; bookshop; knitting; laptop