How to host a college care package party

By Diane Schwemm

Care packages are the perfect, no-strings-attached way to say, “I love you and am thinking about you.” When you want to celebrate your student’s birthday from afar, or show support during midterms and finals, a care package helps bridge the miles.

What’s the best way to put together a prize-winning care package that will make your student the envy of the residence hall? Host a care package party with fellow college parents! It’s truly a win-win.

As the weather cools and autumn leaves swirl through the air, you have a great excuse to put on a pot of tea (or open a bottle of wine) and hang out with friends old and new. Not only that, but the secret to a fun, creative care package is also what makes it super easy: each person only needs to think of/buy/make a single type of item.

How to organize a college care-package party:

Invite lots of people. 

Reach out to everyone you know with a student away at college. 10-15 people is an ideal number for filling a box with goodies but even five or six guests will be fun. Don’t know many other college parents? The UniversityParent College Parent Facebook group can help you make connections, or you can call the Office of Parent and Family Relations at your student’s school to ask for names and numbers of parents who live in your area.

Confirm your guests and the names of their students. 

Start an email chain to find out if there are any allergies or other dietary restrictions among the students. Let each other know what you’re bringing to contribute to the packages, too, so you don’t duplicate.

Stock up on mailing supplies. 

I like the flat-rate USPS boxes. Get a few more than you think you will need, both medium and large sized, and have mailing labels and pens ready as well.

Have a smartphone or camera available, and if possible a printer with photo paper.

Each parent should bring one item times however many students will be receiving a package.

 (It doesn’t hurt to have a few extra, just in case.) Each parent should also bring short, pre-written notes to each student.

Care Package item ideas

  • Squeeze bottles of applesauce
  • Dried fruit
  • Hot chocolate or cider packets
  • Bundles of homemade granola or trail mix (check for nut allergies)
  • Energy/protein bars (ditto)
  • Popcorn
  • Vitamin C drops
  • Tissue packs
  • Fun pencils, highlighters, Post-it notes, etc.
  • A small toy or game
  • Squishy stress-relief balls
  • Small seasonal decoration (real jack-be-little pumpkins travel well)
  • Note cards (homemade if you’re crafty) and a couple of stamps

Label each box with a student’s name. 

Make sure to stick a tag on the box of any student who is gluten-free so parents can leave questionable treats out of those boxes.

Take a group photo. 

Print this out and include it in the package. (If necessary you can do one-hour photo finishing and distribute the photos to your friends later.)

Stuff the boxes with items! 

Don’t forget the hand-written personal notes and group photo. Parents can take the boxes home before mailing to fill any remaining nooks and crannies.

The best part of a care package party may be what the parents give each other — a chance to share stories and bond with friends.