Parent Home > Campus and Community > Gopher Gifts and Care Packages

Gopher Gifts and Care Packages

The Fine Art of Care Packages

We asked parents for their advice about care packages for college students. We received a number of suggestions for items to include in care packages, packing tips, and even recipes for cookies that hold up well in the mail.

Send your email address to to sign up for the University Parent email news. We’ll remind you to send care packages.


  • Since we only live about 40 miles from the University, I have baked cookies and delivered them the same day. I usually package them in clear cellophane bags and use maroon and gold ribbons to tie them. I always make a few extra bags so other kids can enjoy them too. SH
  • Special K bars and frosted sugar cookies are our two sons’ most-requested food items. C&JB
  • Anytime I talk with my son and ask if he needs anything, the answer always is chocolate chip cookies. So for those busy parents out there, it saves time to just go to the grocery store, buy the ready-made cookie dough, and bring it home to bake. I asked him once if I should bake some brownies, and he said, “No, just chocolate chip cookies.” ML


  • The most well-received care packages, according to my freshman son: Microwave popcorn, Easy Mac, Kleenex, personal items (shampoo, toothpaste, etc), money, CDs, cookies, more warm clothes, extra gloves, scarf and hat. The only thing he said he didn't use was the long underwear I sent in January. JS
  • Opening a package. What I have found that works for Care Packages are rolls of quarters, gift cards to local grocery stores, gas, a favorite clothing store, for food - pizza, Chinese, Subway, etc., and a phone card to call their friends. BP
  • Rather than sending homemade cookies that might not travel well, I order relatively inexpensive $25 packages from places like the Popcorn Factory that will send packages of treats that arrive in perfect condition. Other companies that do this are Wolferman's and Harry and David. I also send pictures from home and personal care items like body lotion or hair products that would be fun for her to use. CB
  • The best thing I sent my son and daughter while in college was FOOD. Usually mac and cheese, but they also enjoyed cans of fruit with the lift off lid. I know they are expensive to send but they were greatly appreciated. Boxes of Nutrigrain bars were also appreciated. For my daughter I would include make-up. I had a list of what she used in my purse and would pick things up when on sale and send them out—shampoo, conditioner, mascara, blush, foundation. And extra nail clippers. For some reason they seemed to get lost. Gift certificates for Subway were always welcome too. Soups and mini dinners in those round containers were nice to send also. And of course Hershey chocolate nuggets. Just the right size to pop in your mouth and also to share with roommates. My daughter was in seventh heaven when she received her cans of mandarin oranges. And sometimes it doesn't even matter what's in the box, it's just important that they got one. PH


  • This was the first time since his birth that we parents have not been with him on his birthday, (I think it's more emotional for mom!) and I really appreciated the opportunity to send him a cake. (Check out the birthday cakes under Gopher Gifts). VK
  • I have sent something small to decorate her room for every holiday throughout the year. Sometimes I included something for her roommate too. KO
  • This past winter I sent my son a series of gifts for his “12 Days Pre-Birthday” based upon the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas.” This could be adapted to any occasion. Some of the gifts I included were phone cards (4 calling birds), 5 delicious things (5 golden rings), Turtle candies (2 Turtle Doves), etc. It was fun for me to prepare and for my son (and his house mates) to receive. DA
  • I sent up a "St. Nick's" care package just before he was heading home for the winter break. It was loaded with the usual "St. Nick's" stuff: chocolate Santas, Pez container and candy, and even a couple of new pillow cases he said he needed. I also included $10 worth of coupons from Arby’s, which is just a few blocks from his residence hall. There are other restaurants nearby, where parents could buy food coupons so their students can enjoy a night out eating with their friends. MJL
  • At the holidays, I sent a small Christmas stocking and a very tiny decorated Christmas tree (no lights), which my son later admitted he was very happy to get. In spring, I sent an inexpensive Easter basket. JS
  • We were not able to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter, but we sent an early package that arrived the first week of December filled with hot cocoa packets, peppermint candy canes, and "small gift bags filled with treats" so that she could be the Secret Santa for about 12 others. She had a blast spreading the joy with a short note just before finals, wishing each friend good luck and hanging the gift bags on their doors. We did this around Valentines Day too. Somehow, having the package from home reach out to more than just her made her forget to think only of herself and her homesickness and realize that everyone around her needed a "hug" from home, even if that "home" meant the residence hall! AG
  • I send packages a couple of weeks into the semester, during mid terms, finals, holidays, and sometimes I just send a card with a gift card in it, telling my kids I'm thinking of them. It doesn't always have to be a package, any kind of mail is great! BP


  • My daughter doesn't want a lot of sweets and calories, so I have sent a few edibles. I try to keep it to items like instant oatmeal, Easy Mac, granola bars, etc,. so that she can eat in her room once in awhile. KO
  • Meat sticks from Von Hansons have been a hit. MP
  • My son is not a big sweet eater. I have sent him different recipes of snack mixes (Chex Party Mix, etc.) Kellogg's Crispix Web site offers many recipes. In winter I have sent hot chocolate packets, Campbells Soup-at-Hand, Easy Mac & Cheese, granola bars, nuts, salsa and tortilla chips. In springtime, I changed the hot cocoa to lemonade packets to add to water. MW
  • Suggestions for Care Packages might be food coupons to local food establishments on or near campus. My son loves Chipotle, and his residence hall was just a few blocks from the restaurant. DC


  • My son appreciated deodorant, contact lens solution, and hot sauce that does not need refrigeration, as he finds the residence hall food bland. We’ve sent film containers containing quarters and postage stamps. DVDs have been used as well, and mechanical pencils, a second bike lock, an umbrella, and Chipotle gift cards. MP
  • With our two sons at different universities, I send lots of packages. They enjoy getting mail of any kind—cartoons, stories from our local newspaper, the church bulletins, etc. Gift cards for stores, gas stations, and restaurants never go unused. C&JB
  • Our daughter has liked lip gloss or lip balm in winter, a fun pen or pencil, or a gift certificate for a coffee house or fast food restaurant. I have also sent articles from the local newspaper that have something about one of her friends or an extracurricular activity she was in last year, like a copy of a band concert program. She would rather get something in the mail more often than a large package at finals time. KO
  • Our son is not a big junk food junky, so we placed new movie releases in a care package. It was a big hit. One idea we had was to send a collage of pictures taken during one of his visits home, which included pictures of family and friends. We included in the care package a disposable camera for him to take pictures of his friends and activities at college. VK
  • I have had flowers delivered to my daughter this year, and I also looked into which restaurants are in the area and bought gift cards. That way my daughter could get away for a while at a restaurant with some friends and not worry about the expense of it. Some were inexpensive, like a $5.00 card to Brueggers or Noodles. They fit nicely in a card and are almost as good as cookies! SH
  • We sent earplugs after a night when the floor above our son was having a "Dance, Dance Revolution" contest, at the same time that the Campus Christian Crusade kids were singing hymns in the halls. The earplugs helped. MP

Packing/Mailing Tips

  • I found that check boxes make sturdy containers for sending up to six chocolate chip or other cookies, and the box fits in the dorm mailbox. MP
  • Package. When sending cookies, put 4-5 cookies in separate pint size zip-lock bags. It keeps the cookies fresher. And your student can grab a bag when leaving for class, etc. JL
  • We sent cookies and found they travel best in a three-pound coffee can. I tried plastic containers, thinking he could use those later, but the lids popped open. CJ
  • We learned that when shipped by ground, the cookies arrived "fresh baked". However, when shipped by air, the cookies arrived dried out and stale. VK
  • My son loves Hot Cheetos, so I use the small 35-cent bags as packing material to protect the other items. LS

Care Package Party

  • As our high school seniors starting heading off to college in August of 2003, a group of parents decided to get together throughout the year to organize care packages for our kids, as well as keep our social contact with these parents. The first year we met monthly (14 sets of parents - 7 girls, 7 boys—friends, none were dating each other), and we each brought one item for all 14 college students. Some months we had a theme and others we just brought treats or whatever. The kids got about everything and anything you could imagine - food, decorations, warm socks, hand warmers, toothpaste, Christmas stocking with their names on them, etc - even some joke-type items. The kids were spread from Texas to Arizona to North Dakota and Minnesota, and a couple even went to Rochester Community and Technical College. The first one to get the care package would e-mail everyone else that they were on the way! Plus parents had lots of fun - we dressed up for Halloween, went caroling at our Christmas get together, and even went bowling. DM

Tips for Off-Campus Students

  • We sent stamps, money for the laundry, recipes to try that maybe he had missed from home. We found out that UPS will not leave packages at the apartment buildings, which meant our son had to find a way to pick up packages on his bike, and then get everything back to his apartment. Since we learned that, we have mailed everything by US Postal Service, putting green tags (available at the PO) on the package for the postal worker to leave the box, even if our son wasn't home. This worked a lot better for him than trying to get to UPS during their service hours. CJ
  • I’ve sent Ziplock Baggies, cleaning wipes, paper towels, etc. MW

Care Packages and Linen Purchases Through the U

  • Parents of residence hall students receive mailings from the Residential Housing Association (RHA), promoting extra-long linens that parents can order for students living on campus. RHA is a student organization, run by students, and proceeds from the linens are used to support programs and services that directly benefit students who live in campus housing.
  • Please be aware that any correspondence regarding the linens program is mailed on letterhead from either the Housing & Residential Life office or from the Residence Hall Association. The linens program raises about $12,000 a year, which represents a substantial percentage of the annual RHA budget.

Student care packages are available through the Gopher Express in Coffman Memorial Union. Care packages include a Get Well package, a Healthy Snacks package, and more. If your student lives in a residence hall, the Gopher Express will deliver the package free of charge; options are available for delivery to commuter students. For more information, please visit Care Packages by Gopher Express or email or call them at 612-626-1912 during regular business hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Care Package Tips from Housing & Residential Life

  • Fruit baskets might seem like a good idea, but if your student doesn’t pick up the package right away, it can be a problem. Healthy eating aside, fruit baskets tend to cause major delivery problems. Besides, there is always fresh fruit in the dining centers.
  • The residence halls and on-campus apartment buildings are not able to accept personally delivered packages at the information desks. They accept packages mailed or sent by standard delivery methods, such as US Postal Service, UPS, Fed Ex, etc. If you plan to drop off a package for your student, please be sure that he or she will be available to receive the package when you come to campus. 


Rolled Sugar Cookies
by Barb Peterson

1/2 cup butter of margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking power
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (optional)

Soften butter or margarine. Cream together the softened butter or margarine and sugar. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat well. Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and mace. Add to creamed mixture and beat till blended. Divide dough in half. cover and chill about 1 hour. On lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough to 1/8 inch thickness for thin crisp cookies, or 1/4 inch thickness for thick cookies. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake thin cookies in a 375° over for 7 to 8 minutes; bake thick cookies for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet; cool on wire rack. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen thin cookies or about 2 1/2 dozen thick cookies. Decorate with colored sugar before baking or frost with your favorite frosting.

Pumpkin Bars
by Barb Peterson

4 eggs
1 cup salad oil
2 cups sugar
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

Mix above ingredients in a large bowl. Sift the following and add to above. Stir.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix well and pour into greased and floured pan 12 x 18 by 1 inch. Bake at 350° for 25 - 30 minutes.

1 (6 oz) package cream cheese
3/4 stick butter
1 tablespoon cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cheese, butter, vanilla and cream together until soft. Add powdered sugar until correct consistency to spread.

Note: Pumpkin bars freeze well.

Peanut Blossoms
by Barb Peterson

1 ¾ cups Flour
½ cup sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
½ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
48 milk chocolate candy kisses, unwrapped

Heat oven to 375°. In large bowl, combine flour, ½ cup sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, shortening, peanut butter, milk, vanilla and egg; mix at low speed until stiff dough forms. Shape dough into 1 inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately top each cookie with 1 candy kiss, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around edge; remove from cookie sheets.

4 dozen cookies

Rice Krispie Treats (microwave style)
Rice Krispie treats are light to send, and they hold together very well. MG

In large bowl, microwave 1/4 cup butter to melt (1 minute). Add 10 oz. marshmallows (40 large or 4 cups. miniature); micro. 2 1/2 - 3 min. (they should all look puffy).
Add 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter and stir until blended.
Add 5 cups Rice Krispies and partially blend.
Add 6 oz. chocolate chips; continue to stir until all cereal is evenly coated.

Press mixture into lightly buttered 13 X 9 cake pan; press down with waxed paper. Cut into serving pieces of desired size.

Margaret Gawlik 


Gopher Gifts

Birthday Cakes

To celebrate a birthday or any other special event, parents can call on University Dining Services (UDS). UDS will deliver a half-sheet cake (serving as many as 48 people), or a quarter-sheet (serving about 24), and they'll send along plates, napkins, and forks. Cakes come in a variety of flavors and decorations. See the Dining Services website for more information and prices.

Deliveries to residence halls or on-campus locations are free. Students who live off campus can also receive cake deliveries, but UDS will charge a $10 delivery fee for off-campus addresses.

To order, call 612-624-7173 during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. Payment can be made by credit card or check. Be sure to place your order at least three days before the delivery date.


When your student is sick, and you can’t be there, a free bowl of chicken soup can be delivered to your student's door or residence hall. Parents find it heart-wrenching to receive a phone call full of sniffles, coughs, and stuffed-up stutters. When your son or daughter gets the seasonal bout of the common cold or flu, it might take everything in your parental power to stop you from packing up the car for a quick visit, armed with tissues, soup, and a collection of your child’s favorite movies.

Soup for U is a service offered for all students by the student organization Hillel. There is no cost. To request free delivery of a bowl of chicken or vegetarian matzah ball soup, just email and they will have it delivered to your son or daughter right away. In addition to soup, students receive a get well card, a booklet of jokes (because laughter is the best medicine), tea and honey to soothe a sore throat, vitamin water to replenish electrolytes, chapstick, and tips from Boynton Health Service on how to fight the common cold and flu. For more details, see Soup for U.

Image of Gopher Spirit care package.Gopher Spirit care package.

Gopher Express Care Packages

Brighten your student's day by sending a care package for any occasion, ranging from Finals Edition to Just Because. Celebrating a birthday? Add-on birthday items, like party hats, are also available during the ordering process. Care packages start at $19.99 plus tax. Find more information or order online at Care Packages by Gopher Express

Maroon & Gold Gameroom Passes

Goldy's Gameroom in Coffman Memorial Union and the Gopher Spot in the St. Paul Student Center offer Maroon (4-month) and Gold (12-month) gameroom passes. The pass entitles your student to unlimited billiards, bowling and shoe rental at both University Gameroom locations.

For more information see Student Unions & Activities.

Note: Prices may change. Please check for current rates when you order.

Gopher Gear

To mark special occasions or simply brighten a cloudy day, parents can order a balloon bouquet or send a University sweatshirt, t-shirt, hat, or gift item from the U of M Bookstores.

With gifts starting as low as $1 to $2 (pompons, gopher teeth, window decals, coasters, and water bottles), you can fill a bag with University treats to be delivered to your student's residence hall or apartment. The Bookstores' website includes photos and descriptions of dozens of items.

To shop via Internet, visit the Bookstore. To place a phone order, call 800-551-UOFM or (in the Twin Cities) 612-625-6000.

Balloon Bouquet

A balloon bouquet can be delivered to your student's residence hall, apartment, or on-campus job site.

Note: Prices listed above are subject to change.