The Right Gifts Can Pave the Way to College

Nov 25, 2009, 05:20 ET from Allegheny College

MEADVILLE, Pa., Nov. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Some observe snowy sidewalks and twinkling lights as peacefully as Currier and Ives did, but for many the signs of the season whisper words a bit different than what the carolers sing. For college-bound teens and their parents, who see glossy specialty store wishbooks and college viewbooks arriving faster than an Alberta Clipper, this time of year is "beginning to look a lot like" decisions.

What can parents do to alleviate anxiety and bring joy to their teenagers' lives right now? Choose gifts that will have an impact long after that sweater goes out of fashion or the latest video game starts gathering dust on the shelf!

Ah, but what kind of gifts? Scott Friedhoff, vice president for enrollment and communications at Allegheny College, has 10 suggestions for gifts that are sure to tickle your preoccupied teen and shine a holiday light on the important journey ahead.

  1. A GPS device to help find the many terrific colleges located off the beaten track.
  2. Don't create a Twitter account. While communication is important, our students ask us to please tell their parents to leave social networking to them! While away at college your son or daughter will have no interest in knowing the details of your Friday night activities!
  3. An iTunes gift card to help prevent the fines associated with the illegal sharing of music and provide pleasant interludes during travel to and from colleges.
  4. Note cards, envelopes and stamps. Yeah, yeah, I know your kid will look at you like you represent antiquity. Still, there is little that is more satisfying and enjoyable than sending (and receiving!) a hand-written note.
  5. A gift certificate to a local market house or restaurant for when your soon-to-be college student tires of cafeteria food; supporting community businesses and buying locally grown produce are healthy for your student and for the college town.
  6. A thoughtfully written book about colleges and the college search process. Loren Pope, for example, writes very well about the advantages and disadvantages of particular types of colleges. His "Colleges That Change Lives" and "Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right for You" are two must-reads.
  7. A bookstore gift certificate from your student's top college.
  8. A cookbook. A great social activity in college is fixing a meal. You might even practice a couple of recipes with your son or daughter during the holiday break.
  9. Boots, particularly if you are looking at northern colleges. Those late-night sledding parties are much more fun if you are warm and dry.
  10. A cardboard box containing two simple messages: 1) an open-minded exploration of many academic areas of study, no matter how unusual the combinations, is a great way to approach a college; 2) your love and support are unconditional -- especially during this anxiety-ridden college-search process (to avoid seeing eyes roll, it might be a good idea to paperclip some cash to the message).

Scott Friedhoff, Ph.D., is the vice president for enrollment and communications at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. Over his 30-year career he has seen thousands of families survive the college search process and regularly reminds students and parents that they, too, will make it through.

Allegheny College is a national liberal arts college where 2,100 students with unusual combinations of interests and talents develop highly valued abilities to explore critical issues from multiple perspectives.

SOURCE Allegheny College