5 Fun DIY Advent Calendars For College Students

Paper bags, mini stockings

Just because your child has moved away from home to start a job or attend college, doesn’t mean they can’t get in on the advent calendar fun.  Send them some love this year with a DIY advent calendar to suit their unique style.  

Sure there are plenty of options for pre-packaged calendars, but this year calls for something special-something one of a kind.  Maybe your extra effort will be rewarded with an extra phone call or two-yes an actual call and not just a text!  Who doesn’t want that?

If you’re stumped on what small items to send make sure to read The Perfect Filler Items for Your DIY Advent Calendar by Age. You can also check out 14 Advent Calendar FAQs for more helpful tips!

Here are some truly fun and surely smile worthy advent calendar options. (There’s even a completely digital email option!)

envelopes with holiday decorations

Envelopes 

Pros

  • This is by far the easiest option on this list. 
  • Envelopes are inexpensive.
  • Envelopes are small since your child may live in a small and/or shared space.  
  • Envelopes can be kept private if your child doesn’t want to display them. 
  • Easy to transport or mail in bulk.  

Cons

  • Envelopes are only so big, so you will be limited on items you can add

How to

  • Grab a box of envelopes and get started! Festive red or green envelopes are encouraged.  
  • Number the envelopes 1-24 with a pretty marker or pen.
  • Add special notes and small items for each day. 
  • Seal the envelopes or use festive stickers.
  • Place all the envelopes, in order, inside a large mailing envelope or box for mailing or transport. 
small stockings on string

Mini Stockings or Drawstring Bags

Pros

  • You can find mini crafting stockings and drawstring bags online or at inexpensive retailers in bulk.
  • Lots of inexpensive options out there. 
  • If your child is looking to decorate this is a great option. 

Cons

  • Labeling the stockings could be tricky depending on the material.

How to

  • Purchase 24 mini stockings/drawstring bags (string is optional if you think they will hang it)
  • Number the stockings/drawstring bags 1-24 using a fabric marker or paint pen depending on the fabric.  You could also add a small ribbon with a small tag to each. Then label the tags instead. 
  • Add special notes and items for each day.
  • Place all of the stockings into a padded mailing envelope or box for mailing or transport. 
small boxes with wrapping paper

Mini Boxes 

Pros

  • You can find mini boxes online or at inexpensive retailers in bulk.
  • Lots of inexpensive options out there.
  • More room than an envelope to add larger items for each day 

Cons

  • Boxes take up a bit of physical space if your child’s living space is small or shared
  • Wrapping or adding decorations to the boxes can be time consuming. 

How to

  • Purchase 24 mini boxes (consider adding a decorative box or bag if desired)
  • Add special notes and small items for each day. 
  • Wrap each box or add festive stickers and ribbon etc. 
  • Number the mini boxes 1-24 (gift tags work great here)
  • Place all of the boxes into a larger box for mailing or transport. 

paper sacks with Christmas stickers

Paper Lunch Bags or Party Favor Bags

Pros

  • You can find paper lunch bags or party favor bags online or at inexpensive retailers in bulk.
  • Lots of inexpensive options out there. Many have holiday designs already! 
  • More room than an envelope to add larger items for each day 
  • You can write the numbers directly on the bag-no extra tags etc. 

Cons

  • Bags take up a bit of physical space if your child’s living space is small or shared
  • Adding decorations to the boxes can be time consuming. 

How to

  • Purchase 24 bags 
  • Add special notes and small items for each day. 
  • Decorate each bag with festive stickers and ribbon etc. 
  • Number the bags 1-24 
  • Place all of the bags into a larger box for mailing or transport. 
laptop computer with Christmas envelope on screen

Email 

For the real low maintenance or digital minded crowd. Also great for students who are very far away.

Pros

  • You don’t need to spend hours decorating boxes or bags.
  • You could send each day individually. No need to send every day at once. 
  • No paper waste.
  • Inexpensive-you don’t have to spend money every day. 

Cons

  • You don’t get to decorate anything (I know right! That is my favorite bit too!)
  • Nothing to display if your child would enjoy something to decorate their space

How to

  • Make a plan for what you plan to send on each day. Planning in advance will help you to stay organized since you won’t be sending them all in one day. 
  • Set a reminder on your device to send the email each day.  
  • Create a special email for each day (save as a draft). Add your message directly to the body of the email or as an attachment (word or Google doc.) etc. 

Consider sending the following:

  • Funny holiday memes (You could do this for multiple days-just not in a row. Sprinkle throughout).
  • Electronic gift cards for food (Same as above sprinkle throughout. These could be small even $5 for coffee or fast food). 
  • Nostalgic holiday photo from their childhood 
  • A fun story about Christmas with them as a child or teen
  • A link to a new or favorite holiday song
  • A photo of you and other family members in ugly Christmas sweaters or equally silly holiday attire (My Dad once dressed up as Cousin Eddy from Christmas Vacation and I still display the photo my Mom sent me!)
  • A holiday photo of the tree or their room ready and waiting for them.  Add a special note about how excited you are to see them.  
  • A note that you will be sending them $ (via PayPal or something similar) at a certain time that day so they can treat themselves to a festive holiday coffee, dinner for two at one of their favorite locations, a new holiday outfit for a special event, or just fun money to spend as they choose. 
  • Coupon for a donation to a charity of their choice (you choose the dollar amount)
  • A list of your favorite holiday songs- complete with links to YouTube so they can listen too. Or if you could create a shared playlist.  
  • If they have a car- an electronic gift card for a free wash.
  • If they live somewhere without a car- some money added to their account (via PayPal or similar) for cab or bus fare etc. 
  • One or a whole list of silly Christmas jokes and riddles (What’s a snowman’s favorite soup? Chili!) 

I hope your child enjoys the calendar as much as you enjoy assembling it!  Heck, maybe you’ll even get that extra phone call or two during the month of December!  

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