This post is specifically geared toward those who know Christian college students attending a secular college. Notice that my title doesn't say "Gifts to Give to a College Student" - I'm talking about ways to help Christian young people navigate a both wonderful and dangerous time of life.
First of all, the obligatory picture.
1. Let them know you are praying for them
Just knowing that someone is actively bringing you before God's Throne of Grace is an instant encouragement. Don't underestimate the power of prayer.
2. Ask questions about how school is going, but be sensitive.
Believe it or not, sometimes college students don't want to think about school - they may appreciate being asked about something else.
3. Remember that they feel like a fish trying to swim upstream, in a world that wants to pull them along, and encourage them to keep going even in the face of adversity.
4. Ask when important exams are, and give them a text/email on exam day to remind them that you are praying for them.
I also know that random texts/emails are so special, especially since it shows that someone is thinking about you even when there isn't a huge crisis in their life.
5. Be understanding if they have to occasionally back out of normal activities.
I'm not talking about anything drastic, but if a college student you know tells you that it just isn't possible to come to your get together, please don't be offended. Trust me, the weight of knowing that five projects are due the next day would certainly keep them from having a blast anyway.
6. And finally, if you sense them pulling away too much from family, friends, and most importantly, God, don't pretend there isn't a problem.
There's a good chance that they're just feeling lonely or overwhelmed, but it could be something else. If you have a good relationship with them, try to dig deeper and see if there isn't something bothering them that they don't to tell anyone.
And of course, it goes without saying that chocolate is ALWAYS appreciated!