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College care

Tips for what ships to students

Want to surprise a college student with a care package? USPS can help.

The Postal Service can help customers who want to give it the college try when sending the comforts of home to students away at school this fall.

Before baking and shipping a student’s favorite cookies, the organization recommends customers review Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail, which is available on

Here are some tips:

Properly address envelopes and packages. Customers should make sure they have the correct ZIP+4 code, which they can look up on

Include the recipient’s full name and complete address. Don’t forget the student’s dormitory name (if applicable), room or apartment number or assigned PO Box number and any directional information (example: 123 S Main St SW). When shipping packages, include an index card with the recipient’s and sender’s addresses in case the box opens in transit.

Don’t reuse or overstuff boxes and envelopes. Customers can visit a Post Office to pick up free Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes, which include tracking and up to $50 of insurance with most shipments. Click-N-Ship allows customers to print shipping labels, purchase postage and request free Package Pickup service.

Pack carefully. When shipping fragile items, leave a little space for cushioning. When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately. Customers can also get resourceful with sentimental items. Wrap a T-shirt around a favorite coffee mug from home, a pennant from a local sports team or a thumb drive of family photos.

Be careful. While electronics, toiletries, laundry supplies and first-aid essentials are appreciated, there are rules for shipping liquids and aerosols. When in doubt, send a gift card, which fits in business envelopes and regular-sized card envelopes. Also: Don’t ship an electronic device with the batteries inside the device.

Customers who need more help can also consult the Postal Service’s YouTube channel, which has videos demonstrating proper package techniques and other tips.