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Best Gift Ideas for First Year Medical Students

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best gifts for first year medical students

Not much sparks a deeper sense of vicarious familial pride than the excitement of sending a child/sibling/parent/significant other off to start their first year as a medical student! Along with congratulatory posts and cheerful text messages, many wonder: what is the best gift for a new first year medical student?

We will cover some popular things to avoid, a few items you may not have thought of, and the absolute best gift there is.

What to Skip:

  • Stethoscope
    The stethoscope and many medical instruments are an obvious temptation. Not only are these items expensive, but they offer one of the first tangible indications of the excitement to come. So why steer clear? Many students will be able to find the tools they need for resale from upper class students as they transition on in their career. The reason these (often lightly used tools) are so readily available is that the physicians bag of tools has largely been replaced with the wall-mounted instruments available in the modern clinic & hospital. While a set of required tools is lovely to practice basic skills in pre-clincal lab sessions, few students keep them long-term.
  • White Coat
    Although this is less common, some families seek out a way to help their newest M1 (1st year Medical Student) look the part with a dashing, crisp lab coat. Although this is a sweet gesture, the limited instances in which medical students wear white coats will almost exclusively require them to wear their school-issued apparel.
  • Expensive Technology (**before starting classes)
    This recommendation comes with a heavy caveat. Offering a loved one an expensive tool, be it a laptop, tablet, phone, etc., is wonderful, but there can be a vast grey area between the schools “required” technology list and the individual experience of day-to-day studies. Although students and generous family members alike may be eager to learn the ropes of new and exciting technology, we suggest that if such an offer is made, hold out for the start of classes in order to find out what most upper class students found to be the best technology solutions. There will be plenty of time to add in the latest and greatest in the early days of classes.

What to Gift:

  • Quality Water bottle + Cleaning Brush
    Staying hydrated is a heck of a lot easier when you have a great bottle to carry with you all day. BUT DON’T FORGET THE BRUSH! Some of the very best water bottles out there can be a pain to keep clean without the (often surprisingly expensive) cleaning brushes needed to make sure your portable hydration station stays fresh. This small but important accessory might not seem like much, but it’s a great way to show your loved one that you are thinking ahead about their well-being.
  • Roadside Assistance Subscription
    Although transportation dependent, having access to roadside rescue can provide peace of mind should your stressed out medical student find themselves in the epicenter of a blown tire personal crisis. Not to mention that many of these memberships offer additional discounts on other services that your student may be grateful to use.
  • Local Coffee/Food Gift Cards
    Along with the big chains that your student is happy to see in their new town, try exploring some of the local establishments that may soon be a frequent rest-stop between study sessions. It will help your student feel a little more at home away from home and it will also continue to build strong ties between the medical school and the surrounding community.
  • (Official!) School Swag
    The official school bookstore could very well be the only business legally licensed to offer hoodies, draw-string bags, or bumper stickers for your new student’s school. Yes – the prices will be unreasonable. Yes – submitting a copy-paste logo to a robotic custom order website may pass-by unnoticed, but take this chance to indulge in the amusement-park-bottled-water-equivalent of overpriced school attire so your student can celebrate the accomplishment that simply starting school truly represents.
  • Lawn / Home-care Service
    While medical school location will largely determine the housing type available, taking care of some simple (yet time consuming) tasks is a thoughtful way to help keep student stress at bay. The guilt of walking away from your studies, even for something as fundamental as doing laundry, will absolutely at some point tax the well-being of each and every medical student. Offering an occasional maid, laundry service, or even grocery delivery may offer more to a busy student than they may ever realize.
  • A Case of Wine
    No, we aren’t encouraging you to enable an unhealthy coping habit for a disappointing test grade. Instead, this may very well be the first time that your freshly minted medical student may be invited to a more formal dinner or party. A case of wine and some dollar store bags will ensure that they can offer a respectable gift to the host (without making it apparent that it was a last moment thought).
  • Streaming Service Gift Cards
    Rather than directly paying for a service that may be discounted with student email, providing dollar value gift cards for services like Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix, Hulu, etc. will let your loved one get the most out of their gift. Eliminating that pesky monthly charge can provide a bit of reprieve to a newly finance-conscious medical student. Just make sure you ask them which service they currently use before you bite the bullet.

The Best Gift for Medical Students:

Understanding. Your beloved and brilliant loved one has no doubt excelled in past years. They may have even juggled school, work, volunteering, and family time seemingly with ease. While they might just be the brightest medical student the world has yet to see, they may also struggle immensely in the upcoming years.

We can almost guarantee that your student will develop a deep sense of guilt each and every time they walk away from their textbooks, even if the reason is to fulfill a fundamental need. This will be amplified by an order of magnitude for things such as “just spending time” with loved ones regardless of how bad they wish they could do exactly that.

Although there is no single resource to help untangle the quagmire that medical education entails, dedicating some time to learn about the structure of their curriculum, what board exams happen when, what the different jargon means in description of each phase of their education can make catching up with their loved ones so much easier and enjoyable. For the foreseeable future, your medical student will be asked to hash through the phases of their education for friends and extended family alike over and over again, and knowing that you understand the basics of what is being asked of them will truly make a world of difference.


This is an incredibly exciting time and signifies many years of hard work and substantial accomplishment. Don’t be afraid to express your love the best way you know how; just keep an open heart and mind in the expectations you hold your student as they cross the next bridge towards their dream.

Goal: This article is written as an opinion piece surrounding the subjective experience of gifts in medical school. This article will only includes subjective experiences and should not be considered formal advice. At the time of publication, we have no financial ties to any products mentioned within this article.

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