My husband and I have been discussing what to do next year when both a niece and nephew go off to college. We are going to give each a small crock-pot and sandwich grill. This will provide them with a way to make a decent hot meal, for much less then any cafe or dining-hall. I am collecting recipes for both of these items so they will not have to wonder what to do with them.
Their parents are going to get them those small refrigerators for their dorm-rooms, if they don't have them in the dorm-rooms already.
We feel this is a much more useful gift then a pen set, backpack, or any of the other traditional gifts.