Gift Ideas for PA Applicants and Students


‘Tis the time of year for buying gifts. Whether you are shopping for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or just out of a vague need to participate in the holiday season, you might find yourself wondering what to give the PA student in your life.

We asked our students to tell us what gifts they would like and what would have been great before matriculating into PA school.

And our students did not disappoint! We received 75 unique suggestions and will try to get to as many as possible in this month’s blog.

Note: We included links to specific brands when students expressed a preference. These are neither promotional/affiliate links nor endorsements by Duke or the Duke PA Program.

So, let’s get your gift-buying started!

Consider what stage the current student is in on their journey to becoming a PA-C. What works well for a recently accepted student might differ from a current student or someone about to graduate.

Gift cards and subscriptions

cash in an envelope


Gift Cards:

We know you think gift cards are impersonal. But most of our students suggested at least one type of gift card. They’re especially great for incoming students who are about to move across the country and may not want more big items to pack:

  • Gift cards for places like Amazon, Target, or Starbucks
  • Gift cards to local restaurants and coffee shops
  • Gift cards for local experiences and museums
  • Gas and grocery gift cards
  • Then there’s also the universal gift card: cold, hard, cash

If you are shopping for a Duke student, check out our “I’m Visiting Durham: What Should I Do?” post for ideas on local businesses.


PA students are busy. Like, really busy. Sometimes, it is difficult to find time to both shop and eat healthily.

  • Meal kit subscription services
  • Grocery delivery services
  • Fun subscriptions like coffee-of-the-month clubs
  • Meditation apps

Students also suggested subscriptions to study supplies such as:

School and medical supplies

Stethoscope and blood pressure cuff



Books specifically mentioned by our students include:

Medical equipment:

  • Stethoscope – our students like the Littmann brand and suggest getting it engraved
  • Penlight
  • Case for medical supplies or stethoscope case
  • Reflex hammer
  • Otoscope
  • Suture practice pad/kit
  • Safety glasses
  • Personalized name tag for their stethoscope

School supplies:

  • Tote bag or backpack
  • Lunch box
  • Monthly calendar
  • Whiteboard and dry-erase markers
  • Extra set of twin sheets and other bedding for away rotations
  • Folding clipboard


  • Scrubs – A few brands mentioned include FIGS, Koi, and Fabletics. Consider a gift card to a scrub store if you’re unsure of color or size.
  • Comfortable shoes – Clinical experiences and rotations involve a lot of standing and walking. A few brands our students suggested are Hokas, Sketchers, Dansko, and On Cloud
  • Compression socks – Another must-have when students are on their feet all day. This was by far the most suggested single item.
  • School apparel and other items – This could be school-branded apparel to let students rep their school while still remaining professional, or it could be jerseys to wear to games.


Self-Care and Health

A person with a book and a cup of coffee. The person is wearing fuzzy colorful socks.


We remind our students about self-care but you can help them achieve it!

  • Gift card for spa services
  • Essential oil diffuser
  • Blue light glasses
  • Scalp massager
  • Heated blanket
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Salt lamp
  • Small fountain
  • Scented candle
  • Relaxing bath products



A small cute robot playing on a computer


Before you run out and buy a shiny new laptop, check to see what the school supplies or specific school requirements are. A few items our students suggested were:

  • Noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones or earbuds - many students like Apple Air Pods
  • Extra computer monitor – lightweight is key
  • Laptop stand
  • Sunrise alarm clock
  • Kindle for non-school reading
  • Computer or iPad case
  • Apple Watch
  • Apple pencil stylus for iPad


Gift Baskets

Gift basket


Still not sure what to buy? How about putting together a gift basket! You could pick any of the smaller items on the list above and then add items like:

  • Badge reel
  • Fidget toys
  • Anatomy coloring book
  • PA Student Badge Buddy
  • Face paint in school colors
  • Water bottle
  • Fun water bottle stickers
  • Coffee/tea/cocoa
  • Coffee mug or no-spill tumbler
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Flashcards

Your Support

Desktop marquee that says "You Got This"


Sometimes the best gift you can give is support. Whether you are close by or far away, there are ways you can support the student in your life.

  • Affirmation cards
  • A bottle of sparkling wine or Champagne to open at graduation
  • Handwritten notes of support
  • Dropping off food the night before exams
  • Helping them move or supporting them during away rotations


The Duke Physician Assistant Program Admissions Blog presents information based on the experiences of Duke PA Program staff and faculty. While the information provided is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication, requirements can change. Please visit the Duke PA Program website for the most up-to-date information.

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