How to Celebrate Someone’s Birthday While You Are Away At College

For college students who are away from home for weeks or months at a time, missing a family gathering or reunion between friends isn’t anything new. Some students are a short drive from home, others choose to find their purpose thousands of miles away. Undergrads tend to miss many birthdays and birthday parties for their parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, uncles, aunts, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, pets, and other family members. Yet technology and creativity can help college students celebrate their loved ones’ birthdays, even when they are longing for home.

Call or Text

Woman texting and smiling


It sounds so easy, and it really is. Taking the time to text or call will mean so much to the other person, even if it isn’t someone you communicate with regularity. That long-lost friend from high school is probably not expecting you to remember their existence. It might sound selfish to call or text them just because it’s their birthday, but this is how to get that relationship rolling again—even if it has to be long-distanced. The same rule goes for a grandparent or aunt that you struggle to keep in touch with.

Mail a Card or Gift

Close-up of man smiling and opening an envelope with a greeting card inside


This can go many ways. Depending on whose birthday it is, you can spend either a card or a present. Buy a gift in the store and mail it by UPS or FedEx. If you’re broke, a card can be filled with a loving message instead of a check. Tell them not to open your present until their birthday, and call or facetime them while they do. You can also buy a personalized gift basket from one of these great websites.

Post Old Celebrations on Social Media

Although you might become nostalgic, the sacrifice is worth it for the birthday celebrator. Search through your phone or social media accounts of past parties or birthdays you’ve spent with this person. Repost or post content with a generous message.  Just be sure that the celebrant would be comfortable with you sharing those throwback pictures or videos with the world.


Zoom and skype have really gained popularity in 2020. Anyone who owns stock for those platforms is probably having a very profitable year. Using FaceTime to wish someone a happy birthday is one step further than calling or texting. The connection is greater and more open. FaceTiming also allows you to talk to your pets, even if they don’t understand the concept. Despite the benefits, older people might appreciate a phone call more because they won’t have to deal with technological issues.

Write a Letter


Agnes Kantaruk / Shutterstock

You may think this idea is funny or old-fashion at first, but it shows that you put in the time and thought to make their day special. Express how you love and miss them in a way that isn’t so cliché by reminding them of the past times or the future memories you hope to make. Make the letter so special and personal that they will never throw it out. This idea can’t go wrong—family members will treasure it, children will gain reading skills, and boyfriends/girlfriends will find it romantic. By putting your letter in an envelope, the celebrant will probably be expecting an ordinary card.

Buy Them a Present in Advance

Young amazed woman holding present


They’re going to have to promise you they won’t open it before their birthday. Before you head back to school, or during an academic break, head to your hometown store and buy the perfect gift. Then wrap it up and pay them a visit. They will definitely value that you kept them in mind weeks or months early. If you have a lot of people to buy birthday presents over the course of a year, write down everyone’s name and birthday in a notebook or on a note-taking app.

Message them on Social Media

Instagram account on the phone


This is pretty similar to texting, except some find it more convenient. Social media allows you to wish a happy birthday to those whose phone numbers you don’t have. You also use it for distant family members who just want to know that you remembered. With social media, you can send private personalized messages.

Have a Distant Dinner Together

A multi-hour flight between you and your home will make it impossible to spend that special someone’s birthday with them. Get innovative with your romantic partner. Long-distance relationships are hard, and finding new ways to not miss each other requires endurance and skill. Plan to eat dinner (or any meal that works around your schedules) at the same time. Then set up facetime on your laptop or iPad (bigger screens preferred) and place the device in front of your meal. If you want, you can decide to eat the same food. If you get the technology right, you can watch TV, a movie, or a sports game with your sweetheart. Here are five fun and easy virtual date ideas.

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