Good question, I supose it would depend on what they like to cook. I would start out with:
saute pan sauce pan
stock pot (or dutch oven)with steamer insert
set of nesting bowls
jelly roll pan
2 cake pans
I hope that helps.
6 or 8 quart stock pot
9 or ten inch saute pan (non-stick good for beginners)
1 1/2 quart saucepan
3 quart saucepan (I recommend Revere, only $12 at Target stores. My mom's is 20 years old and still going)
one cast iron skillet
The 9x13 pan is indispensible. Throw in a rubber spatula and a pair of oven mitts.
FIVEDAY.COM offers the best prices on restaurant quality aluminum cookware. Should you decide on aluminum cookware for your college bound kids, I'd shop there. Personally, I've done so twice. They offer a 12 quart stockpot 3/16 inches thick with cover for $24.20. Here's the site: http://therestaurantsuppliers.com/
I was a starving student up until almost exactly a year ago. I brought only clothes with me and not much money at all. Since I don't like eating out much and I need to bake to relax, I had to buy some pots and pans and here are the items I couldn't do without:
1. small, non-stick skillet
2. medium saucepan which I used for cooking ramen, rice and whatever else was too saucy for the small skillet.
3. dutch oven which sometimes subbed as a wok when cooking for several friends or subbed as a stock pot.
4. cookie sheets
5. 8-in square pan
I also splurged on a set of nested, glass mixing bowls although only a medium and a large mixing bowl would probably be essential and a couple of loaf pans.
I need a little help here - esp. from any student types. As of this fall both of my two kids will be living on there own attending university. I would like to start each of them out with some proper basic kitchenware-a few good pieces that will last them a long time. So if you were or are a starving student, which three pots or pans would you want to have in your kitchen? I have my own three favourites, but it's been a long time since I was a student.