It is graduation time in my house, times two. And, Mary Dell’s family is rejoicing in a commencement as well. While we have been here before with our older kids, we were stumped for ideas of graduation gifts and reached out to our band of experienced moms for some wonderful suggestions to create this graduation gift guide. We have included gifts for both high school and college, for both young women and men. We have covered a broad array of price points and tried to include both the practical and the frivolous.
Have a friend with a grad this year? Please share this post with them. And, if you have more great ideas to add to our list, we would love to see your suggestions. Email us at email@example.com
The number one graduation gift is money. It is what they ask for most often and what is proffered. As a nation we will give about $5 billion in graduation gifts and 58% of this will be in cash. But if money is not on your list, or you are looking for a more creative way to offer it, here are 39 suggestions from our friends and family.
Great Graduation Gift List
1. Tuck a check inside Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening by author Becky Blades, and you’ll be giving your grad what she wants but doesn’t know she needs: her mother’s loving counsel. The beautifully illustrated book covers topics from laundry to forgiveness to creative living. Directed predominantly at young women, my college boys laughed out loud and read it cover to cover. The best part: pages to personalize.
2. Echo Dot is the hottest graduation gift on many lists this year. With voice recognition technology, the Echo will play your student’s music, give them sports scores or the weather, reads audiobooks, can call an Uber or order a Domino’s pizza. We want one, too!
3. Laptop – if your high school, college kid or young adult has an outdated computer, there is no other gift that they will appreciate more than a new laptop. Although expensive, look for student discounts offered by Apple, Microsoft or at stores like Best Buy. Here’s the fine print:
- Apple offers a discount to college students, seniors who have their admission letters, or college parents.
- Microsoft offers discounts to K-12 and college students or their parents.
4. Who are we kidding? Tuition, room and board, spending money for four years…that was the graduation gift.
5. Dorm essentials. At some point every high school grad seems to find themselves in the college section of The Container Store, Bed, Bath and Beyond, or Target searching out XL sheets and an array of storage items. Gift certificates from these national retailers, will get them on their way. Items can be ordered at your local store to be picked up later in the store closest to your child’s college campus.
Want to avoid the rookie dorm room shopping blunders we made the first time?
Join our mailing list and receive our “Top 12 Dorm Shopping Mistakes”
6. Wheels. College grads moving to cities with limited public transportation will rejoice over any help with car insurance, payments, or money towards a car lease. For some, those days of walking are over.
7. Two wheels. College kids on bicycles is an idyllic image, but not if your kid’s bicycle was the small one they got for the holidays in sixth grade. If they are going to attend a university that is suited to a bike, and most are, this may be the single most useful gift you can give.
8. T-Shirt quilt. Here’s the answer to what to do with the stacks of t-shirts that represent milestones in your teen’s life. Send them to Project Repat and you will receive back a t-shirt quilt that your kid can take to college as their comforter.
9. It’s always coffee time. College kids pushing though late night studying or graduates who are now waking early will appreciate their own single serving coffee maker. Keurig makes all different size machines for any dorm room or apartment and a favorite of ours is the Keurig Single Serve Compact K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker in bright red. Comes in other colors including basic black.
If your graduate is a tea drinker, a small electric kettle, may be the perfect gift. The Bodum 11451-01US 17-Ounce Electric Water Kettle, Black comes in other colors and costs less than $25.
10. Sterling Silver 2017 Adjustable Wire Bangle Bracelet can commemorate this special time for your graduating daughter. The beauty of this bracelet is that she can swap out charms as she heads to college and beyond.
11. Overnight bag. It might be time to stop using grocery bags as luggage. A small canvas duffel or tote, like this one, Filson Small Duffle Bag , will come in handy on visits home, away for weekends or traveling to, hopefully, job interviews. This may be our sons’ favorite graduation gift!
12. Help with student loans. A full 70% of college students graduate with debt and the average loan burden approaches $30,000. Any and all help with those payments is truly a graduation gift.
13. Dress Shirts. Young men heading off to college need to have a few nice shirts and this one, Vineyard Vines Men’s Slim Fit Whale Shirt from one of our favorite brands, will come in handy when your son needs to dress for an internship interview.
14. The ABCs of Adulthood: An Alphabet of Life Lessons by author and photo-journalist Deborah Copaken with her co-author, Randy Polumbo, is a gorgeous book of writing and photography. It is a perfect send off for your son or daughter, especially with a few words of love and encouragement from you.
15. A beautiful piece of jewelry. This is one of life’s big milestones and, as such, perhaps a moment for a first piece of real jewelry. A graduation gift of a set of pearl earrings or subtle gold necklace can be worn on special occasions or taken out for job interviews.
16. Let the tailgating begin. A small portable grill, like this one Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill works either outside the stadium or on an apartment rooftop. Grill tools need to be part of this package.
17. Unbreakable cups. Tervis makes 329 unbreakable mugs, many with school logos like this one: Tervis Tumbler. College kids are not the most careful with their possessions, so heavy emphasis on the unbreakable.
18. Gift cards for local eateries. For many kids graduation means a new city, either for college or a job. Gift cards from local restaurants will be a great treat in the new neighborhood.
19. Smathers and Branson, a luxury retailer of needlepoint goods, will make a personalized belt with meaning for your grad. They also sell wallets, key fobs, hats, flasks and coasters all embroidered with Collegiate or Greek Logos.
20. Upgraded backpack. For kids facing their first real job, a brief case, good handbag or okay, an upmarket backpack, might be the thing to send them on their way. Quality leather goods do not come cheap, but the last for years to come.
21. Fleece blankets, with monograms or photos. One of my friends gave fleece throws in college colors with their embroidered monograms to our kids and all their friends. With drafty dorm rooms or extra friends spending the night, this is a gift that will get used. Shutterfly will put your photos on a machine-washable blanket for $56.
22. Gym membership. For those leaving the college campus, the days of free exercise facilities might be over. Give the gift of health and fitness, or at least a place to de-stress after a long day at the office.
23. Wallet or business card case. Something everyone needs and it can be upped with a gift card inside.
24. College logo gifts. Sweatshirts or other items with their college names are big hits. Here’s a list of dozens of sources for you to check out.
25. Personalized stationery may not make them jump for joy but they will never again have the excuse, “I had nothing to write a thank you note on, so I sent an email (or worse, a text!)” A box of these note cards from Crane & Co. Navy Hand Engraved Thank You Cards are an elegant way to express gratitude…for any of us!
26. Custom Coordinates Necklace will help them always find their way back home. Hand-stamped with the coordinates, these slim necklaces come in silver, gold and rose gold.
27. Experiences, not things. Tickets to concerts or shows, or if your budget stretches to accommodate it, spring for a trip as a graduation gift. Many parents mentioned the lasting joy of a post-graduation trip if it fits into the family finances.
28. Money lei. Feeling crafty? Take those dollar bills and make a traditional lei. One part origami, one part Hawaiian necklace. a quick search on Pinterest will show you a 100 different styles with instructions.
29. Tools of the trade. Unassembled furniture? A hinge that is coming loose? A small but well equipped tool box like this one, Stanley 94-248 65-Piece Homeowner’s Tool Kit might just be what your grad needs.
30. The classics. You can never go wrong with these tried and trues. Watches and pearls might go to the office the first week of the new job, or be tucked away for the first special occasion, but this is the graduation gift that lasts a lifetime.
31. Family photos. They may have snapshots of the family in their phones, but that is not the same as a beautiful professional photo for their wall or desk. Consider a family photo shoot, complete with family dog, before the kids leave home.
32. The Girl’s Guide: Getting the hang of your whole complicated, unpredictable, impossibly amazing life by Melissa Kirsch. As the title suggests, Kirsch covers every aspect of a young woman’s life with insight and humor. If I were sending a daughter out into the world, I would make sure she was tightly gripping a copy of this wonderful book.
33. A picture is worth…
WeMontage offers teens a creative way to create a mural of memories. Upload photos into a template and your soon-to-be college student will have an adhesive backed, ready to mount mural that can be pealed off and placed on the drab dorm wall by their bed. Save the backing and peel it off in May without damaging the walls.
34. A necklace like this, Dogeared Going Places Compass Disc would make for a lovely send-off gift for any grad.
35. And for the wall. For the college graduate who wants to take a little bit of the magic with her, a print of her alma mater might be just the thing to help make her first apartment seem like hers. University Icons has an online gallery of more than 500 colleges and universities and ships them framed or unframed. You can also order a computer cover and note cards with an image of the place she just left behind.
36. Their life on the page. What are you going to do with all those old report cards and iffy school photos? Here is a chance to put their lives on paper and make a scrapbook with mementos you have saved for years. This is not a last-minute job, but more like a suggestion for parents of juniors.
37. Cookies. Who wouldn’t love a voucher from mom for baked goods that will be sent the following year?
38. Family memento. Grandparents looking for a memorable graduation gift might consider some of the family mementos or jewelry that their grandchildren can treasure forever. Passing on family heirlooms (and we use this term broadly) is a moment with meaning for both generations.
39. Steal a little time. Finally, one of our wonderful readers suggested something that tugged at my heart. For kids graduating college with jobs, the days and weeks after graduation will be one of the last extended periods of time they will have. A one-on-one parent and child trip, even just an overnight, is an opportunity that will not soon arise again. There really is nothing like a graduation gift of memories.
Note: We receive a small percentage of purchases made through the Amazon links in this post.