We were stumped for ideas for graduation gifts and reached out to our band of experienced parents for some wonderful suggestions to create this graduation gift guide. The number one graduation gift is money. As a nation we will give about $5.5 billion in graduation gifts and 53% of this will be in cash. But if money is not on your list, here are dozens of suggestions of great graduation gifts.
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Great Graduation Gift List (2020)
Laptop: If your teen has an outdated computer, there is no other gift that they will appreciate more than a new laptop.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 students and their parents here.
Who are we kidding? Tuition, room and board, spending money for four years…that is the graduation gift.
Financial literacy is a gift that will serve your teen well in college and for life. Newly-released bestseller, Napkin Finance, will become your teen’s go-to reference guide to easily master the essential concepts behind student loans, how to establish a credit history, the benefit of saving and more.
Tuck a check inside Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening by Becky Baldes, author/illustrator (and mom of two daughters) 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.
Looking for other books to consider for grad gifts? Here’s our list of favorites.
Hand-held clothes steamer: There is no place for an iron and ironing board in a tiny dorm room but your teen can look crisp when they have a clothes steamer. This one, by Conair, gets great reviews.
Personalized photography gifts are a wonderful way to remind your senior of this major milestone in their life. We LOVE the selection from Minted and bet your teen will, too.
IKEA Blue bags are truly the most amazing bags we have ever used for packing and moving. College-bound grads will have loads of stuff to bring to school and giving them one of these lightweight and durable bags will be a huge help. Fill it with new towels, laundry supplies, or their favorite toiletries and they will be well on their way toward move-in day.
Weighted blanket: Getting a good night’s sleep may be the single most important goal for our college kids to help them stay well. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most illusive for them in loud dorm rooms where they are paired with a stranger whose study and sleep habits may be vastly different than their own. Consider this “mini” weighted blanket that is machine washable and can go in the dryer; duvet covers are also available.
Mobile charger: One of the best ways for your kid to stay safe at college is to have an always-charged phone. Having one of these small, lightweight battery bank chargers in a backpack is invaluable. Take a look at the Jackery External Battery Charger, a super popular model with excellent ratings.
A beautiful piece of jewelry:
Kendra Scott earrings, necklaces, and rings can be personalized with a gorgeous selection of stones. Pick a color that is your daughter’s favorite or one that is the color of her new college. Take a look at these Graduation Gifts to find just the right thing to celebrate the special young woman in your life.
Diffusers: Dorm rooms are tiny, messy and smelly with the scent of wet towels, sweaty gym clothes, and last week’s pizza box. UGH. Our favorite brand of diffuser is Nest which makes them in an array of fragrances. (The most difficult part will be to choose just one.) They last for months so can keep a dorm room smelling much nicer until winter break.
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 orTarget searching for XL sheets and an array of storage items. Gift cards from one of these national retailers will get them on their way.
Upgraded backpack: Who wants to go to college with an inch of vintage crumbs in the bottom of a grimy backpack? The 15″ Fjallraven Laptop Kanken Backpack is dirt-resistant, water-resistant, wipes clean and has a padded sleeve to protect your teen’s laptop.
Looking for a wallet for your son? Pick a slim wallet that will easily fit in his jean’s pocket. We are big fans of the Herschel brand and think their selection of lightweight, durable, and affordable wallets is one to consider for your grad. Add a few dollars or a check for $20.20 and you are set!
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.
Coffee time: College kids waking up early for class or pushing though late night studying will appreciate their own single serving coffee maker. Keurig makes many different machines but our favorite is the Mini Plus that measures only 5″ wide and comes in four colors.
Alex and Ani bangle bracelets are available in multiple styles, with countless charms to choose from, including a collegiate line. Choose a bangle and a few charms and she can select charms to add to this keepsake over the next four years.
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.
How about a gift for the parents of grads? The Grown and Flown book has tips for college shopping, advice for move in day and … how to say goodbye!
Choosing one of these unbreakable tumblers from the Tervis Tumbler Collegiate Collection is a thoughtful (and inexpensive) way to celebrate the graduate in your life. Look for the collegiate collection to find the school where your teen will be next fall.
A necklace: Going Places Compass Disc Chain Necklace from Dogeared would make a lovely send-off gift for any grad. The sterling silver chain necklace comes with an inspirational message for the special young woman in your life.
Gift cards for local eateries. For most teens, graduation means a new city. Gift cards from local restaurants will be a great treat and a welcome break from the dining hall.
Gym classes: Give the gift of health and fitness with a subscription to spin or yoga classes in their new college town.
College logo gifts: Sweatshirts or other items with college names are big hits. Here’s a list of dozens of sources for you to check out.
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.
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.
Tools of the trade: Unassembled furniture? A hinge that is coming loose? A small but well equipped Tool Set like this one will last for all four years and beyond.
Classic Graduation Gifts
Watches and pearls might be tucked away until your teen has a special occasion but these are graduation gifts that last a lifetime.
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.
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.
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.
Steal a little time: Finally, one of our wonderful readers suggested something that tugged at my heart. 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.