We were stumped for ideas for the best graduation gifts for high school graduates and reached out to our band of experienced parents for some wonderful suggestions. The number one graduation gift every year is cash. But if money is not on your list, here are dozens of suggestions of graduation gift ideas.
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High school graduation gift ideas (2023)
These 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. This is one of the most practical gifts on the list!
One of THE VERY MOST popular grad gifts for teens is a t-shirt quilt from Project Repat. Take a stack of your teen’s t-shirts from camp, game day, memorable family trips, sports teams, concerts, and more, cut them into panels, and ship them off to Project Repat. Prepare to surprise your teen with a keepsake that both celebrates their accomplishments and that they will love to use in college.
Harlan Cohen is the dean of advice to college students and The Naked Roommate, his bestselling book, is an excellent go-to guide for all things related to college life, academics, friends, and more.
Created by an award-winning college professor, this unique (and did we mention gorgeous?) planner can help to motivate your student to develop good time management habits and stay organized. This innovative planner comes with weekly college success tips that link to video tutorials to support your student throughout the year.Now, save on the Grad Bundle which comes with a choice of five colors for the planner, a Stripe It Up Pen, Click It Pencil Pens, Fine Line Journal Markers, Smarter Sticky Note, and two sets of stickers. Separately $80, the Grad Bundle is available for $65.00.
Each of these items also sold separately.
Pottery Barn Dorm offers towel sets in quick-dry organic 100% organic cotton fabric. They are the Quick-Dry Organic Collection and the site says these towels are “10 times more absorbent than traditional cotton Terry.” Available in 13 beautiful colors and can be monogrammed.
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, and high-speed battery bank chargers in a backpack is invaluable.
Take a look at this Anker External Battery Charger, the slimmest model that Anker makes.
Your grad has many people to thank for the love, support, and generosity in helping them get to this point in life. Why not encourage your teen to write thank you notes with personalized note cards? We love the selection from Minted, many of which can also be coordinated with grad party invitations.
8. Laundry Bag
This cute laundry bag may give your student just the motivation they need to get to the laundry room before they run out of clean clothes to wear.
Having a way to block out noise from a roommate or hallmates is key for college students. These noise-canceling wireless headphones from Bose get the top reviews for audio quality and loads of other features.
If you’re looking for a less expensive but also a well-reviewed set of headphones, these wireless noise-canceling headphones by Anker are considered the top ones priced under $100.
If your new graduate has an outdated computer, there is no 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. Two of the most popular models are the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
YETI is a brand that our grads love and the “Rambler” insulated cup is a popular choice for Class of 2022 grads. Personalize it with their initials or college logo and it will be something they use every day. Available in multiple colors and sizes.
If your teens love Lululemon leggings and workout gear, they will be thrilled with a backpack from the same brand. This durable, lightweight, water-repellent backpack has a padded compartment for a laptop and an exterior pocket for a water bottle. Starting college with a new backpack, and not one with the crumbs and bits of torn paper from high school, will be a welcome addition to their college life. Available in three colors.
13. Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening
Becky Blades, author/illustrator (and mom of two daughters) is the genius behind this adorable book. 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.
Dr. Meg Jay, a bestselling author, and clinical psychologist wrote this wake-up call to twentysomethings who will find her advice and coaching about this decade compelling. Watch her amazing TED talk, Why 30 is Not the New 20, to learn more about what she covers in her book.
We think this slim wallet from Leatherology would be an elegant keepsake gift for your son. This thin, bifold style gets top reviews.
16. 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 elusive 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.
17. Desk lamp
A desk lamp that is dimmable, and has a built-in high-speed charger for a phone, is a practical gift that your teen can use in dorms or apartments for years to come.
A very different kind of lamp is one that connects two family members by light. Get a pair of friendship lamps and you can convey your love by touch so your teen will know you are never far away. Likewise, they can convey the same back to you.
Kendra Scott earrings, necklaces, and rings can be personalized with a gorgeous selection of stones. Pick your daughter’s favorite color or the color of her new college.
We love this idea for a unique jewelry gift – a bracelet in your handwriting! Your daughter will have a reminder of how much she is loved when she wears this lovely and very personal bracelet. Available in silver, gold and rose gold colors.
21. Gift cards for dorm shopping
At some point every recent grad finds themselves browsing the college decor section of Bed, Bath, & Beyond or Target searching for Twin XL sheets and an array of storage units. Gift cards from one of these national retailers will get them on their way.
We are big fans of the Herschel brand and think their selection of lightweight, durable, and affordable card cases is one to consider for your grad.
Add a few dollars or a check for $20.22 and you are set!
23. 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, after their laptop. Don’t forget to add a bike repair kit for helping to keep the bike in tip-top shape.
24. Keurig Mini
Students waking up early for class or pushing through late-night studying will appreciate their own single-serving coffee maker. Keurig makes many different machines but our favorite is the Mini which measures only 5″ wide and comes in six colors.
This is a great gift for teens or young adults moving into a dorm or tiny first apartment.
For students who prefer cold brew, the OXO Brew Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker is an excellent solution. The compact size takes up much less counter and fridge space, perfect for a dorm.
25. Help with student loans
A full 62% of college students in the class of 2019 graduated with debt and the average loan burden is $28,950. Any and all help with those payments is truly a graduation gift, for a high school or college graduate.
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! Now, in paperback.
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.
This compact set of exercise bands will give your teen a way to work out in their dorm or apartment. They are adjustable and perfect for travel, too.
Sweatshirts or other items with college names are big hits. Fanatics has one of the widest selections of officially-licensed NCAA (and pro team) shops with over 500 colleges represented.
29. Lokai bracelets
We think these simple bead bracelets are lovely and, when we read about the founder’s story and saw how many bracelets he created to honor and contribute to worthy charities, we were even more excited to feature them on this graduation gift list. Check out the new collegiate collection — perfect for a new grad.
Use codeword GFFamilyandFriends at checkout for a 20% discount as we are Ambassadors.
If your teen is taking any valuable jewelry, a passport, or meds, having a lockbox to store them in will give you both peace of mind. This one has a programmable electronic lock and a steel tethering cable.
Unassembled furniture? A hinge that is coming loose? A small but well-equipped toolset like this one will last for all four years and beyond.
Classic graduation gifts
32. Watches and pearls
These treasured gifts might be tucked away until your teen has a special occasion but these are graduation gifts that last a lifetime.
33. Family photos
They may have snapshots of the family on 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 a family dog, before the kids leave home.
34. 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.
35. 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.
36. 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.