framed art print

Whether you’re a mom, auntie, uncle, next-door neighbor, coworker, this time of year means that you probably know somebody who’s graduating from something. Maybe it’s kindergarten or maybe it’s an MBA, but you’ve got something to celebrate.

If you’re looking for gift ideas for the grad in your life, read on for some practical suggestions they might actually really love.

Keep it small.

Or better yet, give your grad something that takes up no space at all (like cash, gift certificates, etc). For many, graduation means moving great distances, across the country or even across the world. Graduation often means that a kid who’s always grown up in a single-family home is about to experience life in a dorm or 1-bedroom apartment, so a bunch of new physical stuff (laden with good wishes and therefore probably a little bit of guilt) is probably the last thing they need or want in their house all summer.

Give experiences.

Pick a local restaurant and gift your grad a night out. For one thing, it’ll help them explore their new environment a bit. College can be a little bit of a bubble, so it’s always nice to give them the means and a reason to take a break from the campus cafeteria. (Maybe they’ll even get inspired to take a new friend or crush on a real date? It still happens, from time to time. And it’s much safer than a frat party.)

Same goes for movie tickets. Always fun, good all year round, and a nice break from the campus party scene.

You can also give your grad some experiences to make their final summer at home more fun. If you know their favorite band is coming through, get tickets. If you know they love camping, buy them a nice tent.

Give something that lasts.

If you do decide to give a traditional gift, make sure it’s something high-quality that’ll last your grad a long time. Giving a physical gift on a momentous occasion means that you’re asking someone to take this gift from one life phase into the next - so it needs to be something worth taking! Think about leather goods like luggage, Dopp kits, wallets, etc - anything that gets better with age or is one of-a-kind.


This is, of course, the number one item on every grad’s list. (And probably on their parents’ list as well.) We all know this, and/or we’ve been on the other side of this ourselves. And yet even though we know this gift is the simplest for us and the most exciting for them, many of us still feel a little squeamish about gifting just those bills.

Really, though, it doesn’t have to feel impersonal. Design a thoughtful card with a pocket for a check, and write a letter. A check alone might not feel quite right, but a check plus a heartfelt note may be just the thing. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink it.

Money for a specific goal.

This can be as formal as opening a savings account in your grad’s name and then dedicating it to a specific purpose, or as casual as handing over an envelope with “Vacation Fund” written on the outside. The point is, giving money can be more meaningful and memorable when you designate it for a specific purpose.

If you already know that your grad wants something in particular, go ahead and earmark it. You can also just make it clear that this money is for chasing dreams of whatever persuasion.

Gas money.

If your grad is headed somewhere driving distance from home, a gift certificate or refillable gift card to a Costco or gas station is not only useful, it’s also a powerful hint to come visit often.

Customized stationery.

As with the above, this gift also functions as a hint. And while most kids who’ve recently flown the nest will favor a text message over a handwritten note, it’s a traditional and beautiful gift that may just come in handy on more occasions than you might think. Besides the obvious thank you notes looming on the horizon, a nice set of personalized stationery can help with sending follow-up notes to recruiters for jobs or internships as your grad starts their future.

Grad gift registry.

Is your graduate registered anywhere for dorm room supplies? The college dorm registry is becoming a bigger and bigger deal these days. Moving to campus is expensive, and with the cost of tuition and living rising, most kids and their parents will appreciate a gift they know they’ll need, are going to have to buy anyway. Depending on where your grad is registered, you can purchase gifts online and have them shipped anywhere, or arrange to have them shipped to a local store and picked up during move-in week.

Inside joke gifts.

If you’re close to the graduate, this is a perfect time to deliver a sweet and creative gift that only the two of you will get. Think about a few major memories you’ve shared and go from there.

No matter what you get your grad, no matter where they’re headed, there’s one thing that goes along with every kind of gift: your love and best wishes. With special occasions like graduation, it’s really the feeling that people will remember. So whatever you give, make sure your grad knows how proud you are of them, how excited you are for their future, and that you’ll always be around when they come home.