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Graduation Gift Ideas Your Scholar Will Actually Love (And Use!) 

Kristen Campbell  |  June 28, 2022

This year’s graduates deserve a stellar celebration. Recognize their accomplishments with gifts that reflect them and could only come from you.  

You saved the date and found a card with an embossed mortarboard. But what do you give someone who’s completed an academic milestone in the midst of all that the last two-plus years have been?

We’d say a medal – perhaps several – but that could get a little pricey. 

So let’s set aside the pomp, embrace the circumstances and start celebrating your favorite graduates. Read on for gift ideas that reflect both the recipient and you, run the gamut from practical to quirky, and won’t break the bank. 

For the high-school graduate, from the practical giver

How to Money: For graduates from high school, college and beyond, this new visual guide to all things finance from New York Times bestselling author Jean Chatzky, Kathryn Tuggle and the rest of the HerMoney team is a must, if we do say so ourselves. 

Pen (or ink cartridges) and paper: We’re all for going green and embracing the digital. We also know that sometimes, you have to print. The college-bound grad may not seem super-excited upon unwrapping, but in the wee small hours of some soon-to-come sleepless night, she’ll be beyond grateful.

Gift cards: Whether your graduate’s continuing education, traveling or heading straight to work, odds are she could get by a little better with some help from her friends (including you). Make that next stop at the campus bookstore, gas station or grocery store a little less expensive, allowing her to breathe easier over her finances.

The laundry bag: My mom’s staple high-school graduation gift for ages was a laundry bag, detergent and a roll of quarters. A clear winner every time. 

For the college (and beyond) graduate, from the supportive family and friends

The thing (that’s probably not a thing): Sometime during the last few years, your new graduate has undoubtedly offered a litany of what she’d love to do when she’s finished her studies. The list might have included a visit to an exotic locale, but activities like napping, reading a book for fun or cleaning a neglected space are likely on there. Check in on her current wishes and make at least one happen by protecting her time and space for an afternoon. 

A personalized guide: Whether your graduate’s staying put or moving, share some resources to help make this next chapter fantastic. If she’s headed to a new location, gather materials – think books, gift cards, hyperlinks – to help her explore and enjoy her new home. If she’s landed a job nearby, supply her with tools to reconnect with the place she might have missed while she’s been behind a textbook. 

The gift of green: Yes, cash is good, and go for it if you can. But we’re thinking plants here, those lovely organisms that make just about any space better. Keep in mind any pets or children the recipient has (some leafy wonders aren’t best to keep around with four-leggeds or little ones in the mix), not to mention space and the recipient’s capacity to provide plant care. But any kind can beautify, and some may even nourish.

Tools: If you know your graduate needs a household toolkit, by all means, wrap one up for her. (You can find this 39-piece set on Amazon for 19.99.) But think too, of the ways you might equip your favorite graduate for the coming days. Could you create a book or set of digital files providing a step-by-step guide to fixing things around the house, making a complicated and beloved recipe, or mending a sock? You know your superpowers, and those your loved one dreams of acquiring. 

For the young at heart, from the book lover

I Am Enough by Grace Byers: Beautifully illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo, Byers’ book offers a mantra for all of us, and one that might be particularly needed by anyone beginning new challenges.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson: Remind your new graduate to create her own world (with or without pie or a porcupine), discovering original solutions to whatever conundrums occur. 

I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal: Wishing the reader “more ups than downs,” Rosenthal’s book, with delightful illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld, shares hopes to uplift children and adults alike.  

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss: This perennial favorite from Theodor Seuss Geisel recognizes that we will encounter obstacles even as it cheers us onward.

 For anyone, from the sustainer

Real mail (that’s not a bill): Choose a frequency that works for you, and commit to sending a card, letter, illustration – you get the idea – filled with good wishes, goofy jokes, interesting recipes, New Yorker cartoons or anything else that will brighten the graduate’s day. Make it a surprise, or, upon graduation, let your loved one know what she can look forward to every month or two.

Real food: Who doesn’t love a care package? Whether you drop off their favorites in person or send the staples needed to make those meals, the gesture will undoubtedly fortify the recipient body and soul as she embarks on her post-graduate life.

Real service: Does she have a favorite magazine or newspaper? What about streaming services? Check in with your graduate and ask if she’d like lawn or snow removal services, meal delivery or anything else you could set up and eliminate from her regular to-do list. 

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