Gifts Grads Actually Want

When I graduated from college, the whole day and the ceremony was a blur. I do remember spending time with my family to celebrate afterwards. My relatives were beyond generous, giving me all kinds of mementos. However, one gift really stood out: My grandmother gifted me a check with a personal note. It wasn’t the money that made it special. It was the note that said she was so proud of me, as one of the first in the family to go to college. I still cherish it today, even more now that she has passed away.

New graduates have distinct needs in this chapter of their lives. Before you spend your hard-earned money on a gift, carefully consider what will help a fresh graduate. With a little forethought and a personal touch, you can ensure your gift is remembered and used well, rather than tossed in the back of a closet.

Top gifts for grads

When choosing a gift, think about your loved one’s interests, needs, and future plans. A well-chosen gift can help them start their new life. Here are some of the best gifts you can give to a graduate:

  • Money: While money may seem impersonal, it can be a huge help to a new grad . They can use the cash to start their work wardrobe, furnish their home, or buy a new computer to help their work. If gifting cash isn’t your thing, consider making a first payment toward their student loans. They will likely have a grace period of six months after graduating to make payments, but gifting them a payment now will help cut down on the interest that they’ll pay later.
  • Professional tote or laptop bag: Graduating means that the student is now ready to start their career. From mastering office norms to making sense of corporate dress codes, that can be overwhelming. Since good-quality bags are likely out of a new grad’s budget, gifting a polished tote or laptop bag can help them make a professional first impression at job interviews or on their first day. It’ll definitely be an upgrade to the backpack they’ve been carrying around. Look for bags in neutral colors, such as black, brown, or tan, and look for well-made bags with reinforced straps. While leather always looks nice, there are many synthetic materials that wear well and look elegant.
  • New home kit: If your new grad has already landed a job and is moving into a new apartment, getting started can be tough. Between bed linens, kitchen supplies, and furniture, creating a new home can be expensive. You can help ease the burden by purchasing some much-needed home items to help them set up their space. Consider buying them a set of high-quality sheets, some pots and pans, or a specialty appliance like a griddle or panini maker. Or gift them some essentials you know they may forget, like cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, a mop, or kitchen spices.

Gifts to avoid

While everyone gives gifts with the best of intentions, there are some presents that won’t resonate with a new graduate. Below are some common gifts that seem like a good idea, but might be forgotten quickly.

  • Autograph plushes or books: Every gift shop sells white stuffed animals wearing graduation caps that people can sign. Schools will often sell autograph books with school pictures for graduates to pass around. While these can look cute, after the big day, most people forget they ever had them. Many a plush dog has ended up in the trash after graduation.
  • Elegant pens: It used to be a well-made pen would be an excellent gift. It lended professionalism to a new graduate and looked great on their desks. But now that everyone is so dependent on computers and smartphones, a nice pen is likely to end up lost, rather than used.
  • Dr. Seuss books: While “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” has become a graduation gift staple, consider skipping it for a new grad. It’s one of those things that sounds cute at the graduation party, but will likely never be looked at again. It will end up gathering dust on a shelf or, more likely, end up in a donation bin.

Gifting thoughtfully

When it comes to congratulating someone who has made it through college, think of the unique challenges they’ll face in starting their new life. Thoughtful gifts that will make it easier on them will be appreciated and remembered. Any gift becomes a treasure when you put some individuality into it. Include a heartfelt note, advice you wish you had known when you were young, or include a photo of the young grad, ready to take on the world.

Originally published on May 10, 2017.

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