15 good and (almost) perfect gifts for high school graduates

For some, gift giving is love language; they always know just what to give.  Their gifts compel Cheshire cat smiles, squeals of delight, or on the rarest of occasions, they leave the recipient speechless.

Gift giving is not my strong suit. I labor over choosing the “right” present for someone; not because I’m trying to impress them, nor out of obligation, but because if I’m in the position of wanting (or needing) to buy you a gift, it’s a reflection of my relationship with you. It matters to me to give a gift that meaningfully expresses that. This is why I deplore gifting money.

Because graduation season is here, I thought it might be helpful to share some specific gift ideas for the special teenagers in your life who’ll be celebrating this momentous milestone.  And fyi, I’m intentionally leaving off electronics here because of their lofty price tags.

Here are some of my favorite gifts to give a teenager when they graduate.

Top 5 gift ideas for her

1. Signature jewelry

Not restricted to monogrammed jewelry, these are “nice” pieces they’ll wear in college and beyond. A few examples:

  • Pearl studs — Classic!  If they don’t have a pair, this is the perfect time to gift them with the real deal.  She’ll think of you every time she wears them.
  • Wrist Watch. Given the majority (every?) of graduates have a cell phone, watches aren’t used as timepieces anymore, but they’ve made a definite comeback as a fashion accessory.  Betsey Johnson is just one example of many offering fun and affordable options.
  • Hand-me-down — Pass along a piece of jewelry significant to you. Sharing the story of the piece is just as crucial as the jewelry itself.  My mother-in-law just gave my daughter the sterling cross given to her by her high school boyfriend for graduation; which happens to also be my daughter’s grandfather!   Yes…many tears ensued. Charm bracelets, special rings–most any meaningful piece will be appreciated if it comes with a story.
  • Hand-stamped pieces are BIG; I’ve given Lisa Leonard necklaces/bracelets/keyrings; she has a beautiful faith-inspired section at DaySpring and a more complete line at her own site.

2. Reusable bottles.

Today’s graduates seem to be better stewards of planet earth (or maybe that’s just my personal hope), and it seems that everyone carries water bottles. You can go as simple as a Nalgene for around $10 to a cool S’well bottle that keeps cool drinks cold for 24 hours/hot warm for 12; a bit more pricey at around $60.

Swell-Water-Bottle-1

3. Memory books

My daughter has repeatedly told me this One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book is probably her favorite gift from me ever.  She’s not a writer, so the one line a day format is perfect!  She’s completed her first book and is well into the first year of a second! It captured her college experience, and now that she’s engaged…it will be even more special.  Fun picture frames fit in this category, too.

4. Organizers and household supplies

Think bathroom, laundry or school supplies — give a tote, basket or hamper and related consumable items to fill it.  Think under the bed, too, which helps them make the most of small spaces.  Several recent graduates have raved about a hanging jewelry organizer as well.

5. Terry wrap

More than just a towel or robe, a terry wrap like this is wonderful, especially for dorm life with shared showers.  She’ll wish she had two!

Top 5 gift ideas for him

1. Cool poster in a frame for his dorm

Think sports or hobbies that reflect his taste, or campus landmarks from the college he’ll be attending.  Spend more on the poster, less on the frame.

2. Insulated cup

You might say Yeti cups are the guy’s answer to the girl’s S’well bottles above. While either would be fine regardless of gender (of course), one of my son’s favorite gifts was the Yeti cup he received from a friend. He used it daily (and even washed it every once in a while (ewww!).

yeti-rambler-tumbler-colster

3. Binoculars

A pair of binoculars would be great for upcoming sports and concerts.  It’s a gift he’d never think of, but glad to have them when an event rolls around.

4. A travel / Dopp kit

Back in the day this was a standard gift; today, not so much.  My husband actually has the one he received as a gift forever ago and my teen boys recently asked for one.

5. Good earbuds

Because earbuds have a shelf life — and your home is like ours, they easily disappear — a new set of better earbuds paired with an iTunes gift card will make most anybody happy.

Top 5 gift ideas for him or her

1. Towels

Students prefer bright colors, and especially for the girls, monogramming is a nice bonus.  Washcloths are helpful, but I doubt any student will hang up a hand towel.

2. Jumper cables

Include instructions on how to use them, and an added bonus is to show them.  They won’t fully appreciate this until there’s a need — then they’ll praise your name.

3. ID Case

Wristlet - ID holdersStudents typically have a school card loaded with campus dollars, and at a minimum, students are required to have an ID that allows them entry to campus events and activities. Guys might use their wallet but there are great phone case options that can serve dual-duty, too. For girls it can be a downright fashion accessory. Either way, they’ll need something to carry it in, and this is a great gift than can also be used as a gift card or money holder.

4. A tool kit

Get them a basic tool kit that includes a hammer and screwdriver, or find a kit with a little of everything.  Who knew tools could be cute?  Just look at this pink one for gals.

5. “Off to college” survival kit

This could include:

  • Laundry supplies — include a basket, soap, a roll of quarters, and laundry tips.
  • Snack attack supplies — a basket (preferably that they can use for something else later) filled with their favorite candies, snacks, and gift cards to their favorite restaurants.
  • Cafeteria survival supplies — a hot pot for cooking those famed Ramen noodles, their favorite cereal and snacks, and a hand-compiled recipe book of simple things they can make with limited kitchen resources.

Want even more ideas? Once I started, I couldn’t stop, so if you haven’t quite found what you’re looking for, head to my blog to track my ever-growing list (updated for 2016).

15 great gift ideas for graduates

Note: I’ve included affiliate links to some of my favorite products just in case you’re interested.

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114 Comments

  1. Lindsay

    You compiled a great list! My little sis is is apparently going to be a doctor (not really) but she is finally graduating college and I am stressing a little bit about what I should get her. I LOVE the idea of pearl stud earrings. Such a classic piece of jewelry that she would have forever 🙂

    Delighted Momma

    • RobinD

      Oooo, good! I’m so glad this was helpful. I’m still working on the list on my site….once I started working on this post, I couldn’t stop with the ideas! Ha!

      • Sarah G

        I also loved the pearls idea! I was given some after the birth of my first baby whose birth stone is…pearl : ) And I definitely think of my In Laws with warmth every time I wear them.

  2. MemeGRL

    Thanks for this! My classic gift was a mug full of quarters–but they don’t need quarters for laundry anymore, so I’ve been scrambling. This helps!

    • RobinD

      That IS…well, WAS a great idea :). Some colleges still require them for laundry, but during our search last year I realized many had converted to “free”…well, for the students 😉 :).

  3. Ally Lynn

    Towels are a really great idea. I got a set of four as a graduation gift before I started college, and they came in so handy! It’s nice having extra, especially since you don’t want to have to go to the laundry room more than once a week, and they can be used for so many things other than for showers. Definitely worth finding a little extra space for them in a tiny dorm room.

    • RobinD

      Ally Lynn, I can remember having to do laundry BECAUSE of no towels left :). And you can always find nice ones on sale SOMEWHERE, so it’s an affordable, practical gift. Good feedback, thanks for confirming :).

  4. Angela @ Homegrown Mom

    I graduated in 1995, and literally NO ONE I knew had a cell phone. My mom and stepdad got me one for graduation and it was the most exciting thing! And yes, it was enormous, lol.

    I love shopping for gifts, and these are great ideas!

    • RobinD

      Angela, You trendsetter, you! Wow, haven’t times changed? I can’t imagine someone receiving a cell phone for graduation now, though I applaud the parent who’s waited til then. We didn’t have the fortitude to exercise that much parental restraint. 🙂

  5. Kari

    DaySpring? I know some of the staff here writes for DaySpring, so that just smacks of product placement. Etsy would be a better place to start.

    • RobinD

      Kari, Wow. Ouch. Please know my choices do NOT have anything to do with Simple Mom or her staff! But, yes, I DO contribute for (in)courage, a division of DaySpring. I suppose because I regularly buy gifts from them they’re naturally on my list for suggestions. I’ve added a few other suggestions for which I have NO affiliation and would sincerely welcome specific Etsy shops that you can recommend. I’m working on my post listing this morning and would be happy to add relevant suggestions :).

      Thanks for your honesty though it was a shock to read….

      • Living the Balanced Life

        Robin,
        I love that you gave visuals and several different links for your suggestions! I love the line a day journal, think I want to get this for my daughter!
        Bernice

        • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

          Thank you, Bernice! Let me know how she likes it if you do.

  6. Sarah Park

    LOVE the 5-year line-a-day memory book idea. I had never heard of such a thing; but I “flipped” through it via Amazon, and was amazed at the formatting… I had figured it would be each day for one year, then the next year, then the next—but to show, for instance, May 18th, for five subsequent years on one page… that is brilliant! I would love to use that, myself!!!

    Thank you for the wonderful + comprehensive list of ideas—this is really useful.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Sara, Thank you for your positive comment. I bought one of the 5-year journals for myself and before I wrote in it, my daughter said she thought she’d like one so I gave it to her. She has repeatedly thanked me for it; and I know in five years it will be a treasure!

    • ahmad

      oo so cute ….their is no price of gifts which r given from heart ..

  7. Kinda Crunchy Kate

    I got a really nice umbrella as a high school graduation gift. It was stylish and very well constructed too, which made it even better! I can’t tell you how many times I was thankful for it as I walked to my classes in the rain and wind (and snow.) Lasted me all four years and then some.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Kate, Ha! That’s on my list at my blog today; but it’s nice to hear it “confirmed” as a great gift!

      • Shelly W.

        A friend gave my daughter an umbrella from the Coach factory outlet last year for her graduation. She loves it! I think I’ll head over there and get a few myself this year.

        • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

          One of my teachers gave me an Eddie Bauer umbrella for my high school graduation. I thought that was the weirdest gift ever…until I got to college. 🙂 And then I realized it was brilliant! (Mine eventually broke, thanks to strong wind, but my best friend also got one from that teacher – 15 years ago – and still has it!)

  8. Judy

    When I graduated high school, I got luggage (2 full sets!) since I was going away to school and towels. They were very practical…though I still don’t know what to do with 2 full sets of luggage years after the fact 🙂

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Judy, I forgot to add that to the list at MY blog!! Thank you for reminding me! Honestly, it’s always the first thing I think of, and yes, I remember my hard luggage that was a prized possession back in the day. Thankfully, I only received one set.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Judy!! You just reminded me I FORGOT to add that to the still-growing list on my blog! That was one of my most useful HS graduation gifts and I had that hard-sided Samsonite long after it was no longer in style.

  9. Kate

    My big brother gave me a toolkit when I went to college and ever since then I’ve given one to every high school graduate. It doesn’t seem that fun but it’s so useful and when you’re the only one on the floor with a hammer it’s a great way to meet people 😉

    • Alissa

      Yes! One of my college roommates had the toolkit her dad had given her the day she moved to college. We all (she included) rolled our eyes and then promptly realized that we had a zillion needs for the items in that little blue kit. Great gift!

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Kate, It IS totally the thing you’d roll your eyes over. Then bless his heart a thousand times whenever you needed it :).

    • Rita

      I also received a toolkit for a high school graduation gift. I thought it was a little hooky, but by the end of my first year of college, every piece got used, and people on my floor came to my room looking to borrow that toolkit!

  10. Emily from Readytowait.com

    I just was going to write about how having a tool kit in the dorm is a great way to get to know your neighbors! So true, Kate. The toolkit my parents’ best friends gave me is the most memorable gift I received for my high school graduation. It was a simple tool box with a hammer and nails, a small collection of screwdrivers, some hanging kits, duct tape, super glue, and pliers. They wrote my name in paint pen on everything and I still had it all at the end of my college life despite the NUMEROUS times items were borrowed. I still have these tools today and I am about to turn 40!

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Ok, now Emily…THIS just makes me SMILE! I love the paint pen touch because then there’s no question as to whose it is. Brilliant! 🙂

  11. jessica

    I think we may be giving the girl who works the church nursery a gift card to Amazon. She has an ereader and this way she can pick out some books to download that she likes, I don’t know her too well, so I can’t pick out anything too personal!

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      See? That’s perfect, Jessica. You know she has an e-reader so you’re getting something that IS personal! She’ll love it!

  12. Molly

    These are GREAT ideas.

  13. Living the Balanced Life

    Great list of ideas! My daughter actually graducated last year, but is leaving in 2 weeks to go away to school (will be getting her own apartment!) and there are quite a few things here that she will need! Jumper cables and how to use them, Love it!
    Thanks Robin!
    Bernice

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Sadly, my kids have learned this from experience…! 😉 🙂

  14. ChristineG

    That is a terrific list. I am starring this in my reader for next year when, gulp, my oldest daughter will graduate from (homeschool) high school.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Thank you, Christine! Love that! My post written with additional ideas is attached, so maybe it’ll remind you of some things she’ll need/want, too :).

  15. Adina

    Love the creative and useful gift ideas!
    I just have to comment that while reading your first paragraph, my heart started beating faster with an amazing sense of familiarity, and my brain was like, “Hey, since when do you write for Simple Living?”
    Needless to say, I think the exact same way, and have been stuck in this ironic situation where gift giving is an expression of my care, but at the same time it causes me great stress. Hmm…
    I guess maybe we need to realize that if we care so much, the people in our lives know that, and material things may not be the best representation of that, but darn it, I still yearn to give that treasured gift;)

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      I just love your comment, Adina. If this was Facebook, I’d *Like* it!! 🙂

  16. Kimberly

    Love all the ideas! Two other ideas to add – when I graduated from high school one of the most practical gifts I received was school supplies: scissors, paper clips, stapler, index cards, etc. A gift card to an office supply store would allow them to get exactly what they need and/or want. Another cool gift I received was a small cooler (a six pack size) and a beach towel. These would work especially well for someone you’re not particularly close to since they’re not personal gifts but still practical and helpful.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Kimberly, Yes and yes! Practical and fun :).

  17. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Excellent list. Especially love the timelessness of so many of the suggestions–and practicality of the others!
    My parents gave me a pair of pearl studs at my own high school graduationn, and I’m still wearing them many years later.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Anne, Unfortunately, I lost mine a long time ago; but only because I wore ’em so often. VERY special you still have yours!

      • Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

        I was just at the jeweler yesterday, and we was telling me it’s much better to wear and enjoy your special things for as long as you can, instead of hiding them away to keep them “safe.” I’m trying to take this to heart. I’m sorry yours are lost, but it’s so sweet to have the memory of a special gift.

        • RobinD

          I take the same posture your jeweler suggested with my crystal, silver and fine china; I inherited the china from my mom, my MIL gave me her silver for my 40th birthday (because she had her mother’s), and I’d rather use it and break a piece than have it sitting in a box somewhere. Sure, I’d grimace if something broke, but at least it wouldn’t be from atrophy!! 🙂

  18. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Excellent list. Especially love the timelessness of so many of the suggestions–and practicality of the others!
    My parents gave me a pair of pearl studs at my own high school graduation, and I’m still wearing them many years later.

  19. Stephanie

    The memory book is a wonderful idea! I especially like that you can see what you were doing that day in past years at a glance. What a nice, simple way to reflect. Thanks for this list – all GREAT ideas!

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Merci beaucoodles, Stephanie! 🙂

  20. Ashley

    The idea of a hand-me-down is great. I have a few items that my mom gave me belonging to my grandmother that are so precious to me. They’re not necessarily expensive, but simple items that I use frequently and adore. I hope to pass on some heirlooms like this to my kids when they reach significant milestones, as well.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      My mother in law is already trying to decide what to give her other two grand daughters since she’s set this precedence for my daughter; how special that you have some of your grandmother’s pieces of jewelry :).

  21. Lou

    Girls get pearls and memory books and boys get sports-related items? While some of the items on the girls list seem gender-specific, there’s nothing on the boys list that a girl wouldn’t like as well. Any kid loves apparel from the college they are planning to attend.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Lou, ha! That’s why the word *almost* is in the title! I’d love to hear your suggestions for guys–the only things I could think of I wouldn’t recommend, anyway. If you have interest, I continued this short list, linked below, and purposefully didn’t separate by gender.

  22. Melissa

    These are all great ideas. I do think, though, that money can be just as thoughtful. Personal? No, but you can be 100% sure it’s something that is needed and won’t be a duplicate. All I would add is to make sure you include a gift receipt with your gifts. No one wants to hurt someone’s feelings, so if you just include it you will never know for sure if the recipient needed to use it. I say this from experience. At my own graduation I received 8 “thoughtful” towel gifts. I was honestly most grateful to the two people who gave me gift receipts so I was able to exchange the towels for sheets, something I needed equally as much, and never had to hurt anyone’s feelings.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      GREAT idea to remind people to get gift receipts! That’s one of those things I thought about before writing this post, but absolutely forgot when I wrote it. Thank you.

      And you DO make good points about gifting money; I figure there are plenty of others who give it, so most of the time it’s okay for me to figure out something else.

      You’re thoughtful to be so aware of others feelings :).

  23. Emily

    Have any more ideas for grads not going to college? We have three graduations this spring for kids that are not moving away or going to college.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Hey Emily,

      First, take a look at the post that’s linked here; it’s got a bunch of other ideas. Will the students be living at home or moving into an apartment? Have they decided that yet??

      • Emily

        Thanks! I saw the link right after I commented! I’m still thinking though. Two will be living at home and one is going into the military. I’ll probably give money or gift cards to two of them, but the third is my cousin and I’m trying to think of something else (she’s a girl btw). I probably need to talk to her mom.

  24. amber

    These ideas are nice and all, but I recall graduating high school just 7 years ago, and I can tell you that my classmates and I pretty much wanted ONE THING for graduation: MONEY. It’s the thing I appreciated most, because those books don’t buy themselves. I was practical and knew what I needed and hated excess stuff even then. Any decor or jewelry or whatever I received I just fretted about trying to fit into my car on the way to college. If not money, then gift certificates for a big box store (like target) where stuff can be bought toward decorating the dorm room OR food can be bought in almost any college town. Part of the fun of going off to college is defining or redefining your own sense of self and style. You get to almost create a new identity, decorate a place that is all your own, without your parents’ or anyone else’s say. My grandma bought me a poster she thought I’d like before I left for college and I really didn’t like it. But I felt obligated to lug it to college and hang it up in my dorm room, and it made me quietly roll my eyes everytime I saw it. Would have rather taken the money and put it toward a piece I really enjoyed that I got to pick out myself. Also, any jewelry I have ever received as a gift has boiled down to clutter in my jewelry box, especially “memento” type jewelry. You don’t see a whole lot of college students actually wearing charm bracelets or graduation pins on a daily basis. They don’t want to put on their school colors or proclaim their love for their home town high school when they go out on the town on a friday night. Kinda cheesy. You graduate high school and you move on to your new life as an adult. Most college kids kind of want to leave their high school selves behind. I always dreaded all the “mementos” people would buy me from hallmark or whatever for every special occasion. A couch pillow with my grad. date sewed onto it, graduation specific jewelry, confirmation wall crosses…just a bunch of unitaskers that are the hardest to get rid of later.

    The one useful thing a high school grad would truly appreciate from your list beyond money and gift certificates, I believe, is that last item-survival kit. Laundry quarters and detergent, lots of snack food, something you can use to cook in your dorm, gift cards to restaurants? Definite win. I LOVED care packages too. For graduation maybe give them a commitment to X amount of care packages per year. It was always fantastic to open a huge box full of food and other gifts. Totally would make or break a day.

    • Shelly W.

      Soooo, what you’re saying is that you missed the day they taught gratitude? Too bad.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Amber, Well…how to reply….**thinking**…

      First, thank you for sharing your honest, unfiltered thoughts; there’s no question about what you’re thinkin’!! 🙂

      Second, I write this through a mother’s perspective who has just celebrated her first kid’s graduation. We didn’t send out a lot of announcements, only to those people invested in her life; although they were in no way an “ask” for a gift, because we limited that list, most people would have sent a gift regardless. This means they know her fairly well…which means IF they chose to give a gift, it definitely is something my daughter would have wanted/appreciated. Every present my daughter received (I’m talking gifts, not gift cards of cash), she loved.

      • Tsh

        And honestly, I read some of those memento-type gift ideas as reflectors of their university choice, not the high school they just graduated from. So, a charm bracelet with a Longhorn logo (since I went to the University of Texas — hook ’em!).

        I don’t like clutter either, but well-made stuff that’s also timeless and reflects my college choice? I like it.

        • RobinD

          🙂 Go Tigers 😉

  25. Alissa

    My mom made us the most precious gifts at graduation. She had saved all those commemorative t-shirts – sports teams, vacation spots, camp fire, cheer squad, high school events, etc from when we were growing up. She cut out the fronts into squares and turned them into…

    A MEMORY QUILT!

    Obviously, that’s a very specific gift that only a parent can make and it takes an awful lot of planning to be collecting those shirts, but that quilt was on my bed all through college. (She did back it with a neutral fabric, but I always kept the t-shirt side up.)

    • Sarah Park

      Oh, that is such a wonderful idea. I’ve heard of those, and sort of half thought to myself that I’d love to make one (specifically of my husband’s old t-shirts that have nostalgic value). But I’d need to learn how to quilt, first! 🙂

      • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

        Alissa, J’ADORE! J’ADORE! I wonder if I can learn to quilt in three months. Umm…and go back and find all those tee shirts I gave away or got rid of…. 😉

  26. Sara

    For my high school graduation I wanted a school ring. My dad told me that that was a silly idea and that I would never wear it and that REALLY upset me at the time. Like a stubborn teenage girl I decided I didn’t want anything for my graduation then. My dad still got me a ring. A gold one, with my birthstone in it. It was prettier than any that I could imagine and I cried when I opened it. It was way better than a high school ring. I haven’t taken it off my hand since.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Sara, that gave me chills :). That you’ve worn it all this time, that your father knew what he wanted to get you…both, precious!

  27. Liddy

    LOVE the idea of the One Line A Day: A Five-Year Memory Book!! What a great idea! Wish I’d known about that book while Danyelle was in her senior year. This may just turn out to be one of my favorite “go-to” gifts for various ocassions. 🙂

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Liddy,

      First, HEY LADY!!

      I found my first copy at Francesca’s but I haven’t seen ’em there since we bought the last copy…. You can follow the link from this post to buy ’em online; or maybe they have one at Barnes & Nobel or BAM??

  28. Erin OK @ it's OK

    I think classic jewelry is a great grad gift. My grandma gave me a gold ID bracelet for graduation that I loved. For my college grad, my mom gave me a vintage locket, which I also thought was a great gift.

    I think a toolkit is a good gift too. I always wished someone would give me tools. My brothers always got tools for gifts, but never me!

    That line-a-day memory book does look super awesome. I want one!

    • RobinD

      Erin, Your point about your brothers getting tools but not you is exactly why I chose a picture of a PINK tool kit :).

      **If** you buy one of those one-line memory books, thank me in five years. 🙂

  29. Company logo design

    Really a nice post. I was searching about the same thing. My younger is going to graduated from the high school very soon and I was searching for the perfect gift for him. I would definitely gift him a good ear bud paired with an itune gift card. That would be a perfect gift for him.

    • RobinD

      Well, alrighty!

  30. Orlandoescape

    Thanks for the list just in time as we are debating what get our 8th grade graduate.

    Thanks again

    • RobinD

      You’re welcome!!

  31. Beth

    In these days of rising gas prices, a Gas Card would be a nice gift.

    • RobinD

      You aren’t kidding! I remember when my dad would give me $20 for gas when I’d come home during college and I’d have change to spare after filling my car. Those days are loooong gone!

  32. Jean

    Are you not allowed to share the products you like? It’s YOUR article. Thank you for the tips. I don’t know any graduates this year but I love your thoughfulness… keep the gift ideas coming for all occasions coming please. My favorite ones from your list are the terry wrap and pearl earrings if she isn’t going away. The binoculars are cool too.

    • RobinD

      Jean, Thank you for your encouraging words :). Especially since you aren’t shopping for graduates this year!!

      • Emmy

        My best present from my (not yet) husband to me: binoculars, actually small birding glasses. I’ve used them to look at nature, to watch the instrumentalists when I could only afford the top tier seats, to find Jupiter’s moons…

        My most fun experience giving: One year we bought all kinds of presents for a our parents, and used our Smithsonian and National Geographic magazines as wrapping. Some presies were expensive, some were as small and fun as Oetker Chocolate Pudding. Each present was wrapped in some kind of related picture. The jewelry had a picture from a story on rubies, the tofu product was surrounded by a lovely shot of beans from a seed catalog. It had so much thought, and was so much fun.

  33. Melissa Sheridan

    Robin,
    Your post came a just the right time. I was searching for a gift for our babysitter, a soon to be high school grad. I started with suggestion #11 and added my own twist. With the help of Urban Spoon, I found a gourmet grocery store in Charleston to purchased a gift card. Next, I bought a travel mug/reusable cup to use in place of gift wrap. Added colorful tissue inside to hide the gift card. Environmental, practical and fun-all in one.
    Your gift list for new grads is the best one I’ve seen online.

    • RobinD

      Melissa, {{hugs}}

      Your last sentence made my day! And I LOVE what you did for your gift! Your sitter will be thrilled (lovelovelove Charleston, btw)!!

  34. Sinea Pies

    LOVE the tool kit idea. My college roommate and I would have made lots of use of it, had we had one “way back when”! Great suggestion.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      My daughter will definitely be buying one with some of the money she received; that’s one way to make instant friends: be the only girl on the hall with a hammer!

  35. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

    My go to gift for high school graduates is a Nalgene bottle with a sticker of the college they are going to on it and a nice note inside. My favorite gift I ever got from graduating was a cooler on wheels, with some basic tail gating equipment for college football games and camping.

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Great go-to idea, Jenna; I’m a words girl, so hand written notes mean a lot to me.

      And a cooler! I totally forgot how great a gift that could make!!

  36. Morgan S.

    I just found your blog today.. so far I like it! As someone who just graduated from college 2 weeks ago, I must add that some of the most useful things I received or bought for college were: a toolkit, shower caddy, rainboots/umbrella (for those rainy days when you have to walk to class), a steering wheel lock/bar (because most freshmen parking lots are pretty far away from the dorms), earbuds, and a desk lamp! Also, a fluffy mattress topper would be a great idea – dorm beds are SOOO uncomfortable!

    Also, just throwing this out there: I worked at a jewelry store for 5 years (all of high school and my first summer before college) and we sold Chamilia bracelets. They are similar to Pandora but I think you will find the quality to be much better, and their beads do fit on Pandora bracelets so if you can’t find exactly what you want with Pandora, Chamilia might have it!

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      Wonderful additions; some, I included on my continued list at my site (others I might add!).

      It’s nice to know about options for Pandora; those are ridiculously pricey (but nicey) :).

  37. Abbey in SD

    I would have to say my favorite gifts given to me were all on this list: towels, personalized jewelry, and a tool kit. The tool kit lived in my car for a while, but it got a lot of use the first few weeks of school when everyone was assembling new furniture in the dorms.

    I would add one item in the “off to college survival kit”. A First Aid Kit. Who doesn’t hate getting a paper cut with no band-aid around? They range from about $1- $15 or so. (get the $1 one in the travel section)

    Thanks for all the other great ideas!

    • Robin ~ PENSIEVE

      EXCELLENT idea! A large container of Advil/Tylenol, cold medicine, tissues, etc., too, for when the cold & flu season hits. Love it!

  38. Susanna

    Excellent post! SO helpful! I just got a graduation invite today and was trying to think what to give besides $. I’m not a natural gifter but always want to give something awesome so this is my struggle too. The journal is perfect and I think will be this year’s gift for all my graduates! Thanks!

  39. Judy

    I realized long after reading this post that the best graduation gift I received was a recipe book. My mom had copied all of my favorite recipes in it which I took to college and still use regularly today. It has blank pages for me to write new recipes in and I love it! http://www.whatilivefor.net/2011/05/graduation-gift-recipe-book.html

  40. Rebecca

    Pearl studs are a great idea – however, I would caution others not to head in the Pandora bracelet direction. I don’t know any teens, or even 20-somethings, who don’t view these as “mom jewelry.”

  41. Kayla

    For my daughter, who is graduating high school later this month, I bought her all of her dorm essentials off of http://www.dormco.com/?Click=18851

    This site was definitely a one stop shop where I was able to complete all of the necessary shopping at one place and in one afternoon. I even bought her fridge/freezzer combo (a definite must-we had to buy one for my older daughter after she was snowed in her dorm room without food with only drinks in her fridge) with only $2.95 shipping. This site is a must for any simple mom!

    Good luck and happy shopping!

  42. Jenny Rink

    Recently gifted my daughter a Pandora bracelet. She was so happy to see it. I couldn’t decide what should I buy for my son to gift him on his graduation day.I think good ear bud for his mp3 player will be best for him. Thanks for the wonderful gift ideas.

  43. April

    I enjoy giving “bathroom kits” bandages, pain pills , thermometer, antibiotic cream for cuts, fingernail clippers etc. I even put muscle ache cream in one girls box that I knew would be on the Basketball team. She called during her first couple of weeks of school to thank me for it. Once practices started up it came in handy.
    or
    sewing kits the basic in case they lose a botton thread, needle, buttons, scissors, etc
    Sewing kits are also a great bridal gift if the girl had never lived on her own.
    or
    paper clips, rubber bands, stapler, sticky tac, tape, stamps for special letters home, a variety of cards (get well -sympathy- B.Day etc)

  44. EdH

    I love the hand me down jewelry idea. I would add the same for “him” – granddad’s cufflinks or pocket watch, etc. I think this plays a lot better with guys than people think. They may not admit it, and maybe it will take a bit of time before they fully understand, but it will work.

  45. Shauna

    Thanks for the list. I am at the research stage looking for gift ideas for my first-born daughter who is graduating from high school. I am needing help with the presentation, as well. How could I equate each of these items to something I would normally have done? For example, ‘when you use these bandaids remember that boo boo’s don’t last forever’ or ‘this umbrella let’s you know that my love covers you wherever you are.’ Does that make sense? Any other ideas?

  46. Karen

    Great ideas!! Thanks for the link to the pink tool kit! Picked up my daughter from college a couple of weekends ago & the van was CRAMMED soo full of stuff that we were going to leave a small table behind because it didn’t fit & we had nothing to take it apart with. As we’re walking out the door, someone mentioned they had a tool set (the IDENTICAL one you had a link to!) & easily disassembled the table! I had googled high & low for a pink tool kit & couldn’t find it, so was tickled to find your recommendation was the one I was searching for! As mentioned, the girl who had it said it had been used and borrowed MUCH over her first year in college! Love all the ideas – thank you!

  47. Rebecca

    If you are looking for a unique Graduation Gift try http://www.gratefulchics.com. This Houston based company founded by two “Mompretreneurs” feature gifts that are centered around Gratitude. It’s a great way to help new graduates focus on the good in their life during this time of exciting transition. Grateful Chics have lots of inspirational gift items for him or her and even a NEW Graduation Gift pack set for only $18 each.

  48. Janet

    Thanks for creating a *good* list. So many such lists are cheesy. I’m just like you. I agonize over the gifts, because I want them to be meaningful! I’ve been settling for money gifts lately as my nephews have graduated high school and college. But now my niece is graduating high school and I just don’t want to give another money gift! Even if I don’t get one of these gifts, your ideas have got my creative juices going in a way that a lesser quality list could not. Thanks!

  49. Lisa

    What an awesome list! I graduated in ’98 so some of the things I used aren’t necessary, and there are new things I never needed. Here’s what I ended up buying the first week (or could see a freshman forgetting to buy and having to make a run that first week) – a shower caddy and flip flops because public showers are GROSS, a flash drive to work on papers at any computer on campus, tacks to hang things (we had 1 wall on each side of the room that was cork board), a wipe-off board that has a marker with velcro/magnet for the dorm room door, Clorox wipes, a travel mug to “steal” beverages from the cafeteria, microwave-safe tupperware with lids for dorm microwave cooking, and my best gift – my family had all volunteered to take turns sending me a package each month with the comforts of home. It was always randomly sent, and contained both edible treats, cards, funny newspaper clippings, etc. Oh, how I loved my mom when she mailed me 3 boxes of girl scout cookies!!! lol

    • Robin Dance

      Lisa!!! GREAT ideas all! Thank you so much for taking time to remember and to share :).

  50. Lori

    I love the ideas, I wanted to add…. Noise reduction earphones, thumb drives, dart board, roll of quarters for wash and a dust buster. I have a great list now, thanks to this site.

  51. Karen Newcombe

    Any kid who is considering engineering as a career might enjoy reading Achieving Zero: My Life and Love of Consulting Engineering, by David Evans. This 150-page book is perfect for high school students – it explains how Evans became an engineer, how he moved from job to job at first trying to find the right situation, and then how he founded his own firm and built it to become one of the largest engineering firms in the U.S. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and as an eBook. Any kid who wants to make great money, do work that contributes to society in a major way, and work in one of the most respected professions around should consider engineering.

  52. Diana Barton

    Don’t give up on the laundry idea! Some colleges do still require quarters! And even if they have linen exchange, students may need detergent, fabric softener, and the like, for their personal laundry – even if the machines are free.

  53. ANDREA

    Just found a SUPER new book for both young men and women in college and new graduates. An eBook on Amazon entitled “The College Student’s Guide to Grocery Shopping: Healthy Eating Made Easy by Jordan Syatt” Includes recipes and very humorous as well. Great Idea

  54. Nikki

    As a somewhat recent college grad, I can definitely attest to the lack of enthusiasm for laundry. Extra towels are great, but I definitely used mine multiple times between washes.
    My limiting factor was usually essentials likes underwear and socks. If you don’t feel comfortable buying them for your grad, consider gifting a subscription like manpacks.com (dudes only), or doteable .com (perfect for college students) where they can choose their own sizes.

  55. Lisa

    For graduates who are going to college, I put together a college survival milk crate. I sew a cover using canvas cloth and monogram with their initial. Inside I put copy paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, stapler, paper clips, staples, a label maker, notebook paper, laundry detergent, microwaveable popcorn, breakfast or protein bars, flashlight, batteries, flash drive, plastic ziploc bags, and a gift card to Target and a restaurant near or at their college. You can add other office products, snacks, tools, a surge protector, a mug with their college logo and other gift cards. I buy these items during sales and use coupons where I can to make it more affordable. The survival kits I have given in the past were well received by the graduates and their parents. The covered milk crate comes in handy for storing items in their dorm room and later wherever they go.

  56. mother of necessity

    Love this list. Great ideas, they are simple and easy to buy. I wish I had this a few years ago. It would have made things simpler. Thanks for sharing.

  57. HEW

    Thank you for the great gift ideas and links! I just ordered the 5-year memory book for a high school graduate. I was stumped what to get and I found this list. Thanks so much!!!

  58. Amba Brown

    Great list!

    I thought I’d add my book ‘Finding Your Path – A Guide to Life and Happiness After School’; a positive psychology handbook for teenagers transition into adulthood.

    I’ve created this book to support young adults to make decisions, normalise the anxieties they face and to inspire them along the way. It contains advice on starting a career, the importance of ongoing learning, goal setting and tips for navigating their way through this period.

    The inscription behind the book comes from my life experience and professional learning via my honours in positive psychology.

    Let me know if you think this would be a useful gift and I can arrange to send you a copy. More info can also be found on my site.
    http://www.findingyourpathbooks.com/

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