The end of the school year can sneak up fast. First, spring break. Then prom. Suddenly, graduation. If there is a high school senior in your life, you are looking forward to commencement and a grad party. Time to think of a great gift for the graduate.
Why give a gift?
High school graduation is a rite of passage worthy of celebrating. Whether students sailed through school with honors or finished by the skin of their teeth, they have completed the monumental task of surviving 13 years of school. Most are soon eligible to vote, are free to move away from home, and are looking forward to some new adventure. It is definitely the time for friends and family to say “Bravo!” and cheer them on as they head toward their future.
Must you give a gift?
The etiquette guru Emily Post says that if you are invited to a commencement ceremony or a graduation party, the answer is yes! If you receive a graduation announcement, but no invitation, a gift is not required. But if you are close to the family or the new grad, you may decide to give a gift whether or not you are joining in the official activities.
How well do you know the graduate?
When selecting a gift, it is helpful if you know something about the graduate. Do you know his interests and passions? Is she moving on to more school, military service, a job, or is she undecided? Is he staying at home or moving away? If you do not know the answer to these questions, you may know someone who does.
What is your gift budget?
People with a graduate in their family are probably also getting invited to several other grad parties. Whether you need gifts for one student or ten, be sure to take some time to set your budget for gifts. If you know the grad’s plans and interests, and have an idea of your budget, finding a gift you want to give can be a lot easier. Give only within the budget that you are comfortable with.
Enough already! What are some great gifts for grads?
Practical things, fun things, or things that are both!
- Bed-in-a-bag sheet and comforter sets
- A compact tool set
- Memory sticks for storing photos, music, notes, and all the things we save electronically
- Jumper cables, especially if the grad has her first car
- First-Aid kit if the grad is heading away from home; personalize it by adding tissues, comforting tea, or cough drops
- A “micro-cooker,” a small covered pot for a microwave; it heats food, boils water, and is perfect for a dorm room
- Baskets or small zipper bags filled with shower items, including towels, flip-flops for those oh-so-lovely dorm shower rooms, shampoo, nail trimmer, shaving supplies, and a handful of toothbrushes
- A digital picture frame
- Shares of stock! Not a lot, but a single share of a favorite product can be a fun gift that grows. If the grad is addicted to gaming, a share of Nintendo or Sony. Have a grad who can’t spend enough time working on his car? A share of NAPA or AutoZone. You get the idea. It’s like giving money, but more fun.
- Games: Board games like Monopoly or Risk, a tabletop version of foosball, outdoor games like bocce ball
- Earbuds for music devices; earplugs for concert-going; noise-canceling headphones for surviving noisy roommates
- A laundry basket complete with detergent, dryer sheets, spot remover, and a bag of quarters
- Luggage or duffel bags
- A collapsible umbrella—avoid black and make it fun, funky, and unique
- A cozy blanket
- For a job hunter, a portfolio with a notebook and nice pen; toss in stamps and cards for post-interview thank-you notes
- A solar phone charger
- Magazine or newspaper subscriptions—a grad heading far away may enjoy getting the local news (or just skip to the gossip column), while someone heading overseas might prefer a digital subscription to a favorite magazine
- Collapsible bins and storage items—great for moving, dorm rooms, first apartments, and all sorts of places
- The Graduate’s Survival Guide by Rachel Cruze, Dave Ramsey, Jon Acuff, and Christy Wright. Super-practical advice on balancing a checkbook, buying car insurance, reading a bank statement, and lots more.
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. Not just for little kids
- Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally by Patti Digh
- How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman
- The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell by John Crawford. A National Guard member talks about life away from home, and everything people like or complain about while on deployment
- The Career Tool Kit for High School Students: Making the Transition from School to Work by Carol J. Carter, Gary Izumo, Sarah Lyman Kravits, and Diane Lindsey Reeves
Gifts you make yourself
- A gift card promising three dozen homemade cookies delivered or mailed upon request
- If perfect BBQ is more your thing, share a recipe or instructions with a jar of your homemade sauce
- A tied-fleece blanket in the grad’s school colors
- Gift cards for coffee, restaurants, movie theaters, college bookstores, grocery stores, clothes, music downloads, or just about anything else; try to tailor gift cards to the grad’s interests or plans
Want a thank-you note?
Well, you should expect one! But help the grad out—and stack the odds in your favor—by including your full name and address on the gift card. While “Uncle Charlie” may be enough to identify the gift giver, signing the card with just a first name may lead to confusion later. If you give cash, mention the amount in the note you include. After the party, when the wrappings are tossed and the boxes stacked, a stray twenty dollar bill in the pile of cards probably means someone will not get thanked.
Whatever you decide to give, remember to wish the new graduate happiness in what lies beyond, and offer your friendship along the way.
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