Best Graduation Gifts for High School Grads and College Alumni

Best Graduation Gifts for High School Grads and College Alumni

Graduations are upon us! Whether the grad in your life is graduating high school or becoming the newest alumnus of some wonderful university, they'll most likely be looking back on the past few years as a part of the class of 2021.

High school graduates are probably feeling excitement about the coming phase of their education, which may or may not be undergraduate college. For the college grad, it may officially be the end to their years dedicated to education.

Whatever their future holds, grads should celebrate with graduation parties and be rewarded for this milestone. Nothing tells your new graduate that you’re proud of their accomplishments quite like the perfect gift.

The Best Gifts for High School and College Graduates

  1. Technology Gifts
  2. College Campus Gear
  3. Gifts to Support Mental Health
  4. Dorm Room Essentials and Apartment Foundations
  5. Gifts for Adulting Like a Champ
  6. Words and Music

1. Technology Gifts

High school students have usually accumulated the traditional items by the time they graduate, including their yearbook, prom photos, and other items that will be cherished decades after graduation. When it comes to high school grad gifts, consider items that will help them in the next four years.

Tech is incredibly important for any college-bound student. There are great options for every price range, but if you aren’t able to afford the full price of an appropriate Chromebook, laptop, or tablet, consider a gift card to help with the cost. 


2. College Campus Gear

Campus gear is about more than a t-shirt or hat with the name of the school on it. University apparel means something totally different when you enter a college and twice as much once you’ve graduated. Your college gear is not only a reminder of all the hard work you put in to get there, but also a reminder of how far you’ve come.

Crisp, autumn days will soon be here for the college-bound freshman, which means tailgating and spirit building. The love they will have for their new surroundings is exciting, and doing everything you can to feel a part of your new community is how you make your freshman year incredible. Helping them with that goal is the most thoughtful gift of all!

You can shop gear by school to find an awesome, affordable graduation gift for the grad in your life. While you may not be looking to drop a lot of money on the new Airpods Pro, you want to get them something nice that they’ll get a ton of use out of for years. Officially licensed gear is an awesome, affordable way of giving a gift that has both meaning and impact.

The right gear from their alma mater can make all the difference. Consider where the graduate is headed. For example, if you live in a warm area but they’re off to a university in a cooler location, you can snag them a cool college sweatshirt to help ease the transition. If they’ve been living on the east coast but are heading south for a new job, give them a college t-shirt to help them prepare for warmer weather!

If they’ve gotten their first place after college, help them decorate those bare walls with some spirited college accessories. It’s rare to find a recent college graduate that isn’t proud of their new alma mater.

Additionally, if their college has a notable team mascot, you can help them remember that fondly for life by finding some mascot-branded gear. Stuffed animals and pillows are great here.

If you’re unsure what kind of gear the grad in your life would like, you can always give them a gift card to buy official college gear.

3. Gifts to Support Mental Health

Transition is difficult. By the time students have hit their fourth year in college, they’ve probably just figured out how to master the systems of the institution, but the new kid on campus is often under a lot of stress. Homesickness, academic pressure, new friends, and new cities, seem to change everything that they thought they knew. In these times, having some wellness practices is really helpful.

Check out these gifts that will help their mental health:

  • Journaling tools like fun pens and notebooks. A bullet journal can help them create clarity as their life completely changes around them, making it both a wellness gift and a meaningful object. This type of gift will show that you are proud of them and expect growth!
  • Workout-related gifts, like a yoga mat or gym membership, will help your grad stay in shape while adjusting to their new life. Encouraging them to exercise will also help them manage stress as they embark on a new chapter.
  • Coupons for “Taste of Home” care packages. Sending them their favorites from local shops near you will help ease the pain of homesickness!
  • Subscription services can provide familiar routines that help your students make their transition. Whether it’s a fun box subscription with awesome products or a wellness subscription to an app that provides mindfulness support, it shows you’re thinking about them. If the grad loves to read, consider getting them a subscription to a publication that they’d really love.
  • A weighted blanket can actually help you relax and will give them the best gift of all: a good night's sleep.

4. Dorm Room Essentials and Apartment Foundations

If the grad in your life is moving into the dorms or their own apartment, it might be time to upgrade some of their living essentials.

  • Mattresses or sheets. You may not want to buy the whole set of sheets or the whole mattress, but you can get them well on their way to a great brand with a gift card.
  • Appliances. Go for something simple and modern, like an Instant Pot or coffee maker; a grad of any kind will most likely be running strictly on coffee.
  • Art. Give them a piece of art that you love and that you think could fit with decor they may already have.


5. Gifts for Adulting Like a Champ

Your grad is well on their way to bigger things. They’re entering the real world, and they shouldn’t be throwing their stuff in a polyester gym bag or wearing yoga pants and sweats all the time. 

Whether they’ll be attending college mixers or trying to climb the corporate ladder, there’s never a second chance to make a first impression! 

These gifts will help them live life like a real adult:

  • A nice bag. Look for a stylish designer bag, backpack, or duffle-style bag that they can use for school, work, or travel.
  • Watches and jewelry. You may not know all the sizings for your college graduate, but watches and jewelry let you invest in their looks without knowing their sizes.
  • Smart gear. Everyone knows that real adults use Apple watches, Fitbits, and other kinds of fitness trackers.
  • Water bottles or travel coffee mugs. Easily portable water and coffee are essentials for any adult.

6. Inspiring Books and Music

Sure, most people these days are streaming music, but if you really want to give an album and make it stick, buy your recent grad a record player and a vinyl of your favorite album of all time. It’s not selfish– it’s inspirational. Sharing a meaningful album, whether it’s your favorite classic or favorite modern classic, can inspire a new level of appreciation for music.

The same goes for that special piece of literature. Don’t just go out and get a copy of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” What is a book that changed your life? Who wrote the advice that helped you move ahead? Find a hardcover edition and share it with your graduate. Take the time to inscribe it with a special note to really connect and give a thoughtful gift.

Celebrating the Class of 2021

Every graduate should feel pride, and whatever your contribution may have been to their success, let them know that you are proud, too. They’re not just leaving this phase of their journey, but entering the next chapter of their lives. Celebrate it in a meaningful way!

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