Best High School & College Graduation Gifts

Back in the day, I always tried to leverage my grades for extra spending money. My dad would always respond, “You shouldn’t get rewarded for doing well in school. Good grades and a feeling of accomplishment… those are their own rewards.” Of course, graduation is another story. Graduation is the grand finale – a culmination of years of hard work – and that should be celebrated. If you’re searching for the perfect graduation gift for your soon-to-be high school or college graduate, we’ve got you covered.

My high school and college graduation gifts could be divided into two categories: practical items for the new chapter I was embarking on, and “fun stuff.” The best gifts I received were, obviously, those that checked both boxes.



A set of high-quality luggage is an excellent graduation gift for a high school graduate about to pack up and leave for college, or a college graduate who will be traveling for their new job. Not only is it a practical item for anyone to have, it will also last them for years to come. They’ll think of you every time they travel!


A laundry kit

No one enjoys doing laundry, but you can make it a bit more bearable for an incoming college freshman with a handy laundry kit. Instead of a standard laundry basket, gift them with a collapsible hamper (with handles!) or one of these helpful laundry backpacks (Amazon, $13) to make transporting clothing to and from the communal laundry room easy. Fill the bag with items like detergent, dryer sheets, or even a mini ironing board and iron.


Monogrammed dorm items


One of my favorite high school graduation gifts was a monogrammed towel wrap in my university’s colors. I used that thing daily, all four years of college. Custom blankets, robes, towels, shower totes, and so on are awesome gifts because they’ll be useful for the recipient and make them feel loved. Plus, when I lived with three other girls, I never had to worry about any of my monogrammed stuff being inconveniently “borrowed” because everything had my name all over it!


Cold, hard cash (or gift cards!)

It might not be as fun as some of the other gifts, but it’s certainly useful. Any high school or college graduate will appreciate a little financial help, especially at the start of a new, big adventure. My advice? Gift a high school graduate with a gift card to a grocery store, restaurant, or bookstore on or near campus. When I was heading off to college, I would’ve been tempted to spend cash on something frivolous… so sticking with a gift card helps eliminate that temptation!


A tool set

Everyone should have a quality set of tools in their home – especially recent graduates who will be moving into new homes and apartments and likely assembling a whole lot of furniture. Plus, most young people don’t realize they need it until instructions call for a screwdriver and they’re out of luck. (I vividly remember “hammering” a side table together with my college roommate using our heaviest wedge shoes.) A simple, “starter” toolbox should be sufficient, and they can always add to it over time.



I have a friend who is a self-proclaimed “foodie,” and it’s a family tradition to gift cookbooks on special occasions that reflect their different stages of life. For example, she received a cookbook that focused on minimal ingredient, microwavable, dorm-friendly meals when she went off to college. For her college graduation, she got a cookbook of make-ahead recipes that would be perfect for her new job schedule.


Something with a special meaning

Graduation marks the end of one phase of life and the start of another, and it’s the perfect opportunity to give a loved one something particularly meaningful, like a family heirloom. For my college graduation, I received a pair of diamond earrings that my dad had given to my mother on their first Valentine’s Day together, which my mom had saved for the perfect opportunity. If you’ve been holding onto something special to give your child “one day,” graduation might be the time.


First Aid kit/medicine cabinet essentials

I didn’t realize until I left for college how many things around my childhood home I took for granted. Tylenol? Under the bathroom sink. Thermometer? That’s in the hallway closet. Band-Aids? There are always some in the kitchen drawer. Turns out, someone was keeping those in stock all along… and now I have to?! Create a kit with all of these First Aid and sick day essentials, so the recipient has them on hand when needed.


A trip

If you’re able and willing to splurge on a gift, a trip is an incredible option. Surprise your graduate with a trip someplace special to celebrate a job well done – and embrace a little free time before their next chapter begins.