12 of the Best Graduation Gift Ideas


Graduation season is approaching for both college and high school graduates. While cash, checks, and gift cards are always appreciated, there are ways to make your graduation gifts more meaningful to the graduate. Consider your personal relationship to graduate. Are they a family member like a niece or nephew, or a younger sibling or cousin? You have plenty of options from creating some DIY gifts, making some graduation gift baskets, or purchasing some popular items that both high school and college grads will love. Here are our top gift graduation gift ideas for 2021.

Personalized Photo Gifts



This may appeal more to high school seniors leaving home that want to take lots of memories with them, though many college graduates also wish to remember their college days as they go into the “real” world. Many of us grew up on Dr. Seuss speaking about achievements and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” This frame is the perfect way to honor those achievements. If you prefer, you can also present your graduate other ideas, such as a Future Adventures photo notebook or a Class of 2021 ceramic mug. They might get more use out of these ideas. A Shutterfly gift card always works great too, so they can fill their dorm room or new apartment with whatever photo memories they choose.


Something Sweet



If your graduate has a sweet tooth, buy them some treats from the Milk Bar. They feature a variety of cookies, truffles, pies, and cakes. The Happy Pack includes 6 Strawberry Shortcake Caramel Snap cookies and three varieties of truffles, including Birthday, Chocolate, and Strawberry Shortcake. They ship everywhere in the United States, so this is the perfect present if you can’t travel across the country, but you still want to send something fun.


Coffee Kit



Students often have a hard time adjusting to early classes and late-night students so consider gifting them their own coffee maker. The Mini Keurig is small and compact and makes a single serving of coffee. Remember to pack some of their favorite K-cups and some new coffee mugs. For fun, consider including some single-serve hot chocolate packets and tea bags for the nights they want something warm and comforting but not caffeinated. While this gift may be aimed at high school graduates, college grads will also appreciate a coffee maker and caffeine when trying to get to their first job.


Cookbooks and Micro-Cooker



If your graduate is getting their first apartment but doesn’t really know their way around a kitchen, consider buying a few easy cookbooks and simple kitchen cookware. There are a variety of cookbooks out there, but Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything The Basics is perfect because he teaches fundamental techniques, easy recipes, and it features over 1,000 color photos. Katie Sullivan Morford’s Prep: The Essential College Cookbook is also helpful since she writes about the advice she gave her own college-bound children. The Pampered Chef Micro-Cooker is ideal for new cooks since you can use it to steam veggies, bake potatoes, and poach chicken, making things easier for them.


Laundry Care Kit


I received a similar gift at my high school graduation years ago, and a laundry care kit is still a very useful gift. Put together either a laundry hamper or a laundry bag with some detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softener, and most importantly, a bag of quarters. Some colleges now let students pay for their laundry on a prepaid card. If that’s the case, see if you can supply one of those instead. Believe me, college grads will appreciate an upgrade in their laundry hamper as well, and everyone loves getting free quarters for those communal laundry rooms.


Shower Essentials Kit

Every new college freshman needs a shower caddy to carry all their toiletries to the communal bathroom in their dorm. You can order a water-resistant one and even personalize it with their name, so it doesn’t get mistaken for someone else’s. Fill it with useful essentials such as shampoo, conditioner, shaving gear, loofahs, facial cleanser, shower gel, and some hair gel and a hair brush. Supplement it with some new fluffy bath and hand towels. Don’t forget to include some shower sandals, because dorm shower floors are gross.


College Survival Kit

If your child is nervous about going off to college, send them off to college with a College Survival Kit. Fill it with some of their favorite snacks, such as microwave popcorn, granola bars, cans of pop, and bottled water. Add to that a beverage tumbler that will double for hot and cold drinks. Add some first aid supplies, including hand sanitizer, facial tissues and eye drops. Add anything else that might be useful or fun, including face paint for showing school spirit, a college t-shirt, and some emergency cash.


New Backpack

The backpack they had in high school just won’t do. At college, students are often running from one edge of campus to the other with a heavy load of books, notebooks, pens, and their laptop. Many students often desire a special pocket or compartment to hold their water bottle. The best college backpacks include organization systems and zippered pouches for pens and pencils, laptop sleeves, and comfortable straps. If you want a backpack similar to your graduate’s high school one, JanSport also makes a College backpack with a laptop sleeve, organizational pouches, and a water bottle pocket. For an upgrade, consider the North Face Borealis Backpack, which is durable and comes in options for both women and men. You could even sneak a gift card in one pocket to help buy school supplies and books.


New Laptop

If the graduate is your child and they have an outdated computer system, consider making their main graduation gift a new laptop. Many places such as Best Buy, Apple, and Microsoft offer discounts to college students. Two of Apple’s most popular models currently are the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro.  Samsung also offers the Chromebook 4 as a viable option. It weighs less than three pounds comes with a full-size keyboard, making it easier to type on. If you want to make it even easier, you could really splurge and buy them this laptop stand too.


Noise Cancelling Headphones

As your graduate makes their way off to college, one thing they’ll need is noise-cancelling headphones. Whether they’re trying to listen to recorded lectures or their favorite music, a loud roommate or dorm mate can make things annoying. These noise-cancelling wireless headphones from Bose play up to 20 hours of music on a single charge. They have 11 settings, letting you listen to podcasts, videos, and even phone calls without distractions. You could opt for the Apple AirPods Pro, which is super comfortable and connects to any Apple device.


Bedding and Memorable Quilt

Whether they are moving into their first dorm room or their first apartment, graduates will appreciate an upgrade in bedding. Purchase some 100% and high-quality cotton sheets so that recent graduates will sleep well. High-school graduates who need sleep to make early classes will appreciate it, as will college grads that are doing post-graduate work or their first career job and want to be well-rested. Supplement this gift with a homemade afghan or quilt. If you crochet, make a colorful afghan in their favorite colors. If you’re into quilting, consider making a patchwork quilt with memories such as photos of their childhood and their varsity t-shirt.



Luggage is an extremely thoughtful gift for both high school and college graduates. It helps them pack up their belongings as they leave for a new city, but it also is useful for weekend getaways. This 20-inch Hard-shell is the perfect choice since it’s durable and wheels around easily. As an extra bonus, consider including Airline gift cards such as Delta or Southwest so the graduate can take a vacation on summer break.


Gift cards

If you choose to give your graduate a gift card, build a personalized gift card, including a photo with you and the graduate and a personal message. Besides the physical gift card, consider putting it in a graduation cap gift card holder. You can make one yourself or you can order one and even choose the color of the tassel. Since they’re created in the shape of a square graduation cap with the word, “Congratulations,” on the front, it’s the perfect added touch.


We hope some of the ideas on this list have inspired you. Remember when selecting a graduation present, it's important to keep a few things in mind: your relationship to the graduate, where the graduate lives, and how far the graduate is traveling to college or their new apartment. While you want to buy a thoughtful gift, you don't want to overwhelm them with something too big and bulky either. If you consider all these factors, you're certain to find something your graduate will love.