Whether that special student is heading off to college or going full-on adult and starting a career, a thoughtfully selected graduation gift acts as your vote of confidence that the best is yet to come.
Whether you want to demonstrate your pride in your son or daughter’s accomplishments, want to celebrate a niece or nephew or need a budget-friendly gift to bring to the graduation barbecue down the block, we’ve got you covered. Want . more ideas? Check out our unique graduation gift guide, too.
Gifts for high school grads
Mavogel Sleep Mask ($9.98, originally $19.99; amazon.com)
With class schedules that vary from day to day, long study sessions and late nights with friends, sleep becomes catch-it-when-you-can in college. Help them get more zzz’s with a mask we named the best sleep mask of 2021. It’s thoughtfully designed to fit perfectly flat to block out light, and the fabric is soft and breathable, so even if your favorite first-year student has never used a sleeping mask before, this one will be comfy.
Jabra Elite Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones ($201.07, originally $249.99; amazon.com)
Gift them these top-notch headphones that will drown out the din of freshman housing. These go 36 hours on a single charge, giving them plenty of leeway to enjoy movies or music without annoying their roommate, and we named them the best over-ear headphones to work out in too.
Havaianas Top Flip-Flop Sandals (starting at $11.79; amazon.com)
The communal dorm showers are not the place for bare feet, so a solid pair of flip-flops are a must. Durable, light and forever in style, Havaianas are the gold standard. They don’t squeak when wet and grip slippery surfaces well.
Keurig K-Mini Plus ($99.99; amazon.com)
Even if your giftee never touched coffee in high school, they’ll probably succumb to the siren song of java in college. They’ll be ready to fuel late-night study sessions with this compact, single-serve coffee maker.
Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket ($99; rumpl.com)
We see a million adventures in store for them, so give them a blanket that can do it all with Rumpl. Incredibly compact (it rolls into the size of a big water bottle), lightweight (great for backpacking) and able to withstand anything from a picnic in the park to a day at the beach or a mountain adventure, the fact that it’s machine-washable just means that they could quite literally have it forever. It comes in tons of gorgeous designs too.
Topo Designs Travel Bag (starting at $29.04; amazon.com)
Zip-top plastic bags may have been OK for family vacations, but it’s time for a real toiletry bag. The triangular shape and blocked design will stand out, making it a lot less likely they’ll grab a dorm mate’s bag in the bathroom by mistake. We think the leather one is snazzy, but it comes in lots of colors and fabrics. (One smart reviewer noted it’s also ideal for stashing tech wires, chargers and batteries.)
Gifts for college grads
Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug ($109.95; amazon.com)
Coffee or tea kept at the ideal toasty temperature will do wonders to beat the Monday blues. This mug sits on a neat coaster to charge and stays hot for one hour on battery life, or you can keep it resting on the coaster from time to time for all-day warmth.
Jetson LCD Display Electric Scooter ($349.99; amazon.com)
Any recent college graduate would love this electric scooter, even if only to cruise around town on weekends. But if said grad just landed a job with a commute and is dreading public transit, you’ll be their favorite person forever. A money and stress saver, this wheeled wonder folds up when they arrive at work and boasts a smartphone mount.
What Do You Meme? Game ($30; urbanoutfitters.com)
Entertaining friends is a big part of the fun of settling into your first apartment. This card game, made famous on Instagram, begs to be busted out with the brand-new charcuterie board. Each player gets caption cards to match to a meme of choice. Hilarity (and probably a little raunchiness) ensues.
World Traveler’s Cork Globe (starting at $80; uncommongoods.com)
Remind that brilliant college grad that they’re poised to take on the world with this artsy cork globe. The map is fully detailed to inspire travel dreams and comes with red pushpins to target favorite destinations.
Beautiful by Drew Barrymore Touch-Screen Air Fryer ($89; walmart.com)
Who doesn’t want to try an air fryer? This sleek model is sized for smaller apartment kitchen counters, yet it still has a 5-pound food capacity. Aside from air-frying, it roasts and reheats twice as fast as an oven. In short, it’ll save work nights from becoming a blur of budget-smashing takeout. What better gift than that?
Away The Carry-On ($225; awaytravel.com)
Whether business trips, paid vacations (finally) or both are ahead, that frayed duffel from college has got to go. This hard-side suitcase that we named the best carry-on of 2021 has 360-degree spinner wheels and a hidden laundry bag, and you can even use it to charge your phone. Bonus points for pretty colors and personalization options too.
Gifts for nursing school grads
Takenaka Bento Box ($37.99; amazon.com)
Nurses often have to eat on the fly, so toting along healthy nibbles is a given. This cute snack case, available in poppy colors, is up to the job. It has two divided tiers and comes with a fork. Plus, it’s microwave- and dishwasher-safe.
Tumi Voyageur Everyday Tote ($295; macys.com)
With 10- or 12-hour shifts and the possibility of being called unexpectedly to a short-handed unit, nurses tend to bring plenty of “just in case” stuff to work. This quintessential floral tote bag will be a reminder of your kindness every day. It’s crafted with an attention to detail — leather handles, an instant-access phone pocket with magnetic snap, metal feet, water-resistant bottle pocket, pen loop and removable leather key leash. She’ll use it for years.
GodlyGorgeous Notepad ($10.20, originally $12; etsy.com)
One nurse we spoke to said she wished she had better memories of the earliest days of her career. The details of the first patients who are “all yours” and the joy of discovering how much you know, along with the awe of realizing how much you still have to learn, can be forgotten over time. A journal can feel who-has-time-for-that, but this colorful pad is just the thing on which a shiny new nurse can jot down what’ll be priceless years from now.
Halluci Women’s Cross Band Slippers (starting at $17.33; amazon.com)
Plushy, cushy, fluffy slippers to slip into after being on your feet every minute all day long? Heck yeah.
Lula’s Garden Congrats Succulent (starting at $29.99; 1800flowers.com)
If you’re looking for a delightful gift that can be delivered, attractively packaged, directly to your new registered nurse, this is probably it. For one, succulents are hard to kill, so even if your giftee is too pooped (very understandably) to fuss over a plant, it’s fine. For two, it’s in a nice “congrats” box that doubles as a planter.
Comrad Compression Socks, 3-Pack ($78, originally $87; comradsocks.com)
We realize that socks are not your first thought here, but really, they will love you for this. Compression socks hug your calves, improving blood flow. That, in turn, helps keep hard-working legs from swelling and tiring out as quickly. The veteran nurses we know swear by them. These Comrad socks come in tons of colors and patterns for men and women.
Gifts for trade school grads
Bosch Lockable Tool Case ($47.99; amazon.com)
No matter what specialty your trade school grad is going into, there will be tools. Lots of them. Gifting a high-quality toolbox is an easy decision. The one they used in school is surely beat up, and besides, craftspeople can never have too many. This one from Bosch is crash-tested to be shockproof. It’s also water-resistant and can be picked up three different ways, so they’ll be comfortable no matter what else they need to carry.
Blue Apron Subscription (starting at $7.49 per serving; blueapron.com)
Has that trade school grad never been into cooking? Replace that box mac and cheese at the end of a hard day with a customized subscription to Blue Apron meal kits. The brand has an enormous selection. All ingredients arrive perfectly portioned, and recipes are so straightforward, beginners aren’t intimidated.
Lux-Pro 775-Lumen LED Flashlight ($29.98; lowes.com)
There are waaaay too many uses for a good flashlight to list. But we’re sure your grad knows them all and will be super happy to get this stellar Lux-Pro. It’s water-resistant and built to stand up to heavy use. It has three settings: bright (like the sun, according to reviewers), dim and strobe. Batteries are already inside, so it’s ready to go immediately.
Yeti Daytrip Lunch Box ($79.99; yeti.com)
Eating on the job is pretty typical for those working in the trades. This heavy-duty lunch box has serious insulation and magnetic closures to seal in cool air. Its lining is food-safe, plus it’s water-resistant. It may seem a little pricey for a lunch box, but unlike cheap ones that need to be replaced regularly, Yeti’s will hang tough for years.
Bokin Steering Wheel Cover ($17.98, originally $29.99; amazon.com)
Most likely, your determined trade school graduate will be doing a lot of driving, going to job sites or customer homes. Upgrade their vehicle and make the ride easier on them with this sharp-looking wheel cover. Their hands won’t slip on it, so they’ll have better control of the wheel. And it won’t get hot, even on the most sizzly summer days.
Thermos King Beverage Bottle ($29.68; amazon.com)
Whether they’re guzzling cool water in summer or hot coffee in winter, this seemingly magical bottle will keep up to 40 ounces of beverage at the right temperature for 24 hours. Regardless of what’s inside, the outside of this bottle stays comfortable and dry to the touch. The lid doubles as an insulated cup, and you just twist the stopper to pour — easy to do with one hand.
Gifts for any graduate
Twinkle Studs ($283; verlas.com)
Sparkly baubles never fail to please. These dainty earrings are extra special for a few reasons. They’re celestial-themed, perfect to remind that beloved graduate to reach for the stars. And the tiny diamonds are ethically sourced and set in 14-karat yellow, rose or white gold.
Memorial Photo Charm ($4.99; partycity.com)
Is a cherished relative attending the ceremony in spirit? Place a photo inside this charm, and it can be securely attached to the top of any tassel. Of course, it can also be used as a sweet way to honor anyone who has played a big part in helping the graduate succeed. Either way, cue the happy tears.
Pinch Provisions Tech Kit ($27; madewell.com)
Make sure your No. 1 graduate is ready for anything with this clever little kit. It contains the works: earbuds, a phone camera lens, an earbud wrapper, a flash drive, a screen cloth, a password hint list, a cord organizer, a USB wall charger, a 3-in-1 charging cable and a phone or tablet stand. Whew!
Heartfelt by Anthropologie Dried Hydrangea Bouquet ($28; anthropologie.com)
It’s traditional in many families to present a bouquet of flowers to a graduate after the ceremony. Instead of the usual bouquets that will wilt in a few days, opt for these keepsake dried hydrangeas. Each bouquet is arranged by hand, so no two are alike. And the finishing touch is the kraft paper wrapping with an apropos message: “Bloom where you are planted.”
ThePinkLocket Confident Women Jewelry Dish ($22; etsy.com)
Handmade of clay, this delicate holder for earrings or rings imparts an inspiring message to your graduate: “Today I Will Slay.” Eye-catching, dramatic design meets motivational morning mantra. What could be better?
Urban Armor Gear Weather-Resistant Backpack ($99.95, originally $119.94; amazon.com)