28 Useful College Graduation Gifts They’ll Actually Be Excited About
College graduation gifts are pretty common—who doesn’t want to wish the young adults in their life good luck as they polish their graduation cap ideas and start life after college?—but all too often, those gifts for college grads turn into checks, cash, and gift cards. No self-respecting college graduate will turn down a cash gift, but thoughtful gift-givers might want to pick a gift that’s a little more personalized, especially when college graduation festivities look a little different this year (or are skipped completely).
The best college graduation gifts solve problems for the new grad—and these gifts solve all sorts of problems, from how to prepare for work life to organizing that first apartment. For the people that give them, these gifts serve as a sort of care package for the graduate as he or she wanders into the working world, possibly far from home. With these thoughtful, carefully curated college graduation gifts, the grad will have some of the little details of life in the real world figured out, so he or she can focus on adjusting to a new city, meeting new people, and thriving at work.
These graduation gift ideas are great for older adults to give to new graduates, but they’re also great gifts for grads to give their friends, possibly as they prepare to move to different cities. Whoever is doing the giving can be assured that these great graduation gifts will get a lot of use. Some even serve as gentle reminders to the grad to practice some good habits. A nice suitcase is a reminder to plan some trips (hopefully a few to visit family); kitchen gear serves as encouragement to get the grad to cook at home sometimes.
College graduation and the festivities that come with it (think those graduation songs) may feel far from the chaos of the college packing list and college checklist, but it’s the same sort of transition from familiar to unknown. With these trusty, practical graduation gifts in tow, the college grads in your life are sure to thrive, wherever their paths lead or however they may be delayed by the coronavirus crisis.
Steamery Cirrus no. 2 Travel Steamer
Give them a fighting chance of showing up to work (or a first date, or an interview) wrinkle-free with this sleek fabric steamer. The attractive design might be enough to convince them to leave it out somewhere, instead of hiding it deep in a closet, so when they’re getting ready for a big day, it’s close-at-hand to straighten out any wrinkles.
To buy: $130; bloomingdales.com.
Grovemade Maple Headphone Stand
This desk- or dresser-top stand will show off their prized headphones—and make it harder for them to misplace them. If their first work experience after college takes place at home, they’ll appreciate this beautiful, sturdy storage tool (and whoever gifted it) at the start and end of every work day.
To buy: $140; grovemade.com.
Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack
Newsflash: Backpacks are for grown-ups, too. For grads expecting a subway, bus, or train commute, make a college graduation gift out of this durable, sleek backpack, which has space for work essentials (and even a change of clothes for the gym) and is made of a premium water-resistant, hand-washable fabric, so they can carry the bag for years to come. Best of all, the athleisure-style appearance means this backpack is good for work outings and weekend adventures alike.
To buy: $175; dagnedover.com.
Their new, grown-up apartment might not always be clean, but you can help make sure it always smells clean: This monthly subscription delivers fresh, artisan candles to their door, so they can swap out scents and keep the good smells lingering, even if they haven’t gotten around to taking out the trash. Subscriptions start at one small candle per month, with options with more and larger candles also available.
To buy: From $13 per month; vellabox.com.
Lululemon Reversible Mat 5mm
Graduating college often means finding new hobbies. Help guide your graduate’s activities with a fresh, durable, reliable yoga mat that will not-so-subtly encourage them to get their flow on. This mat is extra cushy to protect hips and knees, reversible, and moisture absorbing, so sweaty yogis-to-be can still join in the fun.
To buy: From $68; lululemon.com.
Sky’s The Limit Airplane Paperweight
Show your support for their post-grad dreams—and offer a little desk decor—with this pewter paperweight, which will remind them of their opportunities and keep their notes and loose scraps of paper organized.
To buy: $58; uncommongoods.com.
Google Nest Mini
Give them a little help around the house with this compact smart home assistant. It can be mounted on the wall or set on their nightstand for easy access, and they can add on more smart home products—think light bulbs, locks, and outlets—as they choose.
To buy: $29; target.com.
Mark & Graham Courant Wireless Charging Accessory Tray
Help out with nightstand or dresser-top organization with this sleek tray, which has a wireless charging spot for their phone and a pocket for holding keys, spare change, earrings, and more. If you really want to treat them, monogramming is also available.
To buy: $175; markandgraham.com.
Work/Life Balance Keychain
A new apartment means new keys to keep track of—and a new job means a work-life balance to maintain. Help them do both with this pewter keychain, which has a sliding balance to remind them to keep everything equal.
To buy: $28; uncommongoods.com.
Nintendo Switch Lite
They may be finished with college, but that doesn’t mean they have to leave all fun behind. Remind them to take it easy every once in a while—and offer a socially distant form of entertainment—with this compact, portable gaming system, which has tons of fresh, engaging games that are fun for video gamers of all levels.
To buy: $200; bestbuy.com.
Inka Lunch Kit
Encourage a new college graduate to pack their lunch for work—and save on dining out costs—with this chic lunchbox kit, which is worlds more elegant than the classic brown bag and comes with modular, reusable food containers, silverware, napkins, and more.
To buy: $245; inka.world
Supernatural Starter Set
Venturing out on their own means they’ll have to figure out everything for themselves—even which cleaners go on which surfaces. Help them out with this four-piece cleaning set, which includes gentle, natural cleaning concentrates that they can mix with water to create sprays for counters, glass and mirrors, tile, and floors.
To buy: $75; supernatural.com.
Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-up Light Therapy Lamp
They may have been able to sleep through their morning classes, but that’s not really an option after college graduation: Help them help themselves wake up on time before work with this sunrise lamp, which will mimic sunrise and natural light to make waking up and falling asleep every day a little easier.
To buy: $220; bestbuy.com.
Blue Apron Gift Card
For a college graduation gift, give the gift of nutritious meals: A meal subscription kit will bring the groceries and recipes straight to them, saving them the hassle of recipe research and grocery store runs. Blue Apron even offers several different meal options each week (and a meal prep option), so they can cook—or learn to cook—in the way that best suits their post-grad lifestyle.
To buy: blueapron.com.
Apple AirPods with Charging Case
Post-grad life might mean ditching those bulky over-ear headphones, especially if your college graduate needs to be able to hear their boss or coworkers trying to get their attention. This cordless option will help them look trendy and keep the background music going from commute to work and back again.
To buy: $140; bestbuy.com.
Waikiki Beach by Gray Malin
The realities of post-grad life probably mean few (or no) vacations for a few months. Keep their spirits up with this gorgeous print, which will remind them of the vacations in their future—and break up the monotony of their new blank walls at the same time.
To buy: $249; graymalin.com.
Five Two Essential Knives
As they’re getting comfortable in the kitchen after college, you’ll want to make sure they have the best tools of the trade—and nothing they don’t need. This set of three essential knives ensures they have all the blades they need for basic meal prep and cooking, with good-looking (and colorful) handles and reliable Japanese steel blades.
To buy: $139 for a set of three (chef knife, serrated knife, and paring knife); food52.com.
Bloomscape Ponytail Palm
A live plant may not be a traditional college graduation gift, but it could help your new grad find a new hobby—and something else to look after might remind them to look after themselves a little more, too. This playful plant is tall enough to be substantial desk or bedroom decor but still very low maintenance, so they’re set up for plant-care success.
To buy: $65; bloomscape.com.
The leggings and a tee uniform she wore to those afternoon classes isn’t going to cut it for her new corporate gig. Send her off and into the real world with this smart styling service. She’ll fill out a style questionnaire and be matched with a personal stylist, who will send her an assortment of items to choose from. Give a gift card to cover what she decided to keep.
To buy: starts at $20, stitchfix.com.
FitBit Ionic Smartwatch
For her, it's a cool piece of wearable tech to rock in her new office. For you, it's an investment in her health and peace of mind. This top-of-the-line smartwatch offers virtual coaching for her workouts and even holds more than 300 songs for her exercise soundtrack. The GPS-enabled device holds a 4-day charge, so she can track her bicycle commutes and her weekend runs without losing battery life.
To buy: $205; bestbuy.com.
Away The Carry-On
This chic, unbreakable polycarbonate carry-on has an ejectable battery for charging a cell phone, a TSA-approved combination lock, and a hidden laundry bag. The company also offers a 100-day free trial and a lifetime guarantee. Did someone say "home for the holidays?"
To buy: $225; awaytravel.com.
Kate Spade Stop and Smell the Roses Idiom Bangle
Between all those conference calls, personal errands, and rendezvous with friends both old and new, the new grad will be lucky to find a few minutes to herself. This pretty rose gold bangle features a hidden message printed inside the cuff that will remind her to stop and take a deep breath every once in a while.
To buy: $32; nordstrom.com.
Kikkerland Tall Bartending Glass
We’re willing to bet the new grad doesn’t have many sophisticated cocktail recipes up his or her sleeve. Up their entertaining game with this clever set of four glasses, each with measurement lines that provide clear instructions for making four classic cocktails.
To buy: $28 for four; kikkerland.com.
Crate and Barrel Wood/Marble Inlay Serving Board
Nothing says, “I don’t live in a dorm anymore” like a piece of marble servingware. This serving board will dress up any wine and cheese night, even if the evening is more wine than cheese, and will be a college graduation gift any young adult will keep for years to come.
To buy: $60; crateandbarrel.com.
Kammok Roo Double Camping hammock
The summer after graduation is the ideal time to go on an adventure—and even the moderately outdoorsy college grads will get a kick out of hanging a hammock in the local park on weekends. This one holds two people (up to 500 pounds total) and is made of super-breathable fabric, so cool summer evenings actually feel cool. Best of all, the colors range from in-your-face neons to easy-on-the-eyes darks.
To buy: $79; kammok.com.
Timbuk2 Foundry Pack
Upgrade any college graduate’s backpack to this sleek, office-ready one for a work bag that can handle long commutes, crowded trains, and post-work drinks. Leather finishes give the bag a polished look, waxed canvas keeps everything inside dry (even in the rain), and the padded straps help lighten any load.
To buy: $229; timbuk2.com.
Weatherman The Stick Umbrella
Ward off drenched walks home and ruined work shoes with this college graduation gift, a sturdy, weatherman-approved umbrella that repels water and is built to withstand breaking and inverting. Best of all, there’s an app that will let the new grad know when he or she needs the umbrella—and remind them to grab it as they’re running out the door.
To buy: $65; weathermanumbrella.com.
Umbra Estique 5-Hook Organizer
A good hallway organizer will keep everything corralled, easily findable, and in a convenient spot, so even if the grad does wake late, everything he or she needs to get out the door on-time is within reach. This one holds sunglasses and a wallet and hangs keys.
To buy: $15; containerstore.com.