13 high school graduation gift ideas

Gifts for graduates

With the school year winding down, many families are preparing to celebrate the graduation of their high school seniors. Whether the student is college-bound, taking a gap year or entering the workforce, mark this milestone with a thoughtful or practical graduation gift. Here are examples of 13 graduation gift ideas to consider beyond gift cards.

Something personal

The best gifts are often those that are personalized, like an engraved necklace, photobook, a family cookbook or custom wall art. Consider fun memories you’ve made with the graduate, as well as their hobbies, passions and even future career field. Custom gifts can be designed and found on websites such as Etsy and Shutterfly.

College apparel

Many students show off their school spirit by wearing their college-branded tank tops, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, shorts and hats at sports games, at tailgates, in class or even running errands. Apparel, as well as themed bumper stickers, stuffed animals and other items are typically available at a college’s bookstore or online shop. Some merchandise may also be sold in local grocery stores if the campus is nearby.

Board games

College students interact with new people on a daily basis, including in a classroom, residence hall, club meeting or at the gym. But making genuine connections can be difficult and intimidating. Playing board games can help ease that awkwardness and connect graduates with their roommate, hallmates or classmates. Consider gifting board games like Cards Against Humanity, Pictionary, Bananagrams, Taboo or the classic lengthy game of Monopoly.

Coffee maker or electric kettle

College students are notorious for pulling all-nighters to cram for exams or finish last-minute assignments. So waking up for an early morning class may require a little extra help from a caffeinated drink like coffee or tea. Instead of having to walk to a dining hall first thing in the morning or spending money at a nearby coffee shop, students can instead make a drink right in their dorm room with a coffee maker or electric kettle, if permitted.

Audiobook subscription

Some graduates prefer to binge television shows as a way to relax, while others bury themselves in a good book. For bookworms, a monthly subscription to audiobook services, such as Audible, Bookbeat or Scribd, can be used on a daily basis. Students can listen to books before bed, while on a study break or during a trip back to their hometown.


Quality headphones are key for walks between classes, studying in noisy public areas on campus or working out at the gym. But the type of headphones to gift depends on the graduate’s lifestyle. If the student is a runner, for instance, be sure to look for headphones that will stand up to lots of movement or consider wireless earbud options.

Bike, skateboard or roller skates

Biking, skateboarding or roller skating on a college campus is a great way for students to get outside, exercise and shorten their commute to class. For freshmen or other students without a car, owning one of these modes of transportation can be crucial for off-campus trips to grocery stores, parks and other shops.


Help graduates start off college on the right foot with a reliable laptop for research, essays, job hunting and downtime. Computers are expensive, but they are essential for students to complete assignments and communicate with professors, among other tasks. However, students also have the option to borrow laptops or use library desktops, if needed. Look for graduation and holiday deals and discounts through the student’s college, or split the cost with others.


Whether a graduate is traveling to and from campus during holiday breaks, or flying to a new state or country during their gap year, a suitcase helps keep clothes, toiletries and other personal items organized. Consider buying a sturdy duffel bag, a carry-on piece of luggage or even a full set — if the graduate has enough space to store it.

Mini refrigerator

For students living in residence halls — who don’t have access to full kitchens — many colleges offer the option to rent a mini refrigerator to store any soft drinks, perishable groceries or leftover food in their room. But gifting one instead eliminates the rental fees and allows graduates to keep it for more than one year.

Personal safe

Personal items can go missing in hotels or hostels while a graduate is traveling during a gap year or on vacation. And though college campuses are fairly safe, theft also occurs in residence halls as students sometimes forget to lock their doors or decide to host a gathering in their room. To prevent this, gift graduates a personal safe to store their valuables.

Small toolkit

Graduates don’t have to be craftsmen to get use out of a toolkit. This practical gift can come in handy for all kinds of projects and simple household tasks, like hanging art, assembling furniture or patching up holes in the wall to avoid fines at the end of the year. Small, affordable toolkits with the basics — a hammer, screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, etc. — should cover general needs.


Though a cash gift isn’t the most creative, it provides the recipient with flexibility on what to purchase. Those pursuing work after high school may need money for basic essentials like rent and groceries before finding a job. If the graduate is taking a gap year, a little extra cash can go toward new experiences and excursions. And college-bound grads need cash to cover education expenses, like textbooks, club memberships or class fees.

Planning for freshman year.

Learn more about ways to prepare for freshman year, and the transition from high school to college, by connecting with U.S. News Education on Facebook and Twitter.

High school graduation gifts

— Something personal

— College apparel

— Board games

— Coffee maker or kettle

— Audiobook subscription

— Headphones

— Bike, skateboard or roller skates

— Laptop

— Suitcase

— Mini refrigerator

— Personal safe

— Small toolkit

— Cash

More from U.S. News

12 Colleges That Offer Unique, Healthy Dining Options

9 Steps to Take After Selecting a College

Campus Support Every First-Year College Student Should Use

13 High School Graduation Gift Ideas originally appeared on usnews.com

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up