Best Gifts for Graduates

It’s that season again – graduation season! One of my cousins graduates from college on Saturday and another graduates from high school at the beginning of June, not to mention my own grad school graduation on the 21st. This also means that it’s another gift-buying season. I’ve always found graduation gifts hard to pick out for some unknown reason. But now that I’ve been through two of my own graduations, two of my sister’s, and countless of my friends’ and relatives’, I’m starting to feel like I get this whole graduation gift thing. In case you’re not in that position, I’ve pulled together a gift guide to help you find the perfect gift for a friend or loved one.

Oh, and if you’re shopping online, sign up for Ebates (affiliate link)! This is a widget that you install on your browser that helps you earn cash back on partner sites and might even find a coupon or two for you to use.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you click and/or buy something, I will receive a small commission. Other than the one above, I will not specifically denote affiliate links in this post. Thank you for supporting Kate the (Almost) Great!

It's that time of year again! College students are graduating and high schoolers are about it. It can be difficult to shop for graduates, so I've pulled together a list of the best ones to make your shopping easier.


Ask a Manager – I have recently really gotten into the site, which is there “if you’re not sure what the hell your manager is thinking, or how to ask for a raise, or whether you might be in danger of getting fired, or how to act in a second interview” (x). Basically, all the questions that new graduates probably have. But now there’s a book, too. and “in this incredibly helpful book, she tackles the tough discussions you may need to have during your career” (x). The perfect gift for the new graduate!

Daring Greatly – I’ve recently gotten into Brené Brown, and this book “is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where “never enough” dominates and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive” (x). It’s an overall inspiring book.

Braving the Wilderness – This is another Brené Brown book! I read it in 2017 and really enjoyed it. This will help both an incoming college freshman and a recent college graduate feel more confident in finding their place. In this book, “Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other” (x).

Big Magic – If the graduate that you’re shopping for is a creative person, this book is for them. I adore this book. The first time, I read it and took notes. The second time, I highlighted. I can’t recommend it enough. Check out my full review here.

I Hate Everyone But You – This YA novel features two best friends as they start college. Told entirely in emails and text messages, it addresses mental health, sexuality, gender, weird roommates, first love, and more. I adore it and read it in one afternoon. Check out my full review here.

Different ways to use your English major

I've pulled together some of the best gifts for graduates. If you want to do something different, go for one of these books. They can really help new graduates, both from high school and college.

Usable Items

Good quality classic bag – Whether the graduate is looking for a bag for school or for work, you can’t go wrong with a good quality classic bag. This might be a Longchamp Le Pliage tote (my favorite), or this cheaper version. Another option is a messenger bag, like this one or this one.

Backpack – Incoming college students can definitely use backpacks, but college grads can, too. Students might like this North Face one that is highly rated (and under $100!), and college grads might like this one for commuting to their new job.

Suitcase or weekender – Most schools will have three vacations during the school year – Thanksgiving, winter, and spring – so your incoming student will need a bag for traveling. These suitcases might be a good fit: 20″ Rolling Carry-On, 22″ Wheeled Carry-On, and 19″ Wheeled Carry-On. And if your grad (high school or college) will be coming home for a weekend every now and then, a smaller bag like a weekender might be a good fit. Check out these: Mason Weekend Bag, 22″ Folding Duffle Bag, and X-Bag Boarding 18″ Duffle Bag.


Gift Cards

Do you know what graduate want and need almost more than anything? Money. And this isn’t because they’re a dragon hoarding their lair (I think). It’s because the world is expensive, especially when you’ve just graduated from high school and/or college. So if you want to give them something more personalized than cash, gift cards are the way to go. Here are some great places to get them:

A store that sells good work/professional clothes – High school graduates might need professional clothes for interviews or internships in college. College students will need nice work clothes when they start their “real” jobs. And, sadly, these things are not cheap. Help them out by giving them a gift card to a store with a great professional selection, like J. Crew, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Macy’s, Nordstrom, or Lord & Taylor.

A store that sells home goods – High school graduates are about to furnish a dorm room, and college graduates are about to furnish an apartment. Both of these things can be extremely expensive. Make the process a bit easier by giving them a gift card to a store that sells home goods! There are two big ones: Bed Bath & Beyond and Ikea.

Best gifts for high school and college graduates Click To Tweet

Amazon – If you haven’t bought school books any time soon, you may not realize this, but books are wicked expensive. I’m talking hundreds of dollars per pop, in some cases. This can put an enormous amount of stress on someone, and you can prevent or reduce that by giving them an Amazon gift card. This may not cover everything, especially if their classes require rather specific textbooks, but it can make a huge difference.

Netflix or Hulu membership – Honestly, who doesn’t want one of these? Very few high school or college graduates. Netflix plans are $7.99 a month, $10.99 a month, or $13.99 a month, so you could give them a 6-month membership for $47.94, $65.94, or $83.94. A standard, limited-commercial Hulu plan is $7.99, so you could give them a 6-month membership for $47.94 or a one-year membership for $95.88.

What do you wish you got as a graduate?

Like this post? Check out:

 All gift guides, Dear College Freshman Kate, How To Succeed in College: Getting Set for a Great Semester, Best Study Tips for College + Free Printable To Help You Understand Your Readings, What’s in My Bag for Graduate School?

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