With high school graduation time here, I’ve been getting so many questions from friends about appropriate high school graduation gift ideas that kids will actually want. So I’ve been asking around, and the answer is most often, “cash.” Followed by “gift cards.”
Particularly, “GrubHub gift cards.”
That said, not everyone wants to give cash (which is totally cool), and to be honest, a thoughtful $20 gift can often go further than a crisp $20 bill.
And remember when picking a perfect gift, it does help to know the grad’s interests — are they going to study art? Business? Journalism? That should spur some ideas as well.
Updated for 2023
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Amazon Prime student membership ($69/year for student membership, Amazon)
I think it’s worth it for the free delivery alone, but giving often cash-poor kids access to free movies, music, and discounts like free GrubHub food delivery, it’s truly a gift that keeps on giving. Since they’ll need a .edu email address to activate, just purchase a gift card for the total amount and package in a graduation-themed gift box along with a note to use it toward Prime. Bonus? If they already have Prime, they can use that card toward anything on Amazon!
Nimble CHAMP portable battery pack($49.99, Best Buy)
This list of practical tech gifts for grads should inspire great high school graduation gift ideas. I’d say, start with this small-but-mighty and versatile portable battery pack, which will allow them to charge two items at once. For under 50 bucks, it’s made with almost 75% post-consumer plastic and will charge a phone up to three times before needing a charge itself.
Wall art that reminds them of home ($16+, Designs by Patterson)
If you’ve got a kid heading off to college, there are plenty of sweet art prints to remind them of home, but some can be a little…twee. Or even pushy, if it’s coming from a parent. (Like, “Don’t forget us! Come home, please!”) Instead, think of art featuring their favorite home team, a local dance company, a cool restaurant they adore. It may even help them create some connections with fellow fans.
A small coffee maker + a Yeti Rambler (Cuisinart 4-Cup coffee maker $39.95; Yeti Rambler $35.00+, Amazon)
If the dorm allows, a coffee maker is a fabulous high school graduation gift. This four-cup Cuisinart model is compact and well-reviewed, and a solid, reusable travel mug is a must, like Kristen’s all-time favorite, Yeti.
Tip: Want to make this an extra cool grad gift? Yeti offers dozens of collegiate logo ramblers, Including my own beloved Boston University!
A great Bluetooth speaker (Bose SoundLink $119, Nordstrom)
At under 4″ tall, this Bose speaker is the perfect size for a dorm room, with a tear-resistant silicone strap for attaching to a backpack or bike. It’s also waterproof should they get caught out in the rain or want to take it on a road trip to the beach.
Collegiate mascot Bluetooth speaker ($19.99, Bitty Boomers; some styles on Amazon)
If you want a great little speaker under $20, check out Bitty Boomers which come in two dozen college mascots and can be tossed into their backpack for a little background music anytime.
Fun adult card games (Ridiculous Expositions, $24.99, Amazon)
If you’re the cool mom, cool friend, or cool aunt or uncle, and you want a gift that won’t go unused, Cards Against Humanity deck is a good bet. But there are so many other cool “adult” games out there now to help your grad bond with their new friends. Ridiculous Expositions is particularly silly, forcing you to identify phrases based similar sounding word combos like “That Swat Cheese Head.” (I won’t tell you the answer.)
Personalized pet pillow ($37.50+ including pillow, Draw Your Portrait)
Sometimes, the hardest part about going away from home for the first time is leaving behind a beloved pet. (No offense, parents and siblings.) This handmade, totally custom pillow of a pet is a lovely reminder of home.
A membership to Apple News+($9.99/month with first month free)
We need more news readers in the world, that much I know. And for years, one of our favorite subscription gift recommendations has been Texture, the read-all-you-can digital magazine subscription service. Now it’s become Apple News+, meaning iOS fans have access to more than 300 newspapers and magazines, all with the seamless functionality of Apple News.
(PS It’s part of Family Sharing, meaning if you’re a parent or sibling, you get to use it too.)
A coffee subscription ($60/3 shipments, Mistobox)
If your grad is a coffee drinker — and already have that coffee maker — it’s a treat to have decent beans delivered to save them a few bucks on Sbux each month. If they’re not a coffee drinker — well, they will probably turn into one.
One really amazing suitcase like this Tumi carry-on ($635 on sale, Tumi)
With more travel in their future, from holiday trips home to holiday trips away (sniff, without you), a solid suitcase that will hold up for years is a perfect gift for a kid who probably does’t already own one. A set of two Tumi bags was my college graduation gift from my dad, and I still have them! So while yes, there are cheaper ones, this is a special gift worth the investment if it’s in your budget.
An inspiring book like I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld ($7.83, Amazon)
We put together a nice list of picture books for graduation gifts beyond “Oh the Places You’ll Go“ and it’s filled with inspiration. For high school grads, I think that “I wish you more” is wonderful for any gender. We described it as “perfectly sentimental but not too sappy.” Be sure to inscribe the opening page with your own wishes, of course.
A nice laptop backpack (Kaya Faux Leather Laptop Backpack $138, Calpak)
If your high school graduate wasn’t carrying a laptop around every day before, they probably will be now. Time to ditch the shoulder-torturing messenger bags for something more sensible — but still stylish. Love this one so much, I may get it for myself! If I can pick from among the 5 colors.
A personalized leather journal ($33, Ox and Pine)
Are you shopping for a graduation gift for a writer, a traveler, a serial entrepreneur, or a journaler? This is the perfect gift for kids who aren’t averse to writing with an actual pen on actual paper.
Rapid Ramen Cooker ($11.99 in over a dozen colors, Amazon)
Like they won’t be using this every single day.
Top image: Gillian Callison via Pixabay