With high school graduation time coming up, I’ve been getting so many questions from friends about the best high school graduation gift ideas that kids will actually want. So I’ve been asking around, talking to my own teens, and the answer is most often, “cash.” Followed by “gift cards,” mainly for burrito delivery.

That said, not everyone wants to give cash (which is cool), and to be honest, a thoughtful $20 gift can sometimes go further than a crisp $20 bill. So we’ve put together 15 terrific high school graduation gift ideas that grads actually want. Some of them are about prepping for college, some are sentimental, some are practical, and we have a lot of choices to fit your budget.

And remember when picking a perfect gift, it helps to know the grad’s interests — are they going to study art? Business? Journalism? Microbiology? That should spur some graduation gift ideas as well.

15 High School Graduation Gift Ideas that Grads Want

Updated for 2024

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High school graduation gifts kids will actually like: The Bose Soundlink Bluetooth speaker is the perfect size for a dorm room, with wonderful booming sound

A Great Mini Bluetooth speaker

(Bose SoundLink $99 on sale, Amazon

My college kid calls her mini Bluetooth speaker the best purchase she made before school. 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. Tip: There are plenty of less expensive ones if you want to stretch your budget, but with meh sound quality on some of them, your student will end up buying a new one.

Great high school graduation gift ideas: Amazon prime membership is the gift that keeps on giving

Amazon Prime Student Membership

(First 6 monthsA free! Then $69/year for student membership)

I think it’s worth it for the free overnight delivery alone, but giving cash-poor students access to music, movies and shows, photo storage, and discounts like free GrubHub food delivery, it’s truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Since your student need a .edu email address to activate, just purchase a gift card for the total amount and package in a graduation-themed gift box like the one above, along with a note to use it toward Prime. Bonus: If they already have Prime, they can use that gift card toward anything on Amazon!

Related: 10 creative ways to give cash or a gift card for graduation, along with your congratulations.

Personalized pet pillows are a sweet gift for a high school graduate heading away from home

A Personalized Pet Pillow of Their Best Friend

($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 and makes a thoughtful high school graduation gift.  For a little less she has some ready-to-ship dog breeds that may include your own.

Great high school graduation gift ideas: Artwork to remind them of their favorite home team | Camden Yards print by Designs by Patterson on Etsy

Wall Art That Reminds Them of Home

(Stadium Art $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, 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, or a cool restaurant they adore. It may even help them create some connections with fellow fans.

The best noise cancelling headphones for college students: Sony WH-1000XM

Noise-Cancelling Headphones They Will Be SO Glad to Own

(Sony WH1000XM4 Noise-Cancelling Headphones, $278 on sale)

Noise-cancelling headphones in college are a must. While you can splurge on the AirPods Max, we also recommend these Sony Noise-Cancelling Headphones which give you incredible sound — or lack of it, when needed — for half the price.

The Nimble CHAMP portable battery pack lets users charge two devices at once. Great gift for graduates and made from upcycled plastic!

An Eco-Friendly Portable Battery Pack for Power on the Go

(Nimble CHAMP, $30, Amazon)

Most tech gifts are expensive, so this small-but-mighty and versatile portable battery pack is a steal for a practical gift that will get a ton of use. It allows them to charge two items at once, holds enough juice to charge a phone 3 times, and for our eco-conscious teens, it’s made with nearly 75% post-consumer plastic.

Great high school graduation gift ideas: Personalized leather adventure journal handmade by Ox and Pine.

A Personalized Leather Adventure Journal

($33, Ox and Pine)

Are you looking for high school graduation gift ideas for a writer, a traveler, a serial entrepreneur, or a journaler? This is the perfect gift for students who aren’t averse to writing with an actual pen on actual paper.

Great high school graduation gift ideas: A solid piece of grownup luggage, like this Tumi travel bag now on sale.

One Amazing Suitcase For Travel

($475 on sale, Tumi)

With more travel in the 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 graduate who likely doesn’t already own one. A set of two Tumi bags was my college graduation gift from my dad, and I still have them! It’s a special gift worth the investment if it’s in your budget.

Graduation gift ideas for high school: Travelers Club spinner carry-on is so affordable, you may want to buy a set of 5

Alternatively, check out the highly-rated Travelers Spinner Wheel Carry-On Suitcases, which is extremely affordable, durable, and a serious value starting at just $42! An entire 5-piece luggage set is around $150, which is just fantastic. We own one, and no complaints.


Gift books for high school and college grads: You Will Leave a Trail of Stars by Lisa Congdon

An Inspiring Graduation Gift Book

($10, Amazon)

Our friend Jeannine put together a thoughtful list of 7 outstanding high school or college graduate gift books including this perfect title from Lisa Congdon.

In addition, check out our list of inspiring picture books for graduation gift ideas beyond Oh the Places You’ll Go for books that will also be meaningful to high school grads from a parent or grandparent. ¬†I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a wonderful choice from that list for teens. We described it as “perfectly sentimental but not too sappy.” ¬†Be sure to inscribe the opening page with your own wishes, of course.


Bitty Boomers college speakers make a great and inexpensive graduation gift.

Something With Their College Name On It

(Collegiate Mascot Bluetooth Speaker $19.99, Bitty Boomers; some styles on Amazon)

There are more options to celebrate their future plans than a college logo sweatshirt! Ceck out Bitty Boomers, an affordable little speaker that comes as two dozen college mascots. It’s more of a novelty than the Bose, but can be tossed into their backpack for a little background music anytime and kids love them.

Related: Cool, practical tech gifts for your grads heading to college.

Great graduation gift ideas for high school: An adult card game like Ridiculous Expositions from Grey Matters

Fun Adult Card Games for New Friends

(Ridiculous Expositions, $24.99, Amazon)

If you’re the cool friend, or cool aunt or uncle, here’s an affordable high school graduation gift tidea hat won’t go unused. Cards Against Humanity (or an expansion pack) is a good bet. But there are so many other fun “adult” games out there now to help the grad bond with new college 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.)


Great high school graduation gift ideas: A small coffee maker and a reusable travel mug from Yeti

A Small Coffee Maker + A Yeti Rambler

(Cuisinart 5-Cup coffee maker $49.95; Yeti Rambler $35.00+, Amazon)

If the dorm allows, a coffee maker is a fabulous high school graduation gift idea. The five-cup Cuisinart model is compact and well-reviewed; add in a solid, reusable travel mug, which is a must for saving money on coffee shop coffee. If not a Yeti, there are affordable alternatives we love too.

Tip: Want to make this an extra cool grad gift? On the Yeti site, find dozens of collegiate logo ramblers.

High school graduation gifts for rising college freshman: Single-cup coffee monthly delivery

High school graduation gifts for rising college freshman: Mystery coffee club subscription

A Coffee Sampler Subscription for the Coffee Maker

($13.99/mo and up, Single Cup Coffe Club; $24.99/mo Mystery Coffee Club)

If your grad is a coffee drinker — and already has that coffee maker —¬† it’s a treat to have decent beans delivered to save them a few bucks on Sbux each month. Cratejoy has affordable options like the ones shown here, with either whole beans or Kuerig-style single-cup coffee subscriptions.

Alternately, check out the Keurig Coffee Lovers Selection 40-Pack, which our college kid LOVED having. If your grad is not a coffee drinker — well, hold this idea because they may turn into one.

High school graduation gifts they'll actually want: This chic but practical faux leather backpack at Calpak in loads of colors.

A Nice Laptop Backpack

(Kaya Faux Leather Laptop Backpack in multiple colors, $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 and adult — but still stylish. Love this one so much, I may get it for myself! But check our list of¬†20 cool backpacks for teens for more options, more styles, whatever your budget.

Best gifts for high school graduates: A first edition book that's inspired them or changed the course of their life

A First Edition of Their Favorite Book

(Prices vary,  Etsy or eBay)

If your graduate has a book that was meaningful to them in high school — a classic novel they fell in love with, a play they performed, a historic story that changed the direction of their life — look for a reputable seller and find a collector’s edition. It takes a little time, but it’s one of my favorite meaningful gifts for high school graduates. ¬†Above: A 1960 edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, first edition, 23rd impression, via Lost Lenore Antiques on Etsy

LOVE this Rapid Ramen cookeras an affordable gift for a high school graduate heading away from home.

Rapid Ramen Cooker

($9.99 in many colors, Amazon)

Like they won’t be using this every single day.

Top image: Gillian Callison via Pixabay