Although graduation season isn’t for another few months, it’s never too early to start planning what to get your graduate to mark the occasion. When someone graduates high school, it’s a big deal — and you may want to buy your recently graduated loved one a special gift. The best graduation gifts celebrate this important life event and milestone, while also helping the recent grad take their first steps into life’s new chapter.
Whether your graduate is headed off to further schooling, taking time off or starting a new career, a great graduation gift can help them unwind after work or classes. You want a gift that will show them that you support their decision and are excited for them to start this new phase of their life.
It’s easy to give them cold, hard cash — which high school graduates always appreciate — but they’ll probably be even more grateful for a graduation gift that’s meaningful, useful and won’t immediately get spent on pizza and takeout.
We’ve rounded up an assortment of practical and unique graduation gift ideas that are considerably more thoughtful than a wad of bills. From dorm-room essentials to sweet keepsakes, these graduation gift ideas will get them ready for the future.
If you’ve ever slept on a dorm mattress, you know just how horribly uncomfortable they can be. So if your favorite graduate will be moving into a dorm room in the fall, they’ll be grateful for an upgrade. This mattress topper is a great gift and exactly what they’ll need to add extra cushioning and transform their sleeping experience. Bonus: A topper also makes it a whole lot easier to clean up spills after late-night snacking in bed.
Be sure to buy a Twin XL since that’s the standard size mattress for most dorm rooms and residence halls.
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Nothing can replace Mom or Dad’s home cooking, but a cash-strapped graduate would love having more food options beyond the dining hall. College students may not always have the option to cook food in their dorms. So if you’re looking for high school graduation gifts, this could be perfect.
DoorDash is a popular choice for food delivery, and it’s our top pick among food delivery apps, thanks to its numerous restaurant options and easy app interface. You can purchase gift cards for any amount between $25 and $500, customize it with a graduation theme, and send it to your graduate via mail, text or email.
Rated up to 32 hours
Over-ear wireless headphones
No IP rating
For college bound grads that aren’t staying at home, chances are they’ll need to deal with noisy roommates. The newest version of Sony’s top noise-canceling headphones will block out unwanted noise so your graduate can focus on homework or just relax with music. Thanks to its strong battery life, comfortable fit and refined sound, Sony’s WH-1000XM5 received our Editors’ Choice award. The older — but still great — XM4 models remain available, and sometimes dip to as low as $280.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review.
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Leaving home is especially hard when you have to leave a beloved pet behind. If you have a new grad who adores their pet, consider getting them a plush Cuddle Clone to provide comfort and a constant reminder of their favorite furry friend.
The Cuddle Clones ordering process is pretty straightforward. Simply start with the pet’s name, followed by the type of pet and the breed. Then answer a few simple questions, upload photos, and voila, your grad will have a fuzzy version of their pet in eight weeks.
Bed Bath & Beyond
Adulting is hard, but it feels especially hard when you have to do your own laundry and cart it from a dorm room to a laundromat. You can make that one tedious chore a whole lot easier for your grad with this personalized laundry bag. It’s large enough to hold a week’s worth of laundry, and the sturdy backpack straps make it a breeze to carry from one place to the next. For an extra-thoughtful touch, you could add some laundry essentials to the front pocket like coins, detergent pods and fabric softener.
If your new grad is moving after graduation, chances are they’ll end up living in a smaller space, and that means there will be less room for their precious piles of books. The Kindle Paperwhite is a great choice for bookworms who are attached to their physical book collections and want a similar experience. It features warm light settings, a long battery life and is completely waterproof. While the retail price is $140, this model is often discounted, sometimes as low as $80.
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All young adults value their sleep (don’t we all?). So your new grad will appreciate this silk sleep mask. Not only is it washable, but the wide band ensures you have enough coverage on your face to actually block out all light. Bonus points: It’s designed to muffle noise since the band fits over your ears.
It’s hard to say goodbye to your new grad, which is why you want to give them a good excuse to visit. The Away Carry-On can fit in most overhead bins, and it’s perfect for weekend trips and longer vacations back home. This durable roller bag can also take a beating. It’s got a limited lifetime warranty, which means the company will cover any damage to the suitcase’s shell, wheels, handles, zippers and more.
The standard carry-on costs $275, but if you want to include a USB charger for charging a phone while on the go, then it’s an extra $20. And if you want to add on a personalized luggage tag with their initials, it’s another $10.
If your new grad is moving into a dorm room in the fall, shower shoes are a must-have. Flip-flops or slides help protect their feet from the fungus and bacteria that thrive in communal bathrooms (ewww).
The hugely popular Adidas Adilette shower slides are a classic — and for good reason. They’re comfy, durable and have plenty of textured traction to prevent accidental slips on wet tiles.
If the new grad in your life will be moving to a different state, a Homesick Candle will give them a sweet reminder of home. These 13.75-ounce candles are created with a natural soy wax blend and fragrances tied to the geography of each state. So no matter where your grad ends up, they can light this up and let the nostalgia kick in.
The grad in your life no doubt has a favorite movie, TV series or sports team. Any grad would smile ear to ear to see a personal video from their favorite celeb or reality star congratulating them on their graduation day. Cameo lets you seek out the person you think would most delight your grad and pay for a quick video from them. Prices vary quite a bit, but the end result is always pure joy.
Things Remembered specializes in personalized gifts for all occasions, including high school graduations. If you’re looking for a keepsake that will help capture the day forever, this is the perfect high school graduation gift idea.
The frame includes a tassel with the graduating year and a silver-toned plate at the bottom where you can add a message and name. This gift is usually $35 but you can get it for half off right now.