Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Advice, Christmas, Kids, Mom stuff, Parenting, Teens & Tweens | 11 comments

The BEST list of high school/college graduation gift ideas for guys and girls I’ve seen.  And…you don’t have to click through an annoying slide show to see everything!

List below is updated for 2018 and
for an even MORE extensive list of vetted ideas, click here!


Graduation – high school or college – is reason to celebrate. Naturally there are presents.  And I know–I know–teenagers love to receive money for a gift, but I despise giving money as a gift.

With that in mind, I published 15 Good and (almost) Perfect Gifts for High School Graduates over at The Art of Simple.  It was difficult narrowing down my favorite choices so I hope you’ll see what made the cut.   If none of those strike your fancy, I thought I’d offer a few more ideas for those of you who a) are in the market to purchase graduation gifts, and b) don’t like to gift money either.

Fitness trackerThese are in no particular order and I haven’t taken time to separate by gender, so scan the list and see if anything jumps out at you.  I’ve covered the price range from modest to obscene; I’m guessing you’re planning on spending somewhere in between :).

(And a little reality check:  in talking with high schoolers, those little inspirational books specifically for graduates didn’t make anyone’s list….)

  • Dustbuster. They’ll probably roll their eyes…until they use it all the time.
  • UPDATED FOR 2018! Trendy outer wear. Right now, Patagonia Synchillas are in; probably the style you like the least is the one they’ll most prefer (voice of experience 🙂 ).
  • Cordless Screwdriver
  • Quality umbrella
  • Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock. (My daughter received one, and though it’s not something she’d ever think to ask for, it might just be her favorite gift of them all.  Which is saying something!!)
  • Melamine plate, bowl & plastic tumbler for eating a thousand packs of Ramen noodles :).
  • Laundry Hamper (they have the cutest ones at Charming Charlie’s and they’re affordable, too)
  • Digital camera or if you know they already have one, a nice case or memory cards.
  • Bedrest / Husband (boyfriend pillow)Back-of-door full length mirror
  • Bedrest (husband) pillow. A must-have for comfort-studying :).
  • A deck of restaurant gift cards in their college town.
  • Twin size feather bed or thick Mattress Topper; institutional beds can use the help!
  • iPad or Kindle (the price has really come down!) :).
  • GPS
  • Laptop sleeve.  Most students will need a laptop on their way to higher education; a good protector is necessity.  Talk to their parents to make sure you purchase the correct size.
  • Patagonia-refugio28l-pack-dpmango-12-zoomUniversity stadium blanket
  • Stadium seats or foldable chairs.
  • Sports watch
  • A quality bookbag (my kids prefer a Patagonia pack. They’ve never ripped.
  • An adventure–sky diving, hang gliding, etc., if it’s offered in your area
  • College license plate
  • FiveFingers shoes by VibramVibram’s FiveFingers shoes (Kids love ’em, parents, not so much.  A bit pricey but most kids would think you’re the Coolest Gift Giver EVAH if you gave ’em a pair.)
  • Portable fan (best white noise of all time)
  • Bulletin board and thumbtacks
  • Dry Erase board for door (facing hall, great way to leave notes and statuses for roomies and visitors)
  • Pocket knife (I’d vote for a Swiss Army Knife over a Leatherman tool but those are good, too)
  • Screen shot 2011-05-21 at 9.01.27 AMLuggage!  A set of luggage is something they’ll use for years, whether or not college is in their future; look for sets they can add to, wheels are a must, and although black is the most popular color choice, chose a bright color that’s easy to spot in a crowd.
  • A doc in a box!  Or go beyond a traditional first aid kit and include a container full of assorted sized band-aids, Neosporin, rubbing alcohol, Benedryl cream, tweezers, scissors, gauze, tape, Advil, Tylenol, cold remedies, Pepto Bismol, etc.  Anything their mama would have in her medicine cabinet!!
  • Cooler with wheels.  Great for tailgaiting, road trips and camping–bet they’ll be one of the few with one of these.
  • Over-sized beach towel.

Be sure to check out my TOP 15 ideas over at The Art of Simple–you’ll be entertained by the comment thread where a few people disagreed with my choices (a little surprised by the tone in response to a simple opinion post…!)

 What have I left off?  DO shout out YOUR best suggestions!!

** Affiliate links used for some items.  If you click through and buy anything you’ll be contributing pennies to my coffee fund–thank you!! **