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Meaningful & Useful Graduation Gift Ideas

May 7, 2022

There is a lot of stress around graduation gifts. We want to honor these young men and women who have worked so hard and are now entering the big world, and we also don’t want to break the bank doing it.

I tend to take a hybrid approach. For some of the graduates who are very close friends and family, I up-level the gift. And for those who are amazing people but who are not in our inner circle, I give a nice, but little less expensive gift.

While I’m not against giving gift cards or money, I do encourage doing so in a fun or unusual way. You can see one way below that I give money.

Graduation Gift Ideas

+this post contains affiliate links. I do not recommend anything I don’t use (and in this case, give) myself.


Leatherman Pocket Tool – this handy gadget is very helpful to have around and can be kept in a backpack or in a car.

grad gift


Hydroflasks are the OG in the keep-water-cold category and they are also the brand that most young people like and carry. Encourage healthy habits with this water bottle!


Yeti Traveler Coffee Mugs are a favorite for a reason. There is no question this would be a favorite gift for an emerging college student. You could also do the less expensive Bubba brand.


Welly First Aid Kits are fun and useful – definitely something students need as they leave home.


Digital picture frames have come soooooo far. Get your grad this highly rated one and load tons of pictures from childhood so she or he can take you with them to college. You can also send pics to it virtually so new ones continually come up (surprise!).


ENO Eagle’s Nest Hammock’s are award winning and they are all over college campuses. In fact, many universities have hammock camps on their property where students literally “hang out.”


I like to give the book Love Does by Bob Goff. Inside the cover I washi tape some money and write a note that encourages them to spend the money in a “Love Does” kind of way. They know what I mean once they start reading it. It’s a powerful book of stories about living life well and with purpose.


This Patagonia Wheeled 70L Duffel is great for those students who will be flying back and forth to college. They can stuff a whole lot of goodness in this bag!

EVERYWHERE BAG (aka fanny pack)

This Lululemon Everywhere Bag is used by guys and gals and is a smart design for easy transport of the essentials on all of those college outings.


Stickers! From water bottles to computers, kids love putting stickers on their personal items to express themselves. Give stickers that represent your local area or that represents something about them.


Sweatshirts or Tshirts from the student’s future school is always a fun idea.


Mophie Powerstations are my go-to external battery source for cell phones. This is a very handy gift for college kids who are always looking for a phone charge.


For those college kids who love a good pen, people swear by these or these. And a colored set would be great for those who want to take colorful notes in class for better memorization. Or how about a set of Mr. Sketch markers- you know those ones that smell so good from childhood? Who doesn’t need those at college?


This portable toolset is must – from a hammer to scissors to a wrench and measuring tape – every college kids needs this for move in weekend and beyond.


Jesus Calling For Graduates is a beautiful devotional book that will anchor grads as they prepare to walk through this big transition.


Spike Ball is a great way to connect with kids in college and makes a fantastic gift. I highly recommend the pro kit that has the stronger net (which is the one linked here). We’ve gone through a couple of nets with the boys.


The Stanley Hydration Tumblers are so popular they can’t keep them in stock. The 40 oz tumbler is the most popular, but the 30 oz. is a great option also (and $10 less expensive).


A meaningful quote or Bible verse printed and framed is a thoughtful and personal gift. I just ordered a custom 8 x 8 sign for some special grads. I chose a wood frame, white background, and simple print and I put words that I know will be important to them.


Uber Giftcards can be used for Uber Eats or for transport, making this a useful gift. Pair it with a Nalgene Water Bottle or lanyard for their meal card. Or better yet, I love the idea of pairing this with pepper spray – esp. for the young women who will be heading off into unknown places.


This Madewell makeup bag would be a great and useful gift for girls and this Patagonia zippered pouch would be handy for guys.


There is a reason this Nespresso machine is all the talk. It’s amazing and has a reasonable price point. What a fab grad gift!


I literally told my college kids I’d pay them to read Atomic Habits. It’s that good. Give it to the grad!


This small and portable photo printer is fun for printing pics of new friends they will make in college!


I often recommend the JLB bluetooth speakers. They have the BEST sound and everyone loves them at the beach, at the lake, on a picnic, laying on the grass, in their room….. you get the idea. Whenever I order one for me, my kids end up “borrowing it.” They have small clip on ones or full size.


Put together a small bag of games for the grad to take. It’s great to have some on hand. Bananagrams, Cover Your Assets, and Secret Hitler are all favorites.


An alternative to more feminine string lights, these make a dorm room festive in white or multicolored.


This longboard makes getting across campus a breeze and is less of a theft risk than bikes (which are often targeted on college campuses – our son had his bike stolen the first day).

Other Gift Ideas


Encourage your student in his or her pursuits. Give a photography class, an art lesson, a photoshop course, golf lessons, cooking classes, etc. Pay attention to what lights that person up and then find a gift that encourages that passion.



Plan a retreat with your student and his or her friends with a life coach or mentor who can help point them toward their future or help ask powerful questions. We did this for our daughter’s college graduation and it was so powerful.


graduation gift

Give your grad (or their friends) a gift all year long. Bake fresh cookies on the 1st of every month and send (freeze first). Or send a small gift with some money each month throughout their freshman year as their grad gift.

+Get a college-freshman care package group together and send quarterly packages+

graduation gift

College freshman loooooooooove getting things in the mail – esp. around finals and holidays. This truly is a wonderful gift for them and trust me, it will get done if you have a group that puts the packages together! I’ve tried it both ways and when it’s just me, I procrastinate and it doesn’t happen.

+The Giving Tree or Oh! The Places You’ll Go with handwritten notes+

My best friend from 3rd grade gave me The Giving Tree for graduation and wrote notes and Bible verses on each page. She talked about our friendship and I bawled my eyes out! To this day it is a true treasure to me. You could do this with Dr. Suess’s Oh! The Places You’ll Go also.

Gifts are a fun part of graduation – CHEERS to celebrating!


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  1. […] have a whole post on grad gifts with meaningful, useful, and fun ideas for everyone on your […]

  2. Fella Gifter says:

    Wow! great ideas. I was looking for some gift ideas to give my sister on her graduation but you make it easy and awesome. Thanks you so much for guiding us. I love your article!


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