Graduation day is coming! Woohoo! It’s time to celebrate this exciting milestone for a loved one.
Graduates deserve significant praise from their family and friends for this achievement amid the pandemic. Indeed, they will have new challenges ahead, forking over money for college or an apartment, as they move closer to their career.
Graduation gifts remind them to savor this moment of seeing their accomplishments in the rearview mirror as they move forward.
What Students Can’t Use on Campus
Colleges restrict what students can have on campus, and the rooms are small. The average dorm size is 200-225 square feet for two roommates. Each college may differ, so check their website or Admissions office for their specific rules. Of course, when college students move off-campus, the list can be more expansive.
I am touring many campuses with student guides, and they are happy to tell us what first-year students should not bring into the dorms. They gave helpful advice, including:
- There is no furniture more considerable than a desk chair, so huge bean bags may be out.
- Avoid string lights, candles, or incense for fear of fire hazards.
- There should be limited electronics or appliances. Specifically, there should be no hot plates, instant pots, microwaves, large vacuums, toasters, or blenders as there is a community kitchen in the dorm and ample dining halls.
- Students don’t need pots, pans, or dish sets.
- There is no room for large luggage sets.
- Regarding air conditioners or space heaters, forget about it.
- Avoid throw pillows.
- Don’t bring irons or ironing board, but mini-steamers are fine.
- Avoid bringing expensive jewelry. (By the way, that doesn’t mean you can’t give beautiful jewelry to celebrate your special graduate!)
- Limited sports gear is fine, but dumbbells and hoverboards may be out.
- Echo Dots make great graduation gifts, but check our explanation for why they may not be appropriate for colleges.
That doesn’t mean you can’t give beautiful jewelry or other items above to celebrate your special graduate!
48 of the Best Graduation Gifts
We have a list of gifts you may like for your young graduate. Many of these presents are appropriate for those who finished college, share apartments or houses, or independently. Our focus is on high school grads rising as first-year college students.
Graduation Gifts for the Dorm
Let’s start with the basics. It is daunting for high school grads to arrive at their chosen college and roam around to find their dorm room, bringing all they hoped they would need for this new journey. Most dorm rooms are for two people, though larger rooms may have four students.
College students may have a small space, but they will want to fill it with the comforts of home. There are many things your targeted grad may need and desire in their room. You can go to Dormify or buy from Amazon, which can ship directly to their room.
We have some ideas that can please any grad.
1. Bath Towel Set
You have to start with the basics and look for luxury cotton towel sets that are soft, heavy, absorbent, high quality, and can hold up after going through the laundry. You’ll find them to be affordable and come in several colors.
2. Cute Pajamas
Sleepwear is so personal, and everything goes. However, getting a pair of sherpa-like loungewear feel may make sleeping very cozy on cold nights while remaining stylish. The hood is for extra fun.
3. Bathrobes or Dorm Towel Wraps
Chances are, the showers will be communal and down the hall. Bathrobes will be a necessity, along with shower shoes. It is easy to find dorm towel wraps with velcro or fasteners that may serve as alternatives for those who don’t like bathrobes.
4. Sleep Mask With Bluetooth Headphones
To go with the comfy sleepwear, college students sometimes have trouble falling asleep and may want extra help with sleep masks with Bluetooth headphones. The two-for-one benefits block out noise while you get to listen to your favorite music. That makes an excellent gift for those who need to calm down and listen to classical music or white noise.
College students, especially, may have trouble falling asleep and may want extra help with this sleep mask to go with comfy sleepwear. My teen daughter, Alex, has a pair and sleeps soundly.
5. Shower Shoes
Shower shoes are a terrific invention for college showers. Get the ones with thick soles known for being comfy and keeping you safe from slip and fall accidents with flip-flops. You can wear these in showers away from home, in hotels, in a dorm, or when getting a massage.
6. Ugg Slippers
Available for men and women, UGG slippers will keep you warm and comfortable through the academic year. They are cozy for sitting in front of the fire or walking around your house. Although a little pricey, they are considerably durable, based on my son’s experience wearing them for years. Dorms can get drafty, and the UGG slippers were in many dorm rooms we visited.
7. The Original COMFY Oversized Wearable Sherpa Blanket
My kids walk around all day long in a COMFY wearable sherpa blanket. I envy anyone wearing one as the product looks so comfortable. It’s reversible with its soft microfiber exterior.
8. Shower Speakers
Can’t shower without music? You can bring these must-have waterproof shower speakers to the dorms if you promise to keep the volume lower than you would in a shower at home.
Do you hate wrinkles? I do too, but I hate ironing more. You can’t bring your iron to the dorm, but mini or compact steamers can do the job. It’s a perfect size for travel and small spaces.
10. Vanity Mirrors
Lightweight mirrors with light modes and magnification won’t take up a lot of space and will help you look the best all year long.
11. Custom Wall Tapestry
College students like to personalize their dorm space, and they can do so in various ways. Wall tapestries can be large enough to cover the wall or just a piece. Make it something that reflects you and feels good. You may be able to hang neon lights with a custom saying, wall art, or personalized wall tapestry. Visit Etsy, Dormify, or Amazon for the best wall art variety.
12. Mesh Shower Tote
Quick-dry waterproof mesh shower totes are among the most practical presents college students ever get from anyone. Yet, this item will help organize bathroom things with ample storage pockets and be at the ready when it’s shower time.
13. Brita Space Saver Water Filter Pitcher
According to the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, drinking fluids of about 10-15 cups daily is essential. You may want this Brita water filter pitcher, which can likely fit into a small refrigerator in the dorm room or your apartment.
14. Hydro Flask
When you are on the go, running between classes and the library, remember to take your hydro flask, among the most popular among college students for its durability. It is hard to see a Gen Zer without some kind of water bottle.
15. Echo Dots
Bringing Alexa to college may be a challenge. Echo Dots make great graduation gifts. However, you may want to check the college to see if their Wifi technology will work with smart speakers.
Some colleges may give out these Echo Dots recognizing their value to students by providing music, an alarm clock, and Alexa for information. Students may have problems connecting these speakers to the college WiFi and require a router. Many colleges have rules preventing you from adding routers to the existing network. Contact the college to see if they allow Echo dots. Otherwise, you may have to leave Alexa home.
16. Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets, sometimes called gravity or anxiety blankets, are desirable for college students. However, be aware there is a general rule for picking out the correct weight by getting one as close to 10% of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, then bring a 15-pound blanket.
17. Cozy Blankets
Some people may not want the feel of a weighted blanket and would prefer a sherpa blanket. This cozy blanket will cover you on drafty nights and is a more affordable alternative.
18. Oxo Brew Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker
There may be limitations on what you can bring into the dorm, but compact coffee makers like OXO Brew Compact Cold Brew Coffee Maker will fit easily in small spaces. Alternatively, consider the mini-Keurig, or the Ovente electric kettle that can be a solution.
19. Electric Kettle
Who doesn’t want the convenience of hot oatmeal or coffee before dashing to your class? According to many college grads, you can’t bring many appliances into the dorm, but you can bring an electric kettle. It is affordable, portable, and automatically shuts off.
Alternatively, if college students want to make coffee or tea in your room, the mini-Keurig can do the job for you without taking up much space.
21. Bombas Socks
Do you have a sock fetish? Bombas socks are among the most comfortable socks and come in brightly colored athletic socks. The comfortable socks feature a honeycomb support system and “stay up” technology.
College students recognize these socks and the mission of founders Randy Goldberg and David Heath to donate specially designed socks to the homeless for each pair of socks sold.
22. Criacr Phone Camera Phone Lens
Do you know someone who loves photography but doesn’t have the budget to do so? Consider the Criacr camera lens as a gift. The lens fits on your smartphone when you need a break from your studies to focus on photography and be in touch with nature.
23. Toiletry Bag for Men
These days, men have their choice in skin ointments that can rival women’s cosmetic bags. Young men would enjoy taking a travel toiletry at college and carrying their shaving kit and accessories overnight or on long weekends. Get a leather bag with many compartments to hold many items in place to avoid spillage.
24. Desk Organizer Rose Rose Gold With Supplies
Desk organizers are a necessity in any college dorm. Chances you will find many study halls to read and crank out your term projects, but you’ll want to have space for supplies in your room. Having a pretty desk organizer with space to include essential accessories is an added plus and a welcomed gift for someone who needs their supplies in one place.
25. Tile Pro
Who doesn’t lose their keys? Tile Pro is a powerful Bluetooth tracker, keys finder, and item locator for keys, bags, and other items. Tile Pro will do the trick when your mind is elsewhere and you can’t find your keys with no time to waste.
26. 148 Piece Tool Set
Do you know someone handy who doesn’t have a tool kit? We asked around in my neighborhood hardware store and found out that 100-plus piece tool sets receive high praise for their high value and affordable price. This set is for people who may find themselves helping others and getting a few dollars on the side.
27. Graduation Teddy Bear
I still have my law school graduation Teddy Bear, and he is still in good shape all these years. It was a fun present when I received it, and it brings back a lot of memories now. It’s the next best thing to have your puppy with you.
28. Maxgear Rfid Credit Card Holder Protector
Protecting your credit cards from potential fraud is among the most practical gifts you can give someone. The MaxGear protector can hold up to ten cards, is durable, RFID-enabled, and available in different finishes. It can fit in a small purse or pocket.
29. Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pros are an excellent graduation gift for those who want to stay close to their music with comfort and noise cancellation technology. Heck, it makes a beautiful present for any kind of occasion.
30. Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones
Headphones make worthy gifts, but the Bose Quiet Comfort headphones are an excellent choice for those who enjoy over-the-ear headphones to bring to college and when preparing for exams or writing papers. I had an older wired version, and we (headphones and I) were inseparable when studying for the bar exam.
31. Travel Carryall Bag
You Can’t Bring Large Luggage, but You Will Want a Travel Carryall Bag To Serve Many Purposes for Traveling for a Long Weekend, to the Gym, or Anywhere Else. It Is Light, Attractive, and Affordable.
32. Etsy Wish Bracelets
Spending a lot of money doesn’t make the best gifts. Sometimes, giving a personal piece of art or jewelry can be so satisfying. Etsy has a large assortment of wish bracelets. There are many shops with terrific selections that are unique, often handmade, and very affordable. If you have the time, peruse around.
33. Laptop Bag
You may not have to carry your textbooks to school like students once did. You will want to take this bag to the classroom, gym, and dining hall or socialize with friends. Having a laptop bag in college is indispensable. This bag is multipurpose and has versatile pockets for your phone, water bottle, and other supplies.
34. Gift Cards
Gift cards are a good idea if you would prefer to provide someone with the opportunity to get what they need or want. You may want to consider a graduation-style gift box rather than giving cash (which is never a bad idea, especially for those going off to college).
Visit Amazon.com Gift Card and look for the Graduation Style Gift Box where you can slip your gift car. They have various designs.
Gift cards are desirable gifts, especially from retailers, restaurants, or specialty stores near their college. For example:
- Dunkin Donuts
- Uber Eats
35. Subscription Boxes
Subscription boxes can be fun while providing a convenient service. This gift is nice to send to someone in your life who may have a tight schedule. College students qualify for sure! Try to get a box that fits the person’s personality.
- Candy club
- Vegan snacks
For Health and Wellbeing
Staying healthy at college can challenge studying and socializing being higher priorities.
While most first-year students live on campus for at least the first year and are privy to the campus’s gym, they may find it challenging to get there. Instead, they may discover small exercise gear to be most beneficial. I’ll grant you that colleges have yoga mats for you to use, but some things are more personal. In a new environment with new demands and perhaps sleep deprivation, graduation gifts centered around self-care and health make worthy presents they will appreciate.
36. Self-care Pampering Kit
Who doesn’t need pampering? After completing high school or college, few women I know would not appreciate receiving a self-care kit to pamper themselves and relieve stress. It is time for relaxation and celebrating oneself for a job well done.
37. Bala Bangles
Bala has functional fitness equipment in all sizes, shapes, and colors, making a fun exercise gift that students can bring to the dorms. They began in 2018 and received funding from Mark Cuban and Maria Sharapova on Shark Tank, who helped fuel their expansion from Bala Bangles into exercise bars, rings, and on-the-go kits.
38. Foam Roller
Have a kink in your neck from studying? High-density foam rollers come in various sizes for exercise, massages, and muscle recovery. Some people can’t go anywhere without one of these, and your dorm may allow you to bring it with you.
39. Fitbit Sense
Fitbit has an impressive line of smartwatches that measure steps, stairs, and much more. Fitbit Sense is the higher end of their offering but well below the price of an Apple Watch. If it is health stats for heart, stress management, and other trends you are after, then the Fitbit is among the best in class.
40. Skateboard vs. Bicycle: You Choose
This subject deserves consideration if you already enjoy skateboarding or biking. It depends where the grad is going to use these items. Classes, dining halls, and dorms are usually within 15 minutes and walkable as long as you have that time. Bicycles are more helpful to use on campus or in town and have brakes. There are bike racks everywhere, but we heard that theft does happen.
These grad gifts are excellent choices for those who ride and skate.
For Avid Readers
College students hitting the books for a rigorous program may want a reprieve by reading for fun and inspiring readers outside of their studies. For book lovers, reading extends far beyond the classroom. According to a survey, researchers discovered that 93% of college students genuinely enjoy reading. They don’t have a lot of free time or money.
- Kindle Paperwhite
- Unlimited Kindle Subscription
- Audible Subscription
- Amazon Prime membership is $69 for students!
- Amazon Gift Card
- The Defining Decade by Meg Jay PhD
- 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think By Brianna Wiest
- Goodnight Dorm Room: All The Advice I Wish I Got Before Going To College
Celebrating one’s graduation is a meaningful event for the family, friends, and colleagues and a significant milestone for the graduates. Recognize your graduate for the accomplishment, especially during the past few years.
Linda is the Founder of TheCentsofMoney.com. She's out to teach financial education and inspire a greater comfort about one of life’s great stresses. She uses the financial skills honed by decades of professional experience to help others.