graduation gifts three throwing caps up into blue sky.

8 Creative Gift Ideas for Graduates You Know and Love

As graduation season draws near, selecting the ideal gift for your beloved graduate can feel like a puzzle. But fear not! We’ve curated a list of eight creative and practical gift ideas that will help them seamlessly transition to the next phase of their journey.

graduation gifts three throwing caps up into blue sky.

As you consider gifts for the grads on your list, think of that person’s “next step.” For a high-school grad, perhaps it’s college. For a college grad, it’s a job, apartment, or grad school. The next step may be pulling long hours preparing for a state bar exam or taking a trip abroad.

From practical necessities for dorm life to tools for their career journey, here are eight thoughtful options tailored to their path ahead. Choose the gift that speaks to their next chapter and celebrates their achievements.

1. Prepaid Anything

graduation gifts prepaid anything gift cards

Your grad is sure to love anything that’s already paid for. Prepaid options are versatile and thoughtful, perfect for catering to their upcoming adventures and daily needs. Here are some great ideas:

  • Groceries: Help them stock their pantry with a prepaid grocery card.
  • Fast Food: Keep their favorite fast food spots covered for those busy days.
  • Amazon: From textbooks to tech gadgets, an Amazon gift card can go a long way.
  • Starbucks: Fuel their study sessions or work breaks with prepaid coffee.
  • Movie Theaters: Treat them to a night out with a prepaid movie theater gift card.

Consider their lifestyle and future plans to choose the perfect prepaid gift. Whether they’re traveling, studying, or starting a new job, prepaid perks are a practical and appreciated choice. Let your imagination go wild.

2. Transportation Credits

graduation gifts transportation credits subway new york city stairway

Help your grad navigate their next chapter with ease by gifting transportation credits tailored to their needs. Here are some thoughtful options:

  • Public Transit Passes: Provide credits or passes for the bus, subway, or train system they’ll be using. This may require a bit of research to determine the best option, but it’s a practical gift that will be greatly appreciated.
  • Uber Rides: For ultimate convenience, consider gifting Uber gift cards or vouchers. These offer instant access to rides, perfect for their on-the-go lifestyle and ensuring they always have a reliable way to get around.
  • Open Airline Ticket: For a grand gesture, consider an open airline ticket to bridge the distance between school and home. This thoughtful gift allows them to travel with flexibility, whether for holidays, emergencies, or spontaneous trips.

Transportation credits are a practical and impactful gift that ensures your grad can get where they need to go, reducing stress and making their transition smoother.

3. Essentials Bucket

graduation gifts bucket of essentials

Transform a simple bucket into a treasure trove of essentials for your grad’s next chapter. This thoughtful and fun gift can be customized to suit their needs, making it both practical and personal. Here’s how to create the ultimate essentials bucket:

By combining these elements, you create a customized starter pack that’s both practical and thoughtful, setting them up for success and making their transition smoother and more enjoyable. For a convenient shopping experience, check out our Amazon Idea List with all the items you’ll need to create the perfect essentials bucket.

4. Starter Kitchen Essentials

starter kitchen items knife oven mitts pyrex baking dish slow cooker pots pans coffeemaker

Remember the excitement and uncertainty of setting up your first kitchen? Now, you can help your new grad experience that same joy with a thoughtful selection of essential kitchen items. Here’s what to include:

  • Basic Cookware: Equip them with the basics like pots, pans, and baking sheets.
  • Kitchen Tools: Don’t forget essential utensils such as spatulas, wooden spoons, and tongs. A good set of knives and a cutting board are also must-haves.
  • Mixing Bowls: A set of mixing bowls in various sizes can be incredibly useful for meal prep and baking.
  • Kitchen Mitts and Towels: Protect their hands and keep their kitchen clean with oven mitts and a set of absorbent kitchen towels.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accurate measurements are key to cooking and baking success, making these items essential.
  • Storage Solutions: Include some reusable containers for leftovers and meal prep.

For budget-friendly finds, consider starting with a trip to the dollar store or checking out thrift shops for gently used items. These thoughtful additions will not only equip their kitchen but also provide the comfort and confidence of a well-stocked space.

5. Monogrammed Towels

graduation gifts monogrammed towel sewing machine spools of thread letter A

At EC Central, we’ve uncovered a secret: freshly minted college students really like towels personalized with their names or initials. Not only do these towels add a touch of sophistication to their space, but they’re also practical—they’re easy to keep track of in communal settings.

These monogrammed towels may seem a bit cheesy at first glance, but they are actually of extremely high quality. The monograms are beautifully constructed, ensuring the towels look elegant and last a long time. I’ve gifted this set on numerous occasions, and they always receive rave reviews!

6. Books

graduation gifts stack of inspiring hardcover books on pink blue background

Explore the reference book aisle for affordable treasures that every college-bound graduate will appreciate. Here are some favorite picks:

  • Inspirational Reads: Books that motivate and inspire, perfect for a fresh start.
  • Practical Guides: Handy references on cooking, budgeting, or life skills to help them navigate adulthood.
  • Career Resources: Guides on resume writing, job searching, and professional development to give them a head start in their career.

A well-chosen book can be a lifelong companion, making it a meaningful and lasting gift for any graduate. Here are some top recommendations:

7. Laundry Kit

graduation gifts laundry kit washclothes detergent basket

Help your grad tackle laundry day with ease by gifting a personalized laundry kit. This practical and thoughtful gift will be a lifesaver in their new independent life. Here’s how to create the perfect kit:

  • Personalized Laundry Bag: Opt for a sturdy, personalized fabric laundry bag or upgrade to a convenient laundry backpack that’s perfect for on-the-go use.
  • Laundry Essentials: Include a supply of laundry detergent pods, stain treatment sticks or sprays, and dryer sheets. These essentials make doing laundry a breeze.
  • Laundry Guide: Add a “how-to” guide on laundry basics—whether handwritten, sourced online, or purchased. This guide will be especially helpful for first-timers.
  • Rolls of Quarters: If they’ll be using coin-operated machines, include a couple of rolls of quarters to get them started.

This well-thought-out laundry kit will help your grad manage one of adulthood’s essential tasks with confidence and ease.

8. Money

graduation gifts cash gift money wrapped in pink ribbon bow

Go ahead, it’s okay. When it comes to gifting a graduate, cash is never impersonal or inappropriate. I’m sure every grad reading this is thanking me for setting the record straight.

Some say giving money as a gift is tacky and unimaginative. I disagree, provided you put a modicum of care into how you package or present it. Money is a great gift. Money always fits, and it’s never the wrong color.

Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking that money is okay. Sales of Hallmark greeting cards designed to hold cash have increased by nearly 200 percent in the past few years. Banks will trade wrinkled, dirty old money for newly printed, crisp bills for no fee. If you’re clever, you’ll figure out how to fold those bills into fun origami shapes. Search“origami money” for instructions. Tuck them into tiny ring boxes or other appropriately sized containers.

Don’t forget to include a warm note—because even cold cash can warm hearts with a few XXs and OOs.

More Graduation Gift Ideas

If you’re looking for a simpler gift option, be sure to check out our comprehensive graduation gift guide: The Ultimate Graduation Gift Guide: Ideas for High School and College Grads. Our curated gift guide has you covered, whether they’re marking a high school milestone or starting their professional journey after college.


Question: What advice would you give to recent graduates as they embark on their next chapter? Join the conversation down below in the comments section.

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8 replies
  1. Denise says:

    Not necessarily a gift idea per say, but my friend followed what her sister did and started a grad registration on Amazon, similar to the baby/bridal registrations.

    Just a thought.

  2. Dorothea says:

    My daughter and I were just talking last week about how terrifyingly broke we were when we graduated from college. Please, give cash to college grads! High school grads usually have a parental safety net for awhile, so gifts are fine for them.

  3. Gary Himes says:

    When I coached I would get ‘numerous’ invitations to high school graduation open houses. I would give small umbrellas to some students and (this dates me) and others would get an address book with my information on the appropriate alphabetic page.

  4. Judi says:

    And buy navy towels – they don’t show the dirt/stains and can be tossed in the wash with jeans. When my son went away to college, I got him not only navy towels but underwear & socks. They can be washed all together.

  5. Mary Beth Akers says:

    I get many, many graduation announcements, some from people I barely know. I want to budget to give special gifts to close friends and relatives but still want to acknowledge the others. So every year I donate ten or fifteen Gideon Bibles in honor of the graduating class of that year. I send Gideon Recognition cards to the grads so they know that a gift to the Gideons was given in for them.

  6. Betty Thomas says:

    I have several gradutes this year and when I ask them what they want or need the answer is unanimous, CASH is king! I’m good with that!


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