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8 Creative Gift Ideas for Graduates You Know and Love

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. Select a gift that addresses that next step.

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Prepaid anything

Your grad is sure to love anything that’s already paid for: movie tickets, gasoline, groceries, fast food, Walmart, Starbucks, Ikea, the currency of the country he or she will be visiting, Amazon—let your mind go wild.

Bus, subway, or train tokens

Give tickets for the mode of transportation the grad will be using, something that may require some sleuthing on your part to figure out what that might be. Or splurge on an open airline ticket between school and home cities.

Bucket of stuff

Get a bucket and write on the side, “Bucket of Stuff.” Fill it with all kinds of stuff the graduate is going to need in his or her new phase of life in a dorm or apartment. Ramen noodles, box of macaroni and cheese and other small pantry items. Highlighters, paperclips, washcloths, stamps, stickers, envelopes, batteries, shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, pens, pencils and so on. Get crazy. Use lots of ribbons and bright-colored paper. Add a card and you’re good to go.

Kitchen starter kit

Buy a large kitchen mitt, bowl, pot or other kitchen-related container and fill it with kitchen utensils. Check the dollar store, first!

Monogrammed towels

We have insider information here at EC Central that newly-minted college students really like towels that are monogrammed with their name or initials. Monogrammed towels are easy to track down and the graduation gift most likely to survive the college years.


A reasonably priced gift can be found in the reference books aisle of any bookstore—books every college-bound graduate needs, such as The Elements of Style, On Writing Well, Gray’s Anatomy, The Associated Press Stylebook or Writing Research Papers: The Complete Guide. A good dictionary and thesaurus are great ideas, too.

Laundry kit

Make or purchase a fabric laundry bag that you can personalize with the graduate’s name or initials. Fill it with laundry detergent, stain treatment, a laundry “how-to” guide you either write yourself, find online or purchase in a bookstore. Top it all off with a roll or two of quarters for use in the dorm’s coin laundry.


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.


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5 replies
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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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