Top 7 Best Gifts for College Grads

by Ryan Yates

If you know someone who’s about to graduate from college, chances are that you’ll be shopping for a congratulatory gift in the upcoming weeks.

college-graduationBut what to choose?

You don’t want the same old nick-nack that everyone else will get, do you? Of course not.

You want to find a gift for a college graduate that is useful, one that stands out, and doesn’t break your bank. “Can this be done?” you ask. Sure, just look at the ideas below.

1. Why Not Supply the Moving Truck

Anyone who has ever moved from their college life to the real world knows that renting the moving truck is one of the last hastles on your mind.

Why not be the person who supplies the rental cost for the new grad? It’s a useful gift and it’s totally unique. This will blow the competition away, and it’s one less thing for the grad to worry about.

Offering your legs, your arms, and your back as a moving “helper” is completely optional.

2. New Threads for Upcoming Job Interviews

Aside from turning their life upside down, graduation also brings about the “real world.” If you’ve been reading any of the reports lately about the low employment and under employment rates of college grads, you know they’re facing a big challenge to break into the workforce.

You may not be able to get them a new job, but you can make sure they’re well dressed for the interview. Buying a college graduate some top-notch new duds might not be the most exciting gift when it’s opened (sort of like getting clothes as a toddler), but I guarantee you it will be greatly appreciated when they’re getting dressed for that dig interview date.

3. Resume Services and Interview Skills

Once a college student graduates, there’s usually no college-offered resume assistance. This is where you can be a hero. If the college graduate you know might benefit from some professional resume writing assistance and interview skills, this gift might just be perfect.

4. A Lifetime of Personal Financial Responsibility

If you’re reading this post, then you probably care about personal finance. Why not start a college graduate on the right financial path by gifting them books, subscriptions, or adviser appointments all dealing with personal finance.

THIS may be the best gift of all. If you can help them build a strong financial foundation as they enter the next phase of their life, you might just help secure the rest of their life.

5. Roth or Traditional IRA

Ok, this gift might be one that comes from family, but it’s still a great idea. For this gift, you could help the grad set up their first retirement account, which would go hand-in-hand with helping them be aware of the importance of personal finance.

You don’t have to be loaded to give this gift. You could start the IRA with just a couple hundred dollars, or you could make payments for the first year (all depending on your income level). And again, it might not be the most exciting gift of the day, but it will soon be appreciated.

6. Smartphone

I go back and forth on this one. Sure the uses of a smartphone could potentially be endless. Smartphones are a great way to stay connected, stay up-to-date, make connections, navigate through a new city, and keep in touch with family.

But chances are good that the grad already has their own smartphone. There’s also the chance that they won’t like the model you chose, or they might just use it for Twitter and Angry Birds.

You’ll have to know the grad pretty good to make this gift work.

7. Cash and Gift Cards

Don’t let the impersonal feel of money stop you from gifting it to a new college grad. Everyone needs money, it’s a simple fact f life. If you can’t think of anything else to give, money is always awesome!

Photo By Herkie


John April 25, 2012 at

Yes, professional clothing for interviews is a wonderful idea! I remember when I graduated I was gifted a suit that I could wear. Very nice.

Ryan Yates April 27, 2012 at

I appreciated my new suit!

Melissa April 26, 2012 at

New clothes would definitely be top of my list, if I was a new grad again. That stuff doesn’t come cheap, and I had none of it when I graduated.

I think I might actually be a little peeved if someone gave me a bunch of financial planning books on my graduation. It’s a little presumptuous, and I think I’d take it as condescending. Just me, though.

Ryan Yates April 27, 2012 at

I might take it the same way as well Melissa. I guess it all depends on the recipients personality. Maybe a good finance book in addition to some new business attire would do the trick.

margaret April 27, 2012 at

what is the suggested amount of cash/gift card to give? to a close relative/friend? to an associate’s child?

Ryan Yates April 27, 2012 at

If I end up giving cash/gift certs to a relative or close friend, I usually give a couple hundred dollars. An associates child . . . maybe $25 – $50 bucks. But that’s just me. And it depends on how much extra cash I have laying around at the time, lol.

Thrifty Writer April 27, 2012 at

Any suggestions for what to get a high school grad who will be attending college in the fall?

Martha April 28, 2012 at

An Entertainment book that covers the city they’ll be attending college in, or as a friendly gesture for past graduation, email a few certificates using a promo code so you’ll pay $2.00-3.00 for a 25.00 certificate, and they can invite new friends out to eat with them. Breaks the ice easily.
A microwave or fridge to take to college. Food to use with either/both.
A AAA travel book for the new area.
Gift certificates to the nearest movie theaters.
Also, be sure to inform them that having their new email address ending with .edu entitles them to a free Amazon Prime Club membership. Free shipping with no minimum shopping requirement.

Ryan Yates April 28, 2012 at

For me, it all depends on who I’m giving the gift to and how well I know them. For high school grads attending college, I always try to get them something that they could use when in college. Sometimes computers, iPads, or laptops aren’t in my budget. Some of the gifts that I received and NEVER used were books of quotations from famous people, bookmarks, keychains, or a pocket watch.

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