College Graduation Gifts:
Here Comes The Future!


New career, new life... college graduation gifts
that will honor their achievements and
get them off to a great start.


Congratulations, college graduates and parents! You've done a good job! Whatever new degree they are celebrating, most college graduates are eager College graduation: woman, degreeto embark on the life and career they've so long prepared for.

The well-chosen gift for a college graduate will:
a) honor his/her achievements;
b) preserve college memories and foster alumni spirit; and/or
c) relate to your graduate's new life and career.

College graduation gifts are often more substantial than those marking earlier academic milestones. But considering what parents have probably spent on college, let's focus on less expensive gifts than a condo, a new car, or a summer abroad!
(skip to other age groups)

Professional/vocational equipment, tools or instruments, and reference books offer good graduation gift ideas in many price ranges. Talk over career-related gifts with your recipient to be sure you choose one that's exactly right. Or, you might rather give your college graduate a gift certificate or gift card to use at a professional/vocational-related store or website.

A motor club membership such as AAA is a practical gift for a graduate who has an automobile. For city dwellers who mostly use public transportation, a bus, rail or subway pass good for a month or more will be appreciated, especially before their first paycheck is received.

The college bookstore will yield several graduation gift ideas, and these items can usually be ordered online. Your graduate's college sweatshirt is probably much in need of replacement by now! You should also be able to find just the right sized diploma frame, along with many fine gifts with college insignia. Here are gift suggestions in various price ranges.

  • gold tie tac or lapel pin
  • wristwatch with college seal on face
  • desk pen set or letter opener
  • business card holder
  • paperweight
  • glassware, mugs, coasters
  • bookends
  • golf bag
  • framed drawing of university buildings
  • mirror with a picture of university buildings
  • clock with college seal
  • college chair or rocking chair

College graduation: congratulationsA leather padfolio (or a portfolio) will be a very useful gift for a graduate, no matter what his or her career path. My son the diplomat uses his padfolio at meetings; my daughter the artist uses a much larger portfolio for her work; my son the actor uses a padfolio to carry headshots and resumes to auditions. Look for a pad/portfolio with pockets for pens, calculator and business cards, a slot for a standard or legal-sized pad, and a pocket or two for larger items or files.

A briefcase is a traditional gift for a professional person who travels or transports paperwork to meetings, client offices, or company branch offices. A laptop carrying case may also provide extra pockets for files, cell phone and other items. For a traveler, look for a laptop case with a shoulder strap, to leave hands free for toting luggage and reaching for tickets and passport.

Personalized gifts cover a lot of territory, from keepsake novelties to desk and business accessories. Our advice is to choose college graduation gifts that are useful, over those that are too cute or clever and likely to end up stuffed away in a closet.

A retirement account such as an IRA will probably be an unexpected college graduation gift, for retirement is the last thing on a graduate's mind. But it's never too early to help your recipient begin preparing for the future. Many IRA accounts can be opened with a reasonable initial investment.

Membership in a professional association is helpful in many careers, and vital in some, for networking and staying informed about trends and developments in the field. The gift of a professional membership will underscore your pride in your graduate's achievement.

Subscriptions to professional or trade publications will be welcome college graduation gifts. If you inadvertently duplicate a publication that your graduate already receives, the publisher can use your gift to extend the subscription. It's wise to confirm that the subscription department will handle it this way.


College Graduation Gifts for Older Adults

College graduation: older graduateMid-life career changes are increasing these days, and adults who start from scratch in a new field deserve a lot of credit. Adults who return to college to finish a degree, to earn added professional certification, or simply for the love of learning deserve acknowledgement too.

Most of the college graduation gifts above are quite appropriate for older adults. Here are a few more ideas:

A nameplate for desk or door that shows your graduate's new BA, MSW, PhD, DMD, PE, or other degree/certification will be displayed with pride. New business cards are appropriate as an add-on or a gift from the kids or grandkids.

Theme Party - How about throwing "The Last School Vacation" party, with friends, relatives, and colleagues of your older graduate? The gift is a vacation (for 2, if appropriate) – pass the hat in advance, and tailor the "vacation" accordingly. For example:

  • A hotel weekend package that includes sightseeing or theater tickets.
  • A day of golf, followed by a dinner cruise.
  • Roundtrip airfare to visit a distant friend or relative.
  • Rent a cottage at the beach or in the mountains for a weekend
    (or longer) getaway.
Plan to announce the gift at the party, then arrange the actual holiday to suit your recipient's preferences and schedule.

A world globe, especially a floor model, is a distinctive gift for a graduate. If your older graduate already has a globe, it may be years out of date given the changes in political boundaries over the past 15-20 years.


For other graduates, here are links to graduation gift ideas for...

...Preschool and Kindergarten
...Junior High and Middle School
...High School
...Teens and Older, for Fun/Profit


College graduation gifts for their new life and career,
or gifts expressing college pride and alumni spirit,
will please your recipient for years to come.


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