High School Graduation Gifts
Mark an Important Milestone


High school graduation gifts that recall
happy teenage memories, or mark
the passage to young adulthood.


High School Graduate and sign post

These graduates are at a turning point, as friends and classmates head off in all directions – further education, military service, an interim year abroad, or into the working world. High school graduation gifts that recall friendships and teenage memories may be especially welcome. So will gifts that help graduates get established in their new surroundings. Here are suggestions for both kinds of high school graduation gifts:

(skip to other age groups)

A framed photograph or print suitable for hanging on a wall – perhaps a triumphant high school moment (winning an award, receiving a touchdown pass), or a poster from a school play or student council event, or a photo of the student with friends or family on a memorable day. Or, you can have the photo rendered as a drawing or painting in the style of your choice.

Posters are popular high school graduation gifts for decorating dorm rooms or apartment walls. A poster from a concert or other event your graduate attended, or a hometown landmark, can evoke pleasant memories. One that depicts a favorite film or recording artist, or perhaps a hero in your graduate's field of study, will add personality to apartment or dormitory. Posters can be purchased framed or unframed.

A circle journal is a thoughtful gift for a graduate whose close friends will be going separate ways. The circle journal is circulated among 3 or 4 friends, each adding or filling a few pages before sending it to the next. Some groups focus on a given topic; others add photos or memorabilia, write poetry, or illustrate/decorate pages to portray their individual activities.

Prepaid telephone cards make it easy to keep in touch with friends and family. A phone card will be used and appreciated, and it avoids gift shipping hassles if your graduate is far away (more about prepaid phone cards). Prepaid gasoline cards will be equally appreciated by recipients who are taking cars to their new environment. Gasoline cards can be purchased at most gas stations as well as online. Look for a card that doesn't impose a bunch of fees.

A motor club membership such as AAA is a thoughtful gift for any graduate with an automobile. A bus, rail or subway pass will be appreciated by graduates who ride public transportation to work or college classes in the city.

Luggage is a handsome and useful gift for a graduate leaving high school – whether college-bound or not. A nested luggage set is easiest to store, and luggage with wheels and a pull handle (or padded shoulder strap for carry-on) is easiest for traveling. A clearly visible distinguishing feature – such as a large personalized luggage tag will make the bag easy to spot and greatly reduce hassles at baggage claim.

High School Graduate, girl in red cap & gown
A college care package might begin with a clothes hamper (perhaps a tall covered basket) that can be lined with a laundry bag for easy grab-and-go. Or maybe a sturdy book bag.

Here are some gift ideas to pack inside:

  • A jug of laundry detergent and a roll of quarters for the laundromat


  • A toiletries caddy, filled with recipient's favorite brands of bath and body products (few dorms have private bathrooms!).


  • A tool kit with a small hammer, flat and phillips screwdrivers, assorted nails, brads & screws, picture hanging tape, awl or ice pick, roll of strong tape, pair of pliers, tape measure


  • Basic cooking and eating utensils for microwave living


  • A sewing kit with needles, safety pins, light and dark colored buttons & thread, iron-on patches, scissors.


  • Basic desk supplies: pens & pencils, pencil cup, scotch tape, stapler, sticky pads & bookmarks, large and regular paper clips, scissors, pair of bookends, organizer tray


  • A set of bed risers - they fit under the legs of the bed and raise it up to provide under-the-bed storage space

A Gift of the Month - say, cookies - is among the favorite gift ideas for a college student. Gifts of the month are also available with cheese & crackers, chips & dip, gourmet pizza, coffee or tea, chocolate, fruit, and so on. This gift for a graduate will be appreciated many times over, no matter what your recipient is doing after high school.

A large bulletin board and a box of colored stick pins will find immediate use once your high school graduate enters college. A dry-erase message board to mount just outside the dormitory door will prove both handy and entertaining. A box of word magnets (small magnetic strips with words that can be arranged to form sentences or graffiti-type quips) will provide a lot of fun wherever there's a steel surface (e.g., a fridge).

Graduation: cap & diplomaCollege sweatshirts, jackets or other garments are perfect high school graduation gifts for helping a college freshman to feel prepared. School-insignia garments can usually be ordered online from the university bookstore, along with coffee mugs, decals, bumper stickers, keychains, and other items bearing the college insignia. Or you might give a college bookstore gift certificate for some shopping during orientation week.

A laptop computer stand designed to hold a laptop at just the right angle (and keep it cool) while you're sitting on a bed, is one of the most useful high school graduation gifts for students heading off to college. Given the limited space in most dorm rooms, the desks are usually covered with books, papers and stuff. The bed is a handy place to spend time on the computer.

A warehouse store membership (e.g., BJ's, Costco, Sam's Club) will ease your graduate's budget, whether in a college dorm or a new apartment. Warehouse stores carry everything needed to set up housekeeping, including electronics, hardware, linens, school and office supplies, clothing, food and seasonal items.

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts debit cards are great high school graduation gift ideas, wherever your graduate is headed next. Get his or her workday off to a good start, or keep a college student awake through a long night finishing a term paper, or through exams after a late night of cramming. Either of these cards can be refilled periodically.

For high school graduates not immediately continuing formal education, some college graduation gifts, below, may be just the thing. And for other age groups, these links will take you to graduation gift ideas for...

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


For high school graduation gifts they'll love
to receive - either sentimental or practical -
consider your graduate's post high school plans.


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Logo photo by Jane M. Sawyer, courtesy of morguefile.com
Other graphics courtesy of Microsoft.