Finding the right graduation gift is always a challenge (and never more so than now). Many of the more traditional graduation gifts for him — like ties and briefcases — can come across as stuffy and boring, and they don’t exactly feel relevant when in-person job interviews are still largely on pause. Other popular graduation-gift ideas, like turntables or wall art, are fun, but they’re also rather impractical (especially when he’s still living at home). Though celebrations may look a little different this year, especially if your graduate spent their senior year at home instead of in school, you can still give the special grad in your life a gift they’ll appreciate as they navigate a not-so-ideal transition into the adult world. Many of the guys we spoke to said they really just want cash, because then they can start a savings account for a future apartment or plan for a nice trip with their friends, whom they haven’t seen much of, once the pandemic ends. But if you’d prefer to give something tangible, ahead, 24 graduate-approved gifts, according to a handful of recent graduates.
In our poll of 100 teens, AirPods came in second only to phones when we asked what they always have on them (or want on them). And if your grad already has a pair, go for the upgraded Pros. “AirPods were a fashion accessory first,” says Andrew Blum, Stanford University ’20. “But now that me and my entire family are working from an NYC apartment, noise-canceling headphones are a necessity,”
Or, if your grad’s a gamer, consider a different sort of headphone. “Whether you are a PC gamer or a console gamer, the HyperX Cloud Stingers are a cheap wireless headphone with amazing sound quality that will change the way you listen to games,” says Jay Silver, Marist College ’20. “The perfect headset for those late night Victory Royales or Pentakills with friends, you won’t regret buying these headphones.”
“A stylish watch can serve as a sort of symbol of adulthood and is always a nice reminder of graduation when a person wears it,” says CJ York, Duke University ’20. “An engraving with the date of graduation is always a nice personal touch as well,” he adds. York likes Swatches, but notes that, for fitness enthusiasts, an Apple Watch — which is our best-rated fitness tracker, according to experts — is a great idea.
“Warm weather keeps you active without trying too hard,” says Hunter, a Binghamton University senior. That’s why he wants a bike as a grad present, especially “coming off quarantined winter months.” Having a bike will help your grad take advantage of nice weather when cooped up in a small apartment, since he’s probably sick of staying indoors by now. This bike from Alibi is one of our expert-recommended commuter bikes, but because it’s a hybrid, he can ride it to work (if he’s going into the office) and on trails during the weekend.
If your grad is more of an indoor kid, a new video game might be a good choice. And if hanging with friends isn’t an option, it’s an easy virtual way to stay connected through games like Animal Crossing. “This portable console brings a new level of game night both in the apartment and on the road,” says Silver. He loves the Switch, but if your graduate already has one, we suggest getting them a highly rated game instead or one of the many other Switch alternatives we’ve found.
Parampreet, a Binghamton University senior, suggests the highly coveted PS5. But since that’s pretty much sold out everywhere — you can find some being resold on StockX, though, if you’re truly set on it — we recommend the equally as cool Oculus Quest 2, which is a favorite of celebrities such as Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Bublé as well as teenage boys and gaming experts. You can play lots of popular games, including Jurassic World Aftermath, Warhammer 40,000, The Walking Dead, and Vader Immortal, and the headset will transport you into the game, making you feel like you’re actually there.
When it comes to video job interviews — a current reality for many — grads noted the importance of good lighting. “The ring light is [also] great for business Zoom meetings,” says Blum. “Or trying to make new TikToks!”
With the pandemic, “anything that makes WFH better” would be an appreciated gift according to Joseph Turtel, University of Southern California ’20. “A monitor with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard would be great. Throw in a nice under-the-desk foot massager if you’re really going for it,” he says.
No longer confined to shared dorm rooms, he’ll finally be able to crank up the volume and listen to his favorite music as loud as he wants. “Especially with how much time we’re all spending at home right now, it’s important to keep the good vibes up!” explains York, one of many grads who mentioned wanting a solid speaker system. “I love how stylish and utilitarian the Marshall speaker is,” recommends Blum. Plus, “it has great sound.”
You could give the gift of art — or you could give a TV that doubles as artwork. “I’ll be moving out soon and looking for a new TV,” says Blum. “For a slightly higher price, I can get a TV that serves as an art piece.”
Now that he’s on his own, he’s going to have to figure out how to feed himself. “I’ve been really into juicing lately,” says Schauberger, who wouldn’t mind being gifted with a sleek-looking juicer. “It’s super durable, uses a cold-press method that preserves the most nutrients, and has the most efficient juice to vegetable–fruit ratio.”
Help your grad start saving money on his daily drip coffees by gifting him with a sleek coffee maker that won’t be an eyesore on the kitchen counter. “I’ve never really needed to make coffee at home,” says Blum, but after cafés closed because of COVID, he got into making coffee himself. Something more “functional and stylish” would be helpful for any grad.
Perfect for furnishing his new apartment, a monthly Sill Plants for Beginners subscription will ease a new grad into plant parenthood. “As we’ve all been spending much more time indoors, having extra plants can add a lively energy to an indoor space,” says Blum. “And subscriptions just make it a bit more fun and exciting because you get a new gift every month.” Other monthly subscriptions Blum suggests include Winc Wine Club (“I’m always open to trying and learning about new types of wine as a new grad and this takes a lot of the stress out of it”) and American Cocktail Club (“I usually rarely drink in my house, but now that bars are closed, I have a chance to sharpen my bartending skills”).
And to go with those fancy cocktails, York suggests a bar cart. “If you’re moving into a place with a roommate or even moving solo but like to have guests over, I think a bar cart is a perfect option,” says York. “You can pair it with some nice bottle of liquor, glasses, or cocktail-making tools.” And as a bonus, “it will help decorate the new place,” he adds.
Andrew, a senior at SUNY New Paltz, also would like more furniture for his apartment because he plans to move soon after graduation. He expects his apartment to be pretty small, as most postgrad apartments are, so anything that would maximize the space would be much appreciated. We know these shelves don’t make the most exciting gift out there, but professional organizers told us they sure will be useful in a small space that doesn’t have much extra room for a standing bookshelf. And because it’s relatively inexpensive, perhaps you can pair it with cash, since we were told that’s what would really be useful anyway.
Just as the girls we spoke to wanted motivational memoirs for graduation, the guys mentioned they’d also appreciate inspiring books. “One of the books that helped me get through college was by former South Bend mayor (and presidential candidate) Pete Buttigieg,” says Silver. “[Shortest Way Home] talks about how his experiences in many fields, especially coming out of college, prepared him to transform a small town into a thriving city.”
His travel plans may be put on pause for the time being, but Schauberger says airline miles and Airbnb cards are gifts that he can look forward to using “once things settle down.” Jacob Rosen, University of Southern California ’20, agrees. “In a perfect world, I would have graduated and been able to travel around the world with my friends,” he says. “I have grown up traveling and I feel this would be the best present I could receive.”
Help local frontline workers anywhere in the U.S. by making a donation in your grad’s name. “Frontline Foods Donation is a great charity that takes donations, and supports local restaurants by ordering food, which allows them to hire back staff, and then donates that food to frontline workers in our health-care system,” explains Blum, who’s been volunteering with the organization. There are also a bunch more organizations to chose from to support Black and brown communities and Asian communities if this one doesn’t speak to you.
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