14 Classic College Graduation Gifts

Young female graduate hugging an elderly man
Stewart Cohen/Getty Images

Graduating from college is often one of the most important milestones in someone's life. Finding the perfect college graduation gift to match such a momentous occasion, however, can be a bit tricky. These 14 graduation gift ideas are classic, affordable, and practically guaranteed to work for any situation.

Classic Graduation Gifts

You might start by considering more traditional gifts, such as a frame for the diploma or college memorabelia. You won't go wrong with these traditional selections.

Diploma Frame From the Graduate's School

Whether your graduate is going to run their own firm or have a small office in a mega-company somewhere, they'll most likely want to display their diploma proudly for all to see—and for years to come. Many campus bookstores offer diploma frames with college or university logos that will add that extra "pop" to your graduate's official degree.

College Memorabilia

This can include anything that best fits your graduate's personality and interests: a sweatshirt, a workout outfit, a duffel/travel bag, an alumni bumper sticker, a portfolio, or even a clock. Many campus bookstores stock up on these kinds of items around graduation day, so there should be plenty to choose from. You can often even order the items online.

Briefcase or Nice Bag

While a briefcase is a traditional gift for a law school graduate, it can also be a great gift for any college graduate. You don't need to buy the nicest, brand-name, all-leather bag you can find; messenger bags and other options might work, too, depending on your graduate's career field and geographic location.

Engraved Pen

This is one gift that never goes out of fashion. Many companies offer very nice, classic-looking pens that can also be engraved. (Some college bookstores, too, offer similar pens with tiny college logos somewhere on them.) These pens work well for business—and, of course, your graduate's first day of work.

Classic Jewelry

A pearl necklace, diamond earrings or bracelet, or even a ring with gemstones that match your graduate's school colors are practically guaranteed to be a hit. Your graduate will have something to remember their special day—and a piece of new jewelry to boot.

Creative Graduation Gifts

Or, you can think outside the box and choose a gift that may be slightly less traditional but will be equally appreciated, such as an item to help the move, or a specialized photo frame.

Shadow Box

Many craft and frame stores offer shadow boxes. These boxes have one glass side—made to look like a frame—that you can hang on a wall. Create a special one tailored just for your graduate—with mementos, college insignia, and even sports paraphernalia, if appropriate. As a bonus, shadow boxes work well in an office or your graduate's new apartment.

Digital Frame

Your graduate undoubtedly has quite a few digital photos from their time in college; a digital frame can quickly turn into a great photo album of sorts that documents their time in school. Don't forget to add a few photos beforehand to get things started.

Gift for a New Apartment

Is your new graduate moving out of a residence hall and into a new place? Consider purchasing something that will work in a new apartment, like a portable toolkit, a gift certificate to a store like IKEA or Home Depot, or even a traditional item like bread and salt (or other culturally appropriate gifts).

A Classic Book

Your graduate spent the last several years reading hundreds of things to earn their degree, but books that help reinforce the basics are always a smart gift idea. "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss and "The Missing Piece Meets the Big O" by Shel Silverstein are timeless graduation presents.

Items to Ease the Move

Is your graduate moving to Boston, Washington, D.C., or New York City? Consider buying them subway fare cards or even a monthly pass. Other locale-specific gifts, like a Zagat book or Thomas Guide, can be incredibly helpful—and appreciated!—as your graduate starts their new life in a new city.

Business Card Holder

Your graduate might be working for a nonprofit or corporate America. Either way, they'll probably have business cards they will want to hand out at conferences, meetings, and other business events. Consider buying a small, nice, classic business card holder—some can even be personalized—as an inexpensive but highly useful graduation present.

Family-Themed Gifts

You might also consider giving a gift that has a special meaning just to your family, such as an heirloom or a box filled with family recipes.

A Family Heirloom

College graduation day is a big day for both your graduate and their family. Consider gifting something that has been passed along in the family—a piece of jewelry, an old book or diary, a photo album, or a piece of military memorabilia, for example—to mark your graduate's transition from dependent student to independent, college-educated adult.

Your Favorite Cookbook

Your graduate may have eaten on-campus food, fast food, and overall-just-not-so-great food over the past several years. Why not buy a new copy of your favorite cookbook to help get them started as they learn to cook for themselves? Or, better yet, pass along your own cookbook, complete with notes you write in, for a personal touch.

Recipe Box With Family Recipes

This may take some time to put together, but it's definitely worth the extra effort. Fill a recipe box or binder with your favorite recipes, family recipes, or even recipes from friends. This personalized collection can help your graduate learn how to cook meals that are familiar and delicious.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "14 Classic College Graduation Gifts." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/college-graduation-gift-ideas-793304. Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2023, April 5). 14 Classic College Graduation Gifts. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/college-graduation-gift-ideas-793304 Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "14 Classic College Graduation Gifts." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/college-graduation-gift-ideas-793304 (accessed June 9, 2023).