My Professor Is Awesome! Is It OK to Give My Professor a Gift?

Giving a gift
Tom Merton / Getty

So you think your professor is awesome. Is it ever OK to give him or her a gift?

You certainly don't have to give professors gifts. A gift is never expected and in some cases may be viewed as inappropriate. For example, if you are a poor student, a gift might be perceived as an attempt to win a professor's favor.

A graduating student (or one working closely, thus developing a collegial relationship, with a professor) may wish to show gratitude for years' worth of assistance by giving a gift, but the gift must be small and inexpensive. If you truly appreciate your professor you may present him or her with a small token gift. So what can you give a professor?

Give a Card

The most important element to gift-giving is the thought behind it. Virtually every professor cherishes and shows off heartfelt cards from valued students. While it may not seem like much, a card expressing sincere gratitude in writing makes most professors feel like their work matters. We all want to make a difference - your card will tell your professor that he or she has.

Keep It Inexpensive

If you must present your professor with a gift other than a card, then the rule is that it must be inexpensive ($5.00-$10.00 and never more than $20.00), ideally presented at the end of the semester.

Gift Certificate for Coffee

A gift certificate to your professor's favorite coffee shop is always an appreciatedĀ token. Remember to keep the amount small.

Store-Bought Edibles

If you'd like to gift a professor with edible treats as a symbol of your gratitude, seek out store-bought, wrapped treats such as specialty chocolates, a tin of assorted teas, or fancy coffees. A small wrapped gift basket or mug with coffees is a hit with many professors.

Fancy Office Supplies

Binder clips, notebooks, sticky note pads; these are the tools of academia. Both useful and thoughtful, presenting professors with fancy decorative versions of these basic tools can help make daily tasks a little more fun.

Avoid Homemade Baked Goods

While homemade cookies or cakes may seem like a great way to personally express your gratitude, such items are generally not a good idea.

From nuts to gluten to lactose, allergies are a common issue often far to difficult to track these days. However, more to the point, most professors make it a habit not to eat homemade edibles from students for safety reasons.