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

Giving a gift
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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 might be viewed as inappropriate. For example, if you are a poor student a gift might be perceived as an attempt to win the professor's favor. Students who work closely with professors and develop relationships with them - or who are graduating and wish to show gratitude for years' worth of assistance may give gifts, but the gifts 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

It is the thought that counts. Sounds cheesy, but it's true. When it comes to a card, the gift is the thought. Every professor I know cherishes and shows off heartfelt cards from students. It might feel like a cop out on your part, but a card expressing your gratitude in writing will make your professor feel like his or her work counts. We all want to make a difference - your card will tell your professor that he or she has touched your life. It's an unbeatable gift.

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 after the semester ends.

Gift Certificate for Coffee

A gift certificate to your professor's favorite coffee shop will be appreciated. Remember to keep the amount small.

Avoid Homemade Baked Goods

Some students present professors with home-baked cookies or cakes, but home-baked goods are not a good idea. Professors may have allergies to nuts or other common ingredients. More important, many professors make it a habit to not eat homemade edibles from students for safety reasons.

Store-Bought Edibles

If you'd like to offer a professor with an edible treat, make it a store-bought and wrapped treat, such as chocolates from a specialty chocolate store, a tin of assorted teas, or fancy coffees. A small wrapped gift basket or mug with coffees often is a hit with professors. I'll be quite honest, one of my favorite gifts from a graduating student was a bottle of wine. It was inexpensive and turned me on to a new brand. That said, use caution as this may not go over well with many profs. Know your professor well before bestowing alcohol. 

Fancy Office Supplies

Binder clips, notebooks, sticky note pads -- these are the tools of academia. Present professors with fancy decorative versions of these basic tools. They're both useful and thoughtful. Holding together papers with a decorative binder clip or writing a note on a pretty sticky note can make daily tasks a little more fun.