Graduation Gifts for Your College - Bound Student

It can be challenging to find the perfect graduation gift. Here are some graduation gift ideas to consider.

By Jessica Dickenson — May 15, 2023

Graduation Gifts for Your College - Bound Student

Woot Woot! Your graduate just completed high school and is college-bound in the fall! As they prepare to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, you are revving up to celebrate this milestone with them and help set them up for success in college. Along with the cake, party, and asking what their plans are, everyone will bring a gift for the graduate.

Let's face it, although you are incredibly proud of your graduate and want to give them the perfect gift it is challenging finding it. You want to give them something meaningful and not cliche but something that they will take with them to college. You know that the perfect gift lies between a priceless family heirloom and Tupperware containers, but you can't exactly pinpoint what exactly that gift is.

Gift Card

I know what you are thinking: A gift card? How much more impersonal can you get?! I get it! Gift cards seem like a lazy way to give a gift. To make the gift card seem far less impersonal is putting a lot of thought into where you get a gift card from!

If you have a student moving out of state, research and see what is in the surrounding area. Do you know that your graduate is moving to Chicago and loves art? You can get them a gift card for the art museum. Is there an incredible local restaurant that has a five-star rating in town? Give them a gift card to check it out! Are they stuck in the middle of a college town with nothing to do? You could give them a gift card for a local gas station if they have their car on campus, or otherwise, you may consider giving them a gift card for Uber with a note of places they should check out.

If your graduate is staying in town, maybe find something fun for them to do that they haven't done before. You would be surprised how much there is to do in your own backyard!

Gift cards are ideal in these situations because it not only gives your graduate the freedom to do what they want, but it is also something compact that they can easily transport with them. Doing your research into their university shows that you are going the extra mile to learn what interests them.

Suitcase or High-End Backpack

You're going places kid!

A suitcase or backpack may seem like a lame gift, but your graduate will thank you for it somewhere down the road (no pun intended). Most students don't think too far ahead about traveling because it isn't on their radar. Between preparing for college and thinking about moving out, they haven't fully considered what traveling home for the holidays or a potential study-abroad session could look like.

Unless your graduate is already a well-versed traveler, chances are they don't already have a high-quality backpack or suitcase. Many backpacks are equipped with built-in phone chargers and security pockets, are waterproof, and are insulated. Some suitcases \include some of these features, as well as pivoting wheels and a detachable laptop bag.

A suitcase and backpack are something that they will use frequently between classes and moving to and from campus. It is a great investment toward their future and will literally help keep them on their educational journey.


Amazon has its flaws, but for better or worse is a useful resource for many students. By paying for a Prime membership for your graduate, they will not only have free shipping for a host of valuable tools, textbooks, and dorm necessities, but also media such as Prime Video, e-reading, and Amazon music.

If your student is going to a more rural college, having access to reliable shipping is a huge benefit, but Amazon Prime is not just for rural students. Students can also resell their textbooks on Amazon if they need to, or find work professional clothing for their first interview. There is a little bit of everything for your student with a subscription.

If you are looking for something more targeted for your graduate, you may consider enrolling them in another subscription. Most students wouldn't turn down a subscription to a popular streaming service like Hulu, HBO, Disney+, or Netflix.

However, you could also enroll them in a specific subscription box every month based on their wants and/or needs. From reading to make-up to food to gaming, there are subscription boxes for everyone! The frequency of your subscription boxes can vary. Some subscriptions go out every month while others are biannual or quarterly. You can choose which is best for your graduate and your budget!

Exercise Gear

Everyone has heard about the freshman fifteen. While you do not want your student to feel pressured to maintain a certain body image, some students may find working out relaxing and empowering. If you know that exercise gear is something that your graduate would appreciate, you may consider purchasing them some equipment that they can use in their dorm room.

Some simple yet versatile gear that is easy to move with includes:

  • Resistance bands
  • Exercise ball (inflatable)
  • Yoga mat
  • Foam roller
  • Ankle weights
  • Barbell

Some schools have gyms or exercise rooms available for all students. If this is not the case for your student or if your graduate is a known "gym rat", you may consider signing them up for a gym membership somewhere near their campus.

Portable Desk

There are hundreds of places to study on campus, but not everywhere is equipped with a desk. Portable lap desks are a great way for students to take their work with them wherever they go. Of course, you can just have your laptop on your lap, but certain lap desks are also equipped with a place to charge your phone, pockets to throw in a couple of pencils, and a built-in light.

Just like with any gift, you can choose to purchase something fancy or simple based on your graduate's needs and knowing where they will be studying the most. Some students may never use a lap desk while for others who love studying in bed, it could be a complete game changer.

College Gear

Giving a sweater as a gift? Eh. Giving a college university sweater? Awesome!

College gear is the perfect gift for your college student! Not only can university swag be functional, but it is also a great way for you and your graduate to show off their college pride. If you know that your graduate is moving from a warm climate to a cold climate, a pair of university socks or a sweater is a fun gift! If your graduate like coffee or tea, a university mug is a functional way to give them a gift and show them that you support their college.

Instant Camera

Some gifts never get old!

Although most college students walk around with a phone with a built-in camera, there is something fun and exciting about an instant camera that makes taking pictures even more meaningful. A portable camera forces your new college student to pause, appreciate, and capture specific moments. They have to evaluate and intentionally want to capture specific moments which is what you want them to do in college.

College should be a memorable time for them and a portable instant camera will remind them to cherish and capture these special moments with new friends.

Jessica Dickenson

Jessica Dickenson

Jessica Dickenson graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College with degrees in English and communication. She has applied her abilities working as a young marketing professional for a local university but works as a freelance writer and photographer in her spare time. She currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband.
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