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College Graduation Gift Ideas (as Requested by Real Graduates)

OK, OK, so cash is always a safe bet. But if you want to ensure that your gift will be used wisely (read: not on celebratory champagne), consider these.

It’s a tradition as old as throwing square caps in the air: You pick out a “Congratulations, Grad!” greeting card, stuff it with a check or cash, and call it a day.

But times have changed and cash is no longer king. Course Hero spoke with a handful of soon-to-be-graduates at campuses across the US and asked them what they’d prefer as graduation gifts. Their answers were thoughtful, responsible, and, ultimately, inspiring.

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Here are our college graduate gift ideas, as requested by students themselves.

The gift: laptop or tablet

Best for: The grad who will benefit from a tech upgrade

While it may sound like a big spend, laptops and tablets have come down in price majorly over the past few years, with many high-quality brands priced as low as $150. (You could also make this a group gift, depending on your budget.) If you know a grad whose future career requires a lot of digital work—or simply a grad who’s lugging around a decade-old laptop—this gift is indispensable.

The gift: gym membership

Best for: The grad who likes to stay active and motivated

Many college students rely on their school gymnasium to help them stay fit and focused, but oftentimes they don’t realize how expensive monthly fitness memberships can be in the outside world. If you know a grad who’s committed to working out, consider gifting them a local gym membership or a program such as ClassPass, which will allow them to pick and choose from boutique fitness classes.

The gift: clothing gift card

Best for: The grad who has interviews (or a job!) already lined up

One of the most wonderful things about college is the way students can go anywhere and do anything in their pajamas or athleisure wear. But once they graduate and get jobs, those well-worn yoga pants aren’t going to cut it (unless they’re becoming a Vinyasa teacher). A gift card to a professional clothing store—think Banana Republic or J.Crew—will help them look smart for their foray into the workforce.

The gift: gas gift card

Best for: The grad who has a commute—or is moving out of state

A first job out of college is very rarely a “dream job.” It might have low pay or a long commute or even require the grad to completely relocate to a new town. No matter the case, a gas card will come in handy. Instead of dreading that $40 fill-up, they’ll rest easy knowing their gas is covered—which will make the traffic a lot more bearable.

The gift: grocery store gift card

Best for: The grad who is too dependent on the cafeteria

After 4 years of dining at college cafeterias and campus fast-food joints, cooking might feel like a foreign study and food shopping may come with some sticker shock. But encouraging your grad to hit up the grocery store instead of restaurants could help them realize just how economical cooking can be—and it also ensures that their money will be spent on necessities. (Unless they buy $200 worth of Ho Hos.)

The gift: Target or Amazon gift card

Best for: The grad who can’t be trusted with cash

So we know that a gift card to Target or Amazon is basically akin to giving cash. But the difference is that a gift card can’t be frittered away on small, everyday purchases like coffee or dinner. Having a set amount at a major retailer will (hopefully) inspire your grad to take a beat and look for bigger-ticket items that they actually need—like furniture, bedding, and kitchenware.

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