Ultimate List of High School Graduation Gifts

Few things give a parent more pleasure than celebrating a milestone in their child’s life, and quite often, that pleasure is shared by other relatives and even friends.

Graduating from high school is one of those milestones, and if you know a child who’s a senior and you’re considering celebrating them with a high school graduation gift that expresses “good job,” “good luck,” or “we’re proud of you,” you can feel confident knowing that it will always be appreciated. After all, who doesn’t love getting gifts?

Whether a student is heading off to college, trade school, the military, or elsewhere in life, there are many gift options you can choose from.

We’ve had valuable help from the parents in the Paying For College 101 Facebook group who have been down this road many times before. Here are some of their tips and suggestions.

Gift Cards

Easy to wrap, and simple to use, Amazon gift cards are always great as are prepaid credit cards. If you really want to show you’ve put some thought into this gift, find out where your grad will be going and research the local eateries, coffee shops, campus stores, and movie theaters. A gift card from one or more of these places will come in handy when extra cash is running low.

If you know the grad will be using a car after graduating, a gas gift card to help them at the pump would be appreciated.


Did someone mention cash? Dawn, a mother of a high school senior, said, “cash is king.”

A one-time gift, or one that helps pay expenses on an ongoing basis for a few months or even longer will always be put to good use.

Even better – give them some money management tips if they’ll be leaving soon for college.


Is your grad going to be living on their own after graduation? Here’s a list of a few books that can provide inspiration of all sorts as they settle into their new digs:

  • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen
  • Make Your Bed: The Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven
  • HELP! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions by Nancy and Kevin Mills
  • How to Cook Everything 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman

More High School Graduation Gift Ideas

  • Monogram Ring: Personalization is always in, and a monogrammed signet ring is the epitome of that.
  • Weighted Blanket: You may not want your new college student to sleep through their classes, but you do want them to get a good night’s sleep. It’s been proven that weighted blankets can relieve stress, pain, and produce a deeper sleep. (Perhaps an add-on to this gift could be a really loud alarm clock.)
  • Wallet: A classic, lightweight wallet will help them carry cash, their student ID, bank cards, and other important cards.
  • Essential Oil Diffuser: Believe it or not, dorm rooms do get stinky. While most dorms don’t allow candles, they do allow diffusers, which are a much safer way to scent a room.
  • Slippers: Slippers are great for college students, especially those in colder climates. They are easy to slip on to go between their friends’ dorm rooms.
  • New Backpack: A new backpack – especially one that fits their new laptop – is essential for any soon-to-be college freshmen.
  • Portable Charger: A portable charger can be super useful for any student. This can help them recharge their phone or tablet while spending time on campus.
  • Amazon Prime Student: A Prime Student subscription gets your high school grad all kinds of exclusive perks and offers for college life.
  • New Computer: A reliable computer is the quintessential college necessity. It’s one thing a recent high school grad will use for a very long time. Many retailers offer discounts for students, teachers, and parents on PCs, tablets, and more at their stores and online.

Money for College as a High School Graduation Gift

Don’t forget that helping to pay for your student’s college is an important gift and shouldn’t be downplayed. Gretchen, a mother of a high school senior, and her husband talked with their daughter in middle school about college costs and what they could afford.

“We sat down with our daughter and had the first talk of what we would be able to give her for college (yes… in seventh grade),” Gretchen said. They agreed to pay for three years of college if their daughter could save up to cover costs for one year. She worked summer jobs and saved her money, but her big contribution was achieving good grades which earned her merit scholarships from the college she’s planning on attending.

“We wrapped [a scholarship certificate from mom and dad] in pretty paper and presented it as the ‘big’ gift. Her true graduation gift [was] us saving for her college for years and helping her come out of college with almost no debt,” Gretchen said.

Sentimental and Free High School Graduation Gifts

We know that it really needn’t be said, but some of the best high school graduation gifts are those gifts that don’t cost a dime. They are gifts of time spent with the grad, letters you’ve collected from family members or friends they’re leaving behind with instructions on when they should be opened, books of treasured photos taken through the years, a knitted blanket for their bed, or a picture of their favorite pet.

These are the things they will turn to when they want to think of home and be comforted by the knowledge that they will always have your love, friendship, and support . . . no matter where they are.


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