The 10 Best College Graduation Gifts to Buy in 2018

Say congratulations with a personal or useful present

Graduates tossing caps into the air
Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

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Saying goodbye to college and hello to the real world can be exciting, thrilling and, well, terrifying. Every summer, recent college grads prepare to face reality equipped only with a degree, some ambition and maybe a few gifts from family and friends to make the transition a little easier.

If you know someone in the graduating class of 2018, celebrate their achievement with a gift that’s not just practical, but will smooth their transition into the dreaded real world. From the one kitchen gadget that every starter kitchen needs to a few accessories to aid on the job hunt, there are plenty of amazing ideas for every type of graduate. Just make sure to pair them with some sage wisdom and a bit of a pep talk. 

Read on for the best college graduation gifts on the market.


  • 01 of 10

    Best Overall: Instant Pot DUO

    It’s safe to say that every first apartment kitchen needs an Instant Pot. The Instant Pot Duo Plus 60 is a six-quart device that replaces nine kitchen appliances (saving all-important space in those small cabinets). It’s a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a yogurt maker and an egg cooker. It can also sauté, steam, warm and even sterilize all with the push of a button. Perfect for a new college graduate without the time to slave over a hot stove, an Instant Pot can cook an entire dinner in a single pan, reducing the need for endless dirty dishes or multiple stove burners firing away. Each set comes with a steam rack, recipe booklet, serving spoon, soup spoon, and measuring cup.

    The Instant Pot is consistently one of the highest-rated products on Amazon, and we’re sure your loved one will echo that enthusiasm. Welcome her into her new adult apartment with a kitchen device that will make cooking a breeze.

  • 02 of 10

    Best Book: Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps

    Just because they have a college education doesn't mean they know all the in's and outs of the "real world". This book will give them 468 tips to help get through life with the facts and advice they need to be an adult. Stuff like what to look for when renting a new apartment, how to find a mechanic, how to fix a toilet or how to act at work. All of the information is very useful for people in their young 20s who are just entering really living on their own. 

    Young people found this book useful while people who gave this book as a gift found themselves reading the whole book themselves to see all of the tips they had.  

  • 03 of 10

    For Him: Bosca ID Passcase Wallet

    ID Passcase Wallet
    Courtesy of Nordstrom

    Now that your graduate is trading the classroom for the meeting room, it’s time to invest in an adult wallet. A beautiful leather wallet will last your friend or family member for years to come, and it’s always a great choice for a graduation gift. The Bosca ID Passcase Wallet is a sleek, gorgeous accessory perfect for any guy preparing to navigate the real world. It comes in amber, black, cognac and brown, and is made from real leather. It has eight credit card pockets and a removable ID case (so no more fumbling to get a driver’s license out).

    Reviewers say the Bosca wallet will last long past his next big milestone; owners rave about the beauty and design of the piece, stating that it’s sleek enough for slim-fitting pant pockets. If you’re looking for a high end gift to show him how proud you are of his achievement, a luxury wallet is a great way to go.

  • 04 of 10

    Best for Travel: Herschel Supply Co. Novel Duffle Bag

    Graduating from college often means leaving for a new home in a new place. Whether it’s an exciting new job offer across the country, a trek around Europe or an opportunity to move back to a welcoming hometown, a recent college grad can expect to do a fair amount of traveling. Incite a sense of adventure in him with a new Herschel Supply Co. Novel Duffle Bag. It’s available in endless colors and designs and makes the perfect accessory for his next road trip or flight. It measures 15.5" high and 20.5" wide, and includes a shoulder strap as well as a handle. Plus, the shoe compartment that divides clean clothes from dirty shoes is a great functional element.

    Herschel products are made of high-quality woven fabric and come with a lifetime warranty against common wear and tear. If your college grad is setting off on a new adventure, a travel bag is a practical gift that won’t go unused.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Best for Her: Kate Spade Business Card Holder

    kate spade new york
    Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

    Help her on her journey from entry-level to CEO with a business card holder that screams “boss lady.” The Kate Spade Flamingo Dot Boudoir Chic Card Case is 3.5 inches wide, which fits a standard business card. It’s made of silver-plated metal and is decorated with a trendy pot pattern that goes with any business casual look. Pair this chic business card holder with a gift card to her favorite work-friendly clothing store for a gift that is as useful as it is fun.

  • 06 of 10

    Best for Coffee Lovers: Money + Thermos Stainless King 40 Ounce Beverage Bottle

    College graduation is a momentous (and incredibly expensive) time in a young adult’s life. If your child is picking up his or her diploma with the class of 2018, it’s entirely appropriate (and incredibly appreciated) to gift money. We recommend anywhere between $100 to $500 for a new college grad, but whatever you and your family find acceptable will be received with gratitude. If you want to give him or her a gift to open, pair a check with a small gift like the Thermos Stainless King 40 Ounce Bottle. At just around $30, it won’t break the bank, but it will be used again and again (especially as your son or daughter gets used to those early meeting wake up calls). It comes in red, black, blue and stainless steel, and holds 40 ounces of caffeine fuel. It can keep liquids hot or cold for 24 hours, so you’ll never have to worry about him or her getting enough water throughout the day.

    Any gift idea can pair well with a check (no one returns money!), but a small and useful item is a great gesture to pair with a monetary gift.

  • 07 of 10

    Best from a Parent: Amazon Prime Membership

    Now that your child is a full-fledged adult, it’s time to stop mooching off of Mom and Dad’s Amazon account. Let him or her show off that brand-new first-apartment address by ordering (and more importantly, paying for) their own stuff. Gift a year of Amazon Prime for $99, or three months for $39. Anyone who is addicted to Amazon Prime knows just how helpful a membership is, especially for those who are moving to walk-up apartments far away from a local supermarket.

  • 08 of 10

    Best for the Fitness Lover: Apple Watch Series 1

    Apple Watch Series 1
    Courtesy of Macy's

    At this point, their college laptop will likely still suit them for a few years, but a new smartwatch will help your new grad take their organization to the next level. An Apple Watch Series 1 is an affordable way to help them schedule meetings, reply to emails and (most importantly) remember to call Mom. The simple black band is a great unisex option and is subtle enough for both work and play. It will also encourage him or her to stay active, with built-in step and activity trackers to help keep moving toward goals. It works on WiFi or Bluetooth 4.0 and is compatible with an iPhone 5 or later. It’s splash-resistant (though Apple doesn’t recommend submerging it in water) and lasts up to 18 hours on a single charge.

    Whether you’re looking for a gift for your always-late or tech-obsessed child, an Apple Watch is the way to go.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Best Sentimental: Barnwood USA Reclaimed Wood Signature Picture Frame

    The end of college means the end of an era, but that doesn’t mean the end of a true friendship. If you want to celebrate those four incredibly meaningful years with your best friend, son, daughter or grandchild, the BarnwoodUSA Reclaimed Wood Signature Picture Frame is a sentimental and beautiful gift he or she will always treasure. Dig through social media or old albums to find that favorite photo of yours, and display it with a frame that will look great in a new apartment. The BarnwoodUSA frame comes in 15 different sizes, but we recommend 8x10 for a 5x7 to display a portrait or a candid. It’s made from 100% recycled wood in a rustic, weathered grey finish.

    Send your graduate off into a brave new world with a gift that allows him or her to always keep you close by (even if you’re only moving down the block).

  • 10 of 10

    Best for a Best Friend: Studio Oh! Notecard Set, Woodland Creatures, Box of 12

    Just because it’s 2018 doesn’t mean the art of writing letters is dead. If you and your closest friends are moving far apart, use it as an opportunity to create a new tradition. This Studio Oh! Woodland Creatures Notecard Set is the perfect gift to remind your friend to write…literally. It comes with 12 cards with four different woodland designs, each one measuring 3.5 inches by 5.25 inches — as well as envelopes and stickers, so your BFF has no excuse not to send that birthday card this year. Pair this gift with a scrapbook of your favorite college memories, and your parting won’t be as bittersweet.