After years of all-night studying and hard work, your college grad deserves a pat on the back—and a quality present to celebrate their landmark achievement. We researched the best graduation gift options and rounded up our favorites, considering practicality, portability, and personalization.
Our favorite picks include the Instant Pot Duo Plus, a ZZ plant from The Sill, and the Rocketbook Panda Planner, a reusable planner your grad can use year after year to stay organized, no matter what the next phase of their life holds.
Here are the best college graduation gifts to show your recent graduate how proud you are.
Rocketbook Panda Planner
Whatever awaits after graduation, a useful and stylish planner is a perfect present to get organized. This extensive planner includes daily, weekly, and monthly spreads so you can choose the layout that is best for you. Unlike other planners, the Rocketbook Panda Planner is erasable, reusable, and works with cloud storage, meaning you can transition your goals, plans, and reminders year after year without buying another planner.
Rather than a traditional pen and paper format, this reusable planner uses a special Frixion pen with erasable ink. You can upload and sync everything to cloud services like Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, Slack, and more to keep all important events and dates close. To make room for new schedules, you can erase pages with a drop of water and the provided microfiber cloth and start fresh without losing important information.
While this planner has a sleek look and offers portability, some may find it difficult to scan notes via the companion Rocketbook mobile app. The Frixion pen also may not write as easily as pen and paper. Still, the convenience and paper-saving technology make this a top gift idea for many graduates.
Mano's Wine Custom Graduation Year Etched Wine Bottle
For grads of age, popping open a bottle of wine is the perfect way to celebrate their achievements. Make this bottle of wine special with a custom engraving that they can cherish as a keepsake of the past four years. Add the grad's name and graduation year to a bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy on grad night and beyond.
Instant Pot Duo Plus 6-Quart Multi-Use Pressure Cooker
By now, every household has an Instant Pot—or at least they should. This kitchen appliance gets a lot of hype, but it’s seriously worth the praise. Those new to cooking will appreciate how easy it is to use (and clean) thanks to the self-explanatory buttons and overheating protection. Even the pros in the kitchen can appreciate the versatility. The 6-quart design of the Instant Pot Duo Plus makes it great for a small family or a single person who wants to whip up a meal that will provide tons of leftovers.
Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave)
Chef David Chang and food writer Priya Krishna understand the importance of cooking with what you have. In Cooking at Home, the duo takes the pretentious and elegant cooking concepts learning in high class kitchens and apply them to cooking in small spaces. This book is all about shortcuts, adjusting, and learning, perfect for those looking to develop their cooking skills in a new space.
Away The Carry-On
Prepare your graduate for the adventures in their future with a carry-on bag that has all of the perks. The Carry-On from Away comes in six stylish colors, has 360 degree spinner wheels, and is built to last with a polycarbonate hard outer shell. You can even add in a USB charger at an additional cost to ensure your devices stay juiced up on roadtrips, weekend getaways, or international vacations.
Raycon The Everyday Earbuds
Depending on who you ask, they’ll tell you wireless earbuds are way overpriced. However, if you want to gift someone a pair that doesn’t cost a few hundred dollars and still provides quality sound, Raycon has an option. The Bluetooth-enabled earbuds connect to a device in seconds and have three sound profiles for a personalized listening experience. They have up to 8 hours of playtime on a single charge, making these earbuds great for travel, working out, or the daily commute.
If searching for a kitchen must-have for a new grad moving to their own space for the first time, gift them a pan that can do it all. The Always Pan is meant to replace eight pieces of cookware, making it perfect for small spaces: fry pan, sauté pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, non-stick pan, spatula, and spoon rest. It comes in 10 modern colors to fit any taste, so it looks just as decorative when not in use.
Maptote Grocery Tote
A tote bag is a simple functional gift that your graduate will use daily going to work or picking up groceries. Make it sentimental with a Maptote with their home city or state. Or look ahead to your grad's new home with a tote displaying its map. This gift is versatile and affordable, while still being thoughtful.
Harry & David Congratulations Celebration Gift Box
Send a delicious basket to a graduate that may live far away. This gift basket from Harry & David is designed for celebrations with a "Congratulations" ribbon tied around the outside. Inside, your grad will find tasty treats including sausage, cheese, crackers, cookies, and more. They can host a celebration and share their new finds with friends or keep them for themselves (they earned it).
World Market White Ceramic Compost Bucket With Filter
Graduating college often means moving into your own space where you have more control over your lifestyle. For grads looking to live more sustainably, a compost bin would be a great addition to a new home. This one from World Market comes in white ceramic so it still looks aesthetically pleasing on a countertop. It's equipped with a convenient handle, ventilating lid, and replaceable charcoal filter.
State Bags Lorimer Backpack
Whether commuting to work or simply going to the gym, your graduate will be happy to receive a sturdy and stylish backpack. The Lorimer Backpack from State Bags includes a laptop sleeve, side pocket for a phone or wallet, and a front compartment perfect for keys, pens, or other personal items. The main body is nylon, so it will feel lightweight no matter its contents, and the backpack comes in five neutral colors to fit every outfit.
The Sill ZZ Plant
A plant is a thoughtful gift for any occasion, but for college graduates, it may symbolize entering a new chapter as a real adult and a plant parent. The ZZ plant is simple, beautiful, and requires little care, making it perfect for first-time plant owners. You can choose the planter style and color to personalize it to your grad's taste for a sophisticated present they can admire and nurture for a long time.
Well Told Urban Map Glass
Stacking a grad's future bar cart is always a good idea. These glasses are perfect for enjoying their fave drink after a long day at work or grad school. Designed by Boston based artist Brian Johnson, each glass features an intricate city map of your grad's hometown or new home. This is a useful and thoughtful present that will definitely spark a conversation when cheers-ing.
BaubleBar Maya Brenner Asymmetrical Letter Necklace
A custom piece of designer jewelry is the perfect luxury present to spoil a new grad with a piece that will last them years. Every piece of this necklace from Maya Brenner and BaubleBar can be customized: the metal, chain length, and up to three characters. Choose any letters numbers, star or heart to commemorate their initials, grad year, or a custom message. The asymmetrical design makes this piece stand out while the style and metal color ensure its timeless feel.
Yeti Hopper Flip 18 Insulated Personal Cooler
Prepare your grad for a summer of relaxation, celebration, and cold drinks. Yeti's famous coolers are equipped with insulation to keep drinks cold for hours, and this one is leakproof, durable, and portable. The adjustable strap makes it ideal for bringing to backyard barbecues or beach trips. While on the pricier side, Yetis are built to last and can be used in multiple different ways summer after summer.
Spoil your graduate every month with a subscription box of new skincare and beauty products. Choose from one month all the way up to a full year subscription for the best gift that fits within your budget. Each month, the graduate will receive five handpicked deluxe samples based on a preference quiz. There are boxes for men and women so everyone can benefit from a bit of self-care.
Apple Watch Series 7
At this point, their college laptop will likely still suit them for a few more years, but the Apple Watch Series 7 will help your grad take their organization game to the next level. This smartwatch is a great way to help them schedule meetings, reply to emails, and (most importantly) remember to call home. The Series 5 has an easier to read screen and an always-on display. Parents, you’ll also appreciate this model features a noise alert so the user knows when they’re in a surrounding that might be harmful to their hearing.
Am I Overthinking This?: Over-answering life's questions in 101 charts
The end of college can mean entering into a world of doubt. Help your grad answer a few questions and laugh a bit with Am I Overthinking This?: Over-Answering Life’s Questions in 101 Charts. The book features funny answers and illustrations to questions like, “Do I have too many plants?” and “How do I achieve a work life balance?” Of course there’s no one size fits all answer, but the book is meant to be lighthearted and something any young adult can identify with.
TaskRabbit Gift Card
Moving into a new home can come with a laundry list of tasks that need to be done. This is especially true if your graduate has moved to a city where they don't know anyone. This is where a TaskRabbit gift card can save the day. Whether your grad needs help assembling furniture, creating a gallery wall, or mounting a television, there are Taskers who can help with that. Just be sure to double-check that TaskRabbit is available in the recipient’s location.
Etsy Lucky Penny Keychain
Sometimes it’s the small presents that count and hold long lasting memories. This keychain from HereToImpress offers a new way to gift a lucky penny. The coin features a graduation cap on Abe Lincoln and can be personalized with your graduate’s year of commencement and the initials of his or her school. This hand-stamped keychain is truly a one of a kind gift that works for any budget.
Sharper Image Light Up Electronic Word Clock
A clock isn’t necessarily at the top of every young person’s list of home items, but when it looks this cool, who can resist? Sharper Image’s Light Up clock doesn’t display numbers, but letters map out the time in five minute intervals. On first sight it probably looks like a puzzle, but when plugged in, the letters light up to show the time, like five minutes past four or fifteen minutes to six.
Saint Laurent Monogram Quilted Leather Credit Card Case
Give your recent college graduate a chic, timeless gift that can update their style in a simple way. Not only will they love this Saint Laurent case, it will be in their accessories arsenal for years to come. The luxury credit card case, made of pebbled leather, has four card slots and an interior pocket. This will come in handy for storing the go-to credit or debit cards and ID, especially on days when a smaller handbag can’t accommodate a large wallet.
Novogratz Computer Desk with Storage
Buying a large couch or bed set might not be in your budget, but if you still want to gift a new apartment dweller with a home item, opt for this small space-friendly desk from Novogratz. It’s a top-rated item and clocks in at a reasonable price. The faux marble top and gold hairpin legs have a luxe for less look that’s not just a statement piece but a functional item for the person who works from home or is building a business.
Even if your grad isn't exactly home sick, this candle is a beautifully-scented reminder that there's no place like home. Each hand-poured soy wax candle has a unique scent for each of the 50 states. There's the spruce needles of Idaho, Kentucky bourbon, New York apples, and more. This is a sweet reminder of home that also looks great on a coffee table or near a bedside.
Nespresso by Breville Vertuo Next, Matte Black
It's a common financial warning, but a good one: Daily coffee purchases can add up. Help your college graduate curb some of those expenses with the gift that keeps on giving, the Nespresso Vertuo Next. The compact coffee maker is only 5.5 inches wide, making it perfect for limited counter space. With the press of a single button, it whips up a 5, 8, 14, or 18 ounce coffee or a single or double shot of espresso. This machine is from a quality brand, so you know your recipient will have it for years to come.
What to Look for In a College Graduation Gift
Sure, sure, we all like to be the fun gift giver. But right now your new grad needs life essentials to help them transition into true adulthood. Combine what they want with what they need. What’s something that’s essential to everyday life but they wouldn’t buy for themselves, or don’t have the budget to? To narrow that down, think about what could make their job, commute, or cooking both easier and better.
It’s very likely your new college grad is either about to move, in the midst of the move, or settling into a new place. (Remember your post-college years? Remember how many times you moved?) So don’t gift your graduate something that’s heavy or extremely fragile; those qualities don’t mix well with someone who needs to move often, and move often on a budget. You wouldn’t want a friend of your grad—who’s likely being paid in beers—in charge of moving around your special gift.
While no college grad would turn down cash or gift cards (in fact, no one would turn those down), they’re likely going to get their fair share of cards padded with those. Make your gift a bit more personal, proving how much you know and love them. Whether that’s a handmade reminder of home, a monogrammed laptop tote, a luggage set so they can fly around the world in style, or anything above, that’s up to you.
What is a traditional college graduation gift?
Etiquette tutor Jo Bryant reminds gifters that there is no one perfect gift for this celebrations. "It is usual to give gifts for milestone events that are memorable and meaningful.," she says.
"For some, this may be a set of books relating to their studies, or something engraved to mark the occasion. In other cases, it may be best to give money—this allows the graduate to put it towards a larger item they may want and, remember, if they can buy something for themselves then they will definitely love the gift," she says.
How much should you spend on a college graduation gift?
Again, there is no one right answer to this question, but it can depend on the relationship to the individual. "What you spend is usually in direct proportion to how well you know the individual. An uncle, aunt or godparent is likely to be more generous than a distant friend of the parents," Bryant shares.
What is an appropriate amount of money to gift to a college graduate?
Everyone's budget and circumstances are different and will affect how much of a monetary gift they can offer. Bryant's rule of thumb is "Be generous—but not embarrassingly so!"
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was written by Julia Fields a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more. Additional research was done by Megan McCarty, a writer for The Spruce and MyDomaine with over 13 years of experience in both print and digital media. She regularly contributes to design-focused outlets such as Architectural Digest, Domino, House & Home, and Hunker.
Expert advice was provided by etiquette tutor Jo Bryant.