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High school graduation is a monumental time in a teen's life—and there's no better way to celebrate than with a gift that acknowledges their accomplishments. We spent hours looking for the best practical, nostalgic, and just-for-fun gifts at every price range.
Here are the best high school graduation gifts.
Uncommon Goods Color Changing Cinema Lightbox
Whether your high school grad is about to decorate a dorm room or move into a new apartment, they will need some cool stuff to personalize their space. Get them this retro lightbox, which is a customizable—and colorful—conversation starter.
Your grad can use it to celebrate the holidays, leave messages for roommates, or get creative with their weekly grocery list. (Who would forget to buy milk after seeing the reminder in lights?) It's also a great way to help set the vibe for a party.
Choose from three sizes, all with color-changing lights. The kit even includes blank tiles that can be customized as extra letters or to showcase original doodles.
Instant Pot Instant Vortex Plus 10QT 7-in-1 Digital Air Fryer Oven
Becoming an adult means learning to cook, but it doesn’t mean jumping into the culinary world at full force. The Instant Pot introduces new home cooks to an easier way of preparing dinner. This machine can air fry, broil, bake, toast, and warm. The 10-quart container is the perfect size for preparing solo meals or cooking for roommates. The Instant Pot even comes with a recipe book to make food prep extra easy.
Goodnight Dorm Room: All the Advice I Wish I Got Before Going to College
Heading off to college is a huge adjustment for most 18-year-olds. They’re away from Mom and Dad (something they’re probably looking forward to!) and they suddenly have to share a room with a complete stranger. They’ll have to manage their own schedule, feed themselves, and actually do their own laundry for once. This book helps them get through it all with a little light-hearted advice. It tells them what to pack, how to make friends and how to have fun and learn at the same time. Don’t expect a full-blown manual: this book is meant to be a fun read—it rhymes!—that makes your new grad laugh.
Project Repat T-Shirt Quilt
Your grad has probably gathered a collection of T-shirts from high school sports, clubs, events, and more. While they are ready to move on from that part of their lives, donating or trashing all of these memories just feels wrong. Luckily, Project Repat has an innovative way for keeping these memories close by transforming them into a comfy quilt. Choose from your quilt size and fleece color then send Project Repat your t-shirts. Then, just wait for your sentimental and nostalgic gift they they can cherish for years.
Right now, everyone wants a Nintendo Switch. It’s a hot ticket in the gaming world. And after passing their finals and surviving the past four years of high school, the gamer in your life might just want to veg out and play some Zelda. The Switch can make that happen. Your grad can use the dock for gaming on their TV, but if they want to take it on-the-road they can unlock the console and play in handheld mode. Don't worry, there will be plenty of time to impart your wisdom about adulting. For now, let this new graduate bask in the accomplishment of a high school diploma through hours of gaming with their friends.
SAIJA Adjustable Laptop Stand
Whether heading off to college or working from, this laptop stand has everything your grad needs to organize their desk and avoid clutter. The height is adjustable to fit every grad and every desk (or bed) to avoid any neck or back pain. It also comes with a detachable notebook and mouse slip to keep everything stable when using. You can even store blue light glasses or extra pencils in the small drawer.
HAFLINGER Unisex AT Wool Hard Sole Slippers
The Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced hoo-ga) is everywhere these days. Hygge represents the idea of cozy contentment and meaning in life’s everyday moments. To you, that could mean sharing laughs with friends or curling up with a good book. Opt for a cozy gift that your grad can sit back and relax in. These highly rated slippers known for being temperature regulating with a waterproof sole so they can be used indoors or outdoors.
Criacr Clip-On Cell Phone Lens
If you know someone who’s a budding photographer but doesn’t have the budget for a fancy camera, get them this phone lens set. It comes with three different lenses that can clip right over the built-in camera on a smartphone. Each lens has a different purpose: The 0.4x Super Wide Angle Lens helps you capture an entire room or group of people in one shot. The 10x Macro Lens is great for extreme close-up photography that captures the small details of an object, and the 180-degree Fisheye Lens is perfect for travel photography as it captures a panoramic view to create stunning rounded images.
Maybe your grad is moving away from their home state and needs a simple gift to remind them of where they came from. Homesick Candles are the perfect present for those entering a new chapter of their lives. Each one is designed to encapsulate aromas of each state to spark nostalgic and comfort when feeling homesick.
Intex Deluxe Pillow Rest Raised Blow Up Air Bed Mattress w/ Built In Pump
While not the most glamorous present, a portable and affordable air mattress is a must-have for one's college years. If staying home, your grad will be happy to have the blow-up bedding for visiting friends at other schools or even other states. If going to college, having an air mattress is essential for hosting visitors. Be sure to review safety measures and prohibited items for dorms if using at a college or university.
Proctor Silex K2070YA Electric Tea Kettle
This affordable electric tea kettle is perfect for small meals in small spaces. Avoid the whistling and the hassle from a traditional tea kettle for an electric option that heats quickly and has a sturdy handle for easy pouring. This is a great gift for tea and coffee drinks, but the boiling water could also be used to make oatmeal, pasta, or ramen for quick meals that fit into a busy schedule.
Etsy Custom Handwriting Signature Bracelet
A personalized gift always shows a bit of thought, and it doesn’t get any more personalized than this handwriting bracelet from Tom Design. Maybe you and your grad have a favorite word or saying— whatever it is, upload a copy of your handwritten words, and it’s engraved on the oval disc bracelet. Choose between bronze, copper, or silver for a unique gift that’s also wallet-friendly.
SunJack 25W Portable Solar Charger Panel + 2 Powerbanks
A portable phone charger is the perfect functional gift for all occasions. While this one has a high price tag, it is sturdy with a water-resistant outer layer to ensure longevity. This set comes with two power banks that are completely powered by the sun, so they are perfect for hiking, camping, or other outdoor activities when your grad may not be near an electrical outlet.
Spotify Gift Card
While many gift ideas for high school graduates may revolve around functionality and preparing them for the next stage of life, don't forget to pamper your grad to commend them on their achievements. A subscription to Spotify gives grads access to all of their favorite music and podcasts. While they will be able to listen to lo-fi beats while studying or podcasts about their major or line of work, this is a multifunctional gift that gives them the space to use however they wish.
Goldbelly Cookie Fries Graduation Gift Basket
A gift basket is a great option to send virtually to a fellow grad or a child or grandchild who may live far away. If you can't celebrate in person with your graduate, send your love through a food basket, especially this one from Goldbelly. It is filled with The Cookie Joint's innovative fry-shaped cookies come in a variety of flavors complete with dipping sauces and a festive commemorative tassel.
Kodak Mini 2 Instant Photo Printer
Help repurpose high school memories with this instant photo printer from Kodak. Connect any Android or iOS device through Bluetooth to print any photo directly from your phone. Download the compatible app to app features, filters, and stickers to your photos for an added touch. These can be used as dorm or apartment decor, or as the perfect size photos for scrapbooking.
Personalization Mall Personalized Laundry Bag
After high school, your grad might be in a position where they are doing their own laundry for the first time. Make things slightly easier with a sturdy laundry bag with adjustable straps, drawstring closure, hook for hanging, and multiple compartments. It holds up to three loads of laundry and you can even customize it with your grad's name or initials to ensure no clothes get mixed up.
For the grad that loves games but may be tight on space, opt for a portable, yet equally as fun, tile game like Bananagrams. Banangrams is like Scrabble's cousin, but each player makes their own Scrabble board and tries to fit their random letter tiles into their words. This is a great portable option for small spaces and dorm rooms (and makes a great icebreaker).
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot
Fuel their caffeine addiction, but save money and avoid daily Starbucks runs. This affordable cold brew maker brews about 2.5 cups of coffee, is dishwasher safe, and made from high-quality heatproof glass. Just add your favorite ground coffee or cold brew concentrate and put it in the fridge overnight and your grad will have enough fuel to get them through their busy days.
Zojirushi SM-SA36-BA Stainless Steel Vacuum-Insulated Mug, 20oz
No matter what post-high school life has in store for your grad, they'll be thankful to have a functional and stylish travel mug for taking ice cold water or steaming hot coffee on the go. Zojirushi's insulated mugs can keep your favorite drink hot or cold for six hours, and there is a safety lock to prevent spilling in backpacks or totes.
MZOO Sleep Eye Mask
Graduating high school can often mean a new routine or a new living situation. Be prepared for anything with an eye mask to ensure a good night's sleep, no matter if roommates are staying up late studying. This one is contoured with soft memory foam to stay on, remain comfortable throughout the night, and block out light.
Minted Heart Snapshot Mix Hues Photo Art
For grads who are moving away or just want to upgrade their existing bedroom, a piece of wall decor will certainly be appreciated. Minted’s Heart Snapshot print comes in a few sizes, from 8 x 8 inches to 44 x 44 inches. The image consists of photos that are in the shape of a heart. Choose the background color and though you can purchase without a frame, help your grad preserve the print with a frame that you can also customize.
Blue Apron Subscription Box
Even if cooking isn’t exactly their specialty just yet, help your grad along the way with a subscription or gift card to Blue Apron. The service delivers all the pre-portioned necessary ingredients to whip up easy meals. The menu offerings rotate and include meat, vegetarian, and health conscious options. This is a great way to encourage them to appreciate the art of dining in and saving money.
Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (M1, 2020)
Most students need a good laptop to stay on top of their work, so gift your high school graduate with a sleek MacBook. The thin, lightweight design (less than three pounds) is ideal for someone who works from home or needs a laptop they can use to work from any location. The screen has a sharp display with vivid colors and is lightning fast. Depending on your grad’s style, choose between a gold, silver, or space gray exterior.
This Bluetooth speaker lets a music-loving grad enjoy music from anywhere. It can connect to a device up to 66 feet away and lasts up to 24 hours on a single charge. Even though it’s so small, the speaker has crystal-clear sound (with great bass, too). It’s lightweight enough for travel but also features a solid, drop-proof design. Your grad will love taking it camping, to the beach, or to a friend’s house.
Herschel Novel Duffel Bag
The end of high school can mean the start of venturing out and weekend getaways or road trips. Gift this classic, polyester-canvas duffel bag to start off your grad’s life in style. The bag is roomy enough to pack at least a weekend’s worth of clothes—if not a full week. While the interior is comprised of one large compartment, there's an exterior shoe chamber to prevent clothes from getting dirty, and the removable shoulder strap means this bag is never hard to lug around on an adventure.
Uncommon Goods Long Distance Touch Bracelet Set
For a truly sentimental gift, this bracelet will make your high school grad smile. It’s not just any bracelet, it’s actually a set and they’re connected through an app. When one person taps their bracelet, it sends a “Bond Touch” and the other person’s bracelet lights up. This is a sweet way to show someone you’re thinking of them, especially if they’re far away from home. The bands are easily rechargeable, waterproof, and come in more than six colors.
Personalized Journal for Graduate
It’s likely your grad just jots everything down in their phone or uses voice notes, but with a personalized journal like this, they just might be encouraged to put pen to paper or even start a bullet journal. The exterior comes in a few colors, including brown, gray, or rawhide, and from there you can choose the engraving. Try the person’s name in the center or their initials on the bottom corner.
Bandolier Classic Pouch
Pretty much everyone, especially a young person, has their phone nearby at all times. But these devices can also be easy to lose. Gift this chic Bandolier carrying case to keep a phone and other important items secure and at an arm’s reach. The phone is contained in a crossbody case that can be combined with any Bandolier strap to customize your pouch. Also, the zip pouch keeps essentials (ID, cash, cards, etc.) secure.
Maptote Grocery Tote
This is useful for anyone who simply wants a sturdy tote to carry their food, books, or just someone who practices sustainability and wants an alternative to plastic bags. The reusable grocery bag features maps of dozens of cities across the world, so it’s also a great way to remind someone of home. It features 21-inch handles and is made of durable 100 percent cotton.
What to Look for in a High School Graduation Gift
Any gift is sure to be appreciated, but odds are, your graduating high schooler will appreciate something practical over something they can't use on a regular basis. Money or gift cards are a great idea for a cash-strapped college student to-be, but if you're looking for something more personal, aim for a gift that'll make their dorm feel like home or help ease them into their post-high school experience a bit more smoothly.
To get your grad something practical, you must first understand the new grad's future plans, says Etiquette coach and founder of Beaumont Etiquette Myka Meier. "For example, will they be going to college after or will they be entering the workforce directly? The gift you give will likely be very different pending the plans of the new grad," she adds.
Graduating high school is a big transition that can come with all kinds of emotions. If you want to help a graduate transition into the next period of their life, help them remember their high school experience. Consider a nostalgic gift, like a photo album, framed picture, or memorabilia from their high school or hometown sports team.
If the graduate is heading off to college, gifting a large appliance that won't fit into their dorm may not be convenient. Aim, instead, for a gift that doesn't take up space, like a subscription to Amazon Prime, a meal delivery service, or a music-streaming service.
How much should you spend on a high school graduation gift?
There's no hard-and-fast rule for how much to spend on a high school graduation gift, according to Meier. Instead, focus on finding a present that fits your budget and shows your support for the graduating student. If you can't afford something costly, don't worry—you can find something thoughtful that the graduate will appreciate just as much.
"Anything from a book about entering the business world to a pen with the person's monogram on it, a sweatshirt with their college logo on it, something needed for a dorm room (from decor to a printer), or even a gift card are all great options that can vary in pricing," says Meier.
When is high school graduation?
Typically, high schoolers graduate after their senior year, or twelfth grade. When graduation occurs depends on the graduate's school schedule. Many graduations occur at the end of spring or early summer, in May or June.
Why is high school graduation important?
There are many important events in a person's life, and high school graduation is one of them. Whether or not a student attends college, graduation signals a transition from childhood to adulthood. Giving a graduation gift is a great way to show your support.
Who should you buy a high school graduation present for?
"Often family and close friends of the grad will send gifts as a congratulatory gesture as well as anyone who attends a party to celebrate the new graduate," says Meier. Luckily there are many gift options that you can send to people in other cities or states if you cannot celebrate together.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by 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 reporting was done by Ashley Abramson, a writer who has worked as editor for local print and online publications. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Allure, InStyle, MyDomaine, and more.
Expert advice was provided by entrepreneur, etiquette coach, author, and founder of Beaumont Etiquette Myka Meier.