What to Give Your Grad Student this Holiday Season

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Most graduate students have big wish lists. They desire more time, money, research funding, dissertation ideas, stimulating and nurturing mentors, opportunities for publication, and more. Of course, you cannot box up and present any of these most coveted items to your favorite graduate student on your holiday list. But, there are many tangible gifts that will make grad students swoon with delight.

Secure Data

No one likes a hard drive crash. It is bad enough to lose a term paper to a crash or mishap. As students progress through graduate school the cost of data loss grows exponentially. Losing part or all of a dissertation can prevent a student from graduating. Protect your grad student's data - and future - with an online data backup service that saves data to the cloud. An online backup protects against data loss due to theft, fire, or natural disaster too. Think of it as insurance to protect your favorite grad student's sanity. There are many choices of online backup services, such as Crashplan, Mozy, and Carbonite. An annual subscription to any of these will much appreciated. My favorite site for cloud backup is Crashplan and at this writing, a 1-year subscription is $60.

A Go-Everywhere Folder

Most graduate students work in multiple places and on multiple computers. Imagine how awful it would be to be about to teach a class or make a presentation and realize that you left your flash drive (and presentation) home? Get your grad student a Dropbox subscription and that will never happen. Dropbox is a folder that exists on your hard drive but is synced to the cloud and any other computer you designate. Every Dropbox account comes with 2GB free, but $9.99 a month buys your grad student 50GB of synced storage.

Sun Light

Grad students are a pasty, sun-starved bunch. While you cannot buy sunlight, you can give a lamp that emits full spectrum light to mimic the sun's effect on your body and mood. Needless to say, full spectrum lamps are very bright - excellent for reading.

Space Heater

Every academic office, whether student or faculty, needs a space heater. University buildings tend toward chilly. It is hard to work when you're shivering and cold hands are inefficient at typing.

Lap Desk

Graduate students work all the time but most do not want to sit at a desk all the time. A lap desk means that your favorite grad student can comfortably type on his or her laptop from a comfy chair or even from bed.

Amazon Gift Card

Books, media, stuff. Give your graduate student the opportunity to treat himself or herself to a gift card to Amazon.com.

Weighted Bookmark

As a graduate student, reading is an unavoidable. If you have ever tried to type notes while reading from a book, you will probably appreciate the value of a weighted bookmark for holding a book open so that you can read hands-free. A weighted bookmark is a simple but handy office accessory for the savvy graduate student.

Laptop or iPad Sleeve

Graduate students are helpless without their gadgets. It is on these gadgets that they store their reading, notes, papers, data, and dissertations. Grad students' laptops and iPads tend to take a beating as they are always at hand. Help your grad student protect their gadgets and their work with a laptop sleeve or an iPad sleeve.


Graduate students spend hours hunched over desks and laptops. Stress-related muscle tension is one of the hazards of graduate work. Treat your grad student to a gift certificate for a massage at a spa or local salon. Or consider a neck massager.

Simple Indulgences

Most graduate students are broke. They become used to generic brand coffee, pasta, and cereal, for example. Sometimes, however, it's the little things that matter. Give your grad student the gift of edible indulgence, small luxuries that students deny themselves. Good coffee, quality chocolate, fancy cheeses, gourmet food, and so on are special treats that every starving student will appreciate.