Shopping
Advertiser Disclosure

Best Graduation Gifts, According to Etiquette Experts

graduation gifts
iStock

Our evaluations and opinions are not influenced by our advertising relationships, but we may earn a commission from our partners’ links. This content is created independently from TIME’s editorial staff. Learn more about it.

Updated April 29, 2024

Whether you’re shopping for a college, high school, middle school, or kindergarten graduate, finding the best gift can feel overwhelming—and rightly so. After all, you’re shopping for a gift that encompasses just how proud you are of them for their accomplishment, and one you hope they’ll like and use. “The purpose of a graduation gift is to celebrate an achievement and mark a moment,” says Genevieve Dreizen, co-founder of Fresh Starts Registry. It's important to celebrate the big life moments as a way of recognizing achievements and creating positive mile markers in the story of that person's life.”

To that end, I chatted with Dreizen and Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, to compile a list of the best graduation gifts from earrings to bakery gift cards to college necklaces that the graduate in your life will appreciate and cherish forever.

Best college graduation gifts

L. A. Gold Leaf College Diploma Frame

Whether they’ve received their associate’s, bachelor’s, graduate, or doctorate degree, Dreizen recommends gifting them with a diploma frame. With eight available mat style and frame color options, you’ll likely find one that matches their aesthetic. Plus, you can customize this diploma frame with their class year for a personal touch.

Price: From $47

L. A. Gold Leaf College Diploma Frame

L. A. Gold Leaf College Diploma Frame


Levenger Tuckaway Leather Folio

Now that they’ve graduated, it’s time to help keep them organized—and Dreizen says this leather folio can help. Available in black and green, this folio made with pebbled full-grain leather and silk twill lining has enough room to store credit cards, a pen, and a tablet. And, it includes a gift box so it’s ready for you to give to the graduate.

Price: $149.50

Levenger Tuckaway Leather Folio

Levenger Tuckaway Leather Folio


Cozy Earth Complete Premium Plush Bath Bundle

Whether they’re moving back home or into a place of their own, it’s unlikely towels (which Gottsman recommends gifting to graduates) are a top item on their to-buy checklist—that’s where you come in with the Cozy Earth Complete Premium Plush Bath Bundle. Complete with 800 GSM hand towels, bath towels, bath sheets, and washcloths, they’ll have what they need for a fully stocked bathroom, and that’ll be thanks to you.

Price: $385

Complete Premium Plush Bath Bundle in Harbor Mist - Cozy Earth

Complete Premium Plush Bath Bundle in Harbor Mist - Cozy Earth


Minimalist Gold Design Graduation Necklace

After they’ve walked across the stage, they’ll appreciate this necklace with their college name and logo. All you have to do is provide the shop owner with the school name and image of the logo and they’ll have the necklace made quickly (and in your grad’s favorite color) just in time for their ceremony.

Price: From $39

Minimalist Gold Design Graduation Necklace

Minimalist Gold Design Graduation Necklace


Best high school graduation gifts

Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro Bluetooth True Wireless Earbuds

Everyone likes music, but high school graduates really do. It’s hard to go wrong buying them a pair of earbuds, especially if they’re from Beats by Dr. Dre. When wearing these, they can listen to their favorite music, audiobooks, shows, and podcasts for up to nine hours with a single charge. And, they come with a charging case for easy portability when walking to and from their future college classes.

Price: $199.95

Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro Bluetooth True Wireless Earbuds with Charging Case Navy MY592LL/A

Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro Bluetooth True Wireless Earbuds with Charging Case Navy MY592LL/A


Aura Carver Digital Photo Frame

Whether they’re headed far away for college, to a job, or even if they’re not going too far, they’ll appreciate this digital photo frame they can program to display images of their special memories with you and other loved ones. When I moved away from home after graduating from high school, I found this frame to be very helpful in dealing with homesickness. I also love how easy it is to upload photos instantly via Bluetooth. Shopping tip: Looking for a gift for a different occasion? The Aura Carver digital photo frame also made our lists for the best gifts for women and the best wedding photo albums.

Price: $149

Aura Carver Digital Photo Frame

Aura Carver Digital Photo Frame


Levain Bakery E-Gift Card

Give the high school graduate in your life the gift of some delicious treats from the New York City-based Levain Bakery. I can attest to how delicious these sweet treats are as someone who’s spent more than 20 years in New York City. They’ll be able to order whichever cookie flavors they’d like using this gift card, so you don’t have to worry about ordering the wrong ones.

Price: From $30

Levain Bakery E-Gift Card

Levain Bakery E-Gift Card


KUSSHI Double Pocket Organizer

If the graduate you're shopping for happens to be a skincare guru, they likely have many products. With this double pocket organizer from KUSSHI, they can simply fill each pocket with their favorite products before folding, snapping, and taking it with them on the go. When it comes time to wash this organizer, they can simply toss it in the washing machine and it’ll look good as new.

Price: $39

KUSSHI Double Pocket Organizer

KUSSHI Double Pocket Organizer


Best middle school graduation gift ideas

Herschel Settlement Pencil Case

A pencil case like this one from Herschel will make a great addition to your soon-to-be high schooler’s backpack. With fabric made out of recycled water bottles and a name label on the side, they’ll have an eco-friendly spot to store their writing tools while letting everyone know it’s their case.

Price: $22

Herschel Supply Co. Kids Settlement Pencil Case (Paint Palette) Handbags

Herschel Supply Co. Kids Settlement Pencil Case (Paint Palette) Handbags


Hatch Restore 2

With the increased challenge of starting high school classes and having longer homework hours, teens may find themselves experiencing difficulty waking up in the morning. Although I can’t promise this alarm clock will take away any negative feelings they may have about waking up early, I can assure you this alarm clock will provide them with a gentler wake-up.

Price: $199.99

Hatch Restore 2

Casetify Mickey & Friends Medley Case

If they’re a Disney lover, we think they’ll like this Mickey & Friends phone case from Casetify. With case options including bounce protection and protection against impact, they can keep their phone safe and do so with a cute decoration on their phone. For more case options, check out our guides to the best iPhone 14 cases and the best iPhone 15 cases.

Price: From $68

Casetify Mickey & Friends Medley Case

Casetify Mickey & Friends Medley Case


Loungefly Mickey & Minnie Mouse Mini Backpack

If they’re headed to World Disney World or Disneyland to celebrate their accomplishment, this Loungefly backpack is what they’ll need to outfit them for their trip. I carry a Loungefly bag almost every day and it’s the perfect size for holding a day’s worth of belongings without being too bulky.

Price: $78

Mickey and Minnie Mouse Loungefly Mini Backpack Official shopDisney

Mickey and Minnie Mouse Loungefly Mini Backpack Official shopDisney


Best kindergarten graduation gift ideas

CAMP Rocket Ship Magna-Tiles Structures Set

Space-loving kindergarten graduates won’t be able to get their hands off of this CAMP Rocket Ship Magna-Tiles Structures Set. This will keep them distracted during the summer before they begin first grade, and it’ll make them feel even more accomplished once they’re able to have it take flight.

Price: $40

CAMP Rocket Ship Magna-Tiles Structures Set

CAMP Rocket Ship Magna-Tiles Structures Set


Funko Cranium Big Brain Detective Game

Keep their brain engaged throughout the summer with the Funko Cranium Big Brain Detective Game. They’ll have fun solving mysteries while working on their problem-solving and communication skills before starting school again in the fall.

Price: $29.32

Funko Cranium Big Brain Board Game

Funko Cranium Big Brain Board Game


Disney Store Mickey Mouse Lunch Box

If the graduate you’re shopping for is a big fan of Mickey Mouse, consider buying them this Mickey Mouse lunch box from the Disney Store that they can take with them into the first grade. It’s easy to open with a zipper and contains a cooling compartment at the bottom.

Price: $44.99

Mickey Mouse Lunch Box Official shopDisney

Mickey Mouse Lunch Box Official shopDisney


Polaroid Now+ Generation 2 i-Type Instant Camera

The young graduates who can always be found taking photos won’t be able to stop snapping away from the moment they get their hands on the Polaroid Now+ Generation 2 i-Type Instant Camera. This instant camera comes with five filters and can be connected to its corresponding app.

Price: $149.99

Polaroid Now+ Generation 2 i-Type Instant Camera

Polaroid Now+ Generation 2 i-Type Instant Camera


Best graduation gifts for guys

Timex x Brooks Brothers Marlin Automatic 38mm Leather Strap and Fabric Strap Set

“Make sure your grad is never late for an interview with this stylish watch that doesn't break the bank but marks the occasion beautifully,” says Dreizen. In addition to its strap options, this watch comes with a case to keep it safe in between uses.

Price: $349

Timex x Brooks Brothers Marlin Automatic 38mm Leather Strap and Fabric Strap Set

Timex x Brooks Brothers Marlin Automatic 38mm Leather Strap and Fabric Strap Set


Free Country Men’s Hydro Lite X20 Highline Waterproof Jacket

Even if he doesn’t think he needs a new jacket, having an extra one in his closet won’t hurt—especially if it’s from Free Country. This jacket offers multiple zippers and adjustable cuffs for premium comfort. It’s also water and wind-resistant if he happens to encounter inclement weather while wearing it.

Price: $90

Free Country Men’s Hydro Lite X20 Highline Waterproof Jacket

Free Country Men’s Hydro Lite X20 Highline Waterproof Jacket


Best graduation gifts for girls

Jenny Bird Nova Huggies Earrings

Gift her with these Nova Huggies earrings from Jenny Bird, which are made with 14k gold-dipped brass and glass pearls. These earrings will shine bright with each wear. From the moment you give these to her she’ll be smiling and her accessories stash will be instantly elevated. Shopping tip: Jenny Bird made our list of the best affordable jewelry brands.

Price: $110

Jenny Bird - Nova Huggie Earrings in Gold and Pearl

Jenny Bird - Nova Huggie Earrings in Gold and Pearl


Cuyana Classic Easy Monogrammable Tote

If you don’t know what to get her, Dreizen recommends a monogrammable tote bag. Crafted from buttery Italian leather, this one from Cuyana is a solid choice as it’s available in three sizes and six stunning core colors. It also offers multiple ways to carry it.

Price: $268

Cuyana Classic Easy Monogrammable Tote

Cuyana Classic Easy Monogrammable Tote


What to consider when buying graduation gifts

What is your cost-to-benefit ratio for this purchase?

Although you want to give the graduate the best gift possible, it’s important to consider your budget. You can reflect upon how much you’re able to spend on a gift. If you’re unhappy with the kinds of items you’re able to purchase given your current budget, review other costs you have in your life to see if you can allocate funds differently to purchase a gift that you feel is better (but can’t otherwise afford).

What is your relationship to the graduate?

Keeping your relationship with the graduate in mind is key to buying a gift that both parties feel comfortable with. “If you are not terribly close but want someone to feel supported and that you're proud of, a gift card is a great choice,” recommends Dreizen. “If they're a significant relationship to you, [consider] a gift with a lot of meaning which they can look back on for years to come, to remember their accomplishment and the thought you put into the gift.”

What is the graduate interested in?

Since you ideally want the graduate you’re shopping for to like the gift, it’s important to keep their interests in mind. For example, if the graduate you’re shopping for likes to wear workout shoes more often than not, buying them a pair of high heels probably isn’t the best idea. “If you are in doubt as to what to give, ask a family member for suggestions,” says Gottsman.

How we chose the best graduation gifts

Expert advice

I chose graduation gifts after consulting with etiquette experts for some of their product and category recommendations. These experts are knowledgeable about the best practices one should follow when it comes to gift-giving.

Cost

When choosing the best graduation gifts, I made sure to select ones at different price points. I did this because not every shopper has the same budget and I want people to feel as though they can contribute a nice gift to show how proud they are of the graduate without having to compromise on their budget.

Variety

I opted to select products from a variety of categories including games, electronics, jewelry, clothes, and more. I did this as graduates differ with regard to their interests and ages.

Online research

In addition to product recommendations from experts, I conducted online research by looking at product information and reading reviews from verified customers to see which items are widely liked.

Personal experience

To complement this list, I added some products I regularly use that I thought would serve as good graduation gifts, and I indicated which those are.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What do I get my girlfriend for graduation?

What to get your girlfriend for graduation will vary as every girl is unique and so is the relationship you two share. That said, the best graduation gifts for girlfriends may differ depending on their age and the educational institute they graduated from. If your girlfriend is graduating from college and/or is a fan of jewelry, Dreizen recommends buying her a necklace with her school name written on it. Dreizen and Gottsman add that other great graduation gifts for girlfriends may include makeup, jewelry, earbuds, a smartphone, or a monogrammed tote bag depending on your relationship.

What is the purpose of graduation gifts?

According to Gottsman, the purpose of graduation gifts is to celebrate milestones. Graduation gifts also show how proud you are and they serve as meaningful rewards for a graduate’s hard work, commitment, and dedication.

Is it okay to give a gift card for graduation?

Yes, it’s okay to give a gift card for graduation. “Gift cards are a practical way of gifting the receiver with something to recognize their big moment, get something they really need or desire, or treat themselves at a different time,” explains Dreizen.

Why do people bring flowers to graduation?

According to Drezien, people bring flowers to graduation as a traditional way of expressing how proud you are of the graduate in your life. If you won’t be able to make the graduation party, consider sending a bouquet. Our list of the best flower delivery services has options for every budget and style, from traditional to boho-inspired arrangements.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

1.1239.2219+1.66.0