After 18 hours of research evaluating 125 products, we picked Macy's Gift Card as our top choice.
Let's face it: shopping for graduation gifts is tough business.
But do you really want to hand your college graduate a stack of bills? They’ve been in the habit of spending their money on noodles and late nights at the bar. Can you really trust them to make smart choices with it fresh out of college?
So, here’s the deal:
After extensive research on all the possible college graduation gifts, we decided to go the practical route.
Your recent graduate is going to have a lot on their mind right now. How do I find a job? How do I make new friends? How do I cook anything other than ramen?
So, what better way to help ease them into this big transition than by giving them a graduation gift that helps prepare them for it?
That being said, not every gift on this list of the best college graduation gifts will be 100% practical, but we have tried to cover all the bases so you’ll find something your graduate is sure to appreciate.
Do you know who Grace Helbig is? Maybe not, but I bet your recent graduate does and they’d appreciated some practical life advice (and laughs) from this YouTube personality.
Helbig’s voice and personality might not be for everyone. If you’re unsure of whether or not your grad would enjoy this, ask about his or her social media habits. YouTube and Instagram fans will love it.
Happiness Factor: Helbig’s contribution to the printed word is pretty cool because it not only gives your millennial or Gen-Z graduate a reason to keep reading after college, but the book is sure to provide them with insights into adult life they might not otherwise find while scouring social media or watching funny YouTube videos.
Practical Applications: Big Interview named Grace’s Guide as one of the best inspirational books to give to graduates. Positive reviews around this book also state that it does a good job of covering deeper subject matter, like anxiety, and makes tackling the subject of Life 101 a whole lot easier to digest for the short attention span of millennials.
Price: It depends on hardcover, paperback, or Kindle, but this is priced no differently than any other book you’d find on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.
Rated a top graduation gift idea on BuzzFeed, Cards Against Humanity makes the perfect gift for the college graduate who was always the life of the party. That’s not to say you want to encourage them to throw beer pong parties well into their late-20s or early-30s or anything, but it might not hurt to give them a card game that keeps those good times going… just more on an adult level.
Happiness Factor: When you’re recently graduated and about the enter the workforce, it can be quite daunting thinking about having to meet new people and start up a new social life that doesn’t revolve around college parties or bar crawls. Hopefully, this game reassures them that graduation doesn’t mean that the fun has to end.
Practical Applications: Party games are fun! We don’t know how practical they are necessarily (at least in terms of trying to “adult” well), but this game will get some use.
Price: Not expensive at all, even if you decide to include all the additional packs in the graduation gift.
Did you know there are major health benefits to drinking coffee? Even if that’s not the reason your graduate got addicted to joe, why not help transition them to a more adult way of brewing their own espresso at home?
There are some users who complain about the quality of the Moka, so make sure you hold onto that two-year warranty in case your graduate starts to notice the aluminum flaking off.
Happiness Factor: If they love coffee, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of going to Starbucks every morning or doing a bunch of prep and clean-up when making that perfect cup at home, this is a nice compromise. It simplifies the makes the process of making espresso and clean up is a breeze.
Practical Applications: You could probably spring for a pricey espresso machine, though your graduate will likely live in a studio apartment or with a bunch of roommates after college, so the Bialetti Moka is a great way to cut down on space while ensuring they stay caffeinated each day.
Price: K-cup machines may be cheaper, but the cost of the cups does add up. Espresso machines and other high-end coffee makers are pricey, too. This is a great in-between option.
Let’s face it: none of us really ate all that healthily while we were in college. Sure, the dining halls probably have vegan, gluten-free, low-fat options nowadays, but how often do you think your graduate opted for those over a slice of pizza after class? If you want to stop those bad eating habits in their tracks, this gift box or subscription service is a good way to do that.
Well if they don’t eat it then it’s money wasted, but that's really the only downfall we could think of.
Happiness Factor: NatureBox doesn’t just contain stereotypically “healthy” snacks like dried fruit chips or granola. They also come with cookies. COOKIES. Who doesn’t love cookies???
Practical Applications: It’s food. Unless your gift recipient is entirely resistant to the idea of eating healthy, this is going to get used.
Price: For the 20-snack gift box, the price is a little much, though it may be worth it if it helps teach your grad about healthier lifestyle chocies.
Go into any recent graduate’s or young adult’s home and you’re sure to find the same type of paintings; Van Gogh’s Starry Night or one of those inspirational quote prints. This painting, however, is sure to give your gift recipient’s home a much-needed and totally unique splash of color that guests won’t be able to help but notice (in a good way).
You’ll need to know what sort of space your graduate has for this painting just so you don’t buy something too small or too large.
Happiness Factor: Artwork can make for a really nice gift if it falls in line with the recipient’s taste. However, this particular piece has nearly 2,000 reviews on Wayfair, and with a 4.8 overall rating it appears that the majority of people love this vibrantly colored painting.
Practical Applications: Some people don’t think about décor after they graduate from college. It’s just a low priority for them. So, if your graduate needs a little help in this department and you want to give their new home an exciting pop of color, this is a cool way to do it.
Price: Depends on how big the canvas is.
Running late for classes is one thing. Running late for that major job interview or the big meeting scheduled for 8:15 is a huge deal. If your graduate tends to lose their keys or wallet or anything else that keeps them from getting out the door on time, the Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker is a must-have.
Some customers complained about the battery dying on the tiles quickly, so check the warranty to ensure you don’t get stuck with a dud. Also, if your grad lives somewhere with terrible Wi-Fi or Bluetooth reception, this probably isn’t the best gift idea.
Happiness Factor: No one wants to spend time looking for keys, wallets, etc. If you can help them save even just five minutes every day, they’ll be truly grateful for this gift.
Practical Applications: This gift is totally practical for the super forgetful person.
Price: You probably can’t find a cheaper or more helpful tech gift.
Sure, your graduate could run off to the closest fountain and throw a couple pennies in to wish for an awesome apartment with friends, a well-paying job, and an attractive boyfriend/girlfriend to spring up in their life. But why not give them something beautiful and thoughtful they can hold onto and store their new wishes in, now and in the future?
Some people were surprised by how small this is, so be sure to check the specifications before purchasing.
Happiness Factor: Graduating from college can be a scary time, so showing your graduate you’re thinking only of the best for them will mean a lot.
Practical Applications: This isn’t necessarily a practical gift—especially since you can’t remove the papers containing the wishes after they’re inserted—but it’s still an incredibly thoughtful gesture. It also adds a small touch of beauty to any home.
Price: It may seem expensive for something the size of a baseball, but this is made from hand-blown glass.
Want to give a gift that’s both thoughtful and useful? Try out this Nikon DSLR. It’s a great step up from the point-and-shoot or iPhone cameras your graduate probably used to document their fun times in college. It also creates professional grade, beautiful photos which may give them enough reason to get out of their apartment every once and awhile and explore their new neighborhood or a local park.
Some people had issues with getting a faulty camera that crapped out after a few days, so make sure you buy it directly from the manufacturer.
Happiness Factor: Not everyone enjoys taking pictures, but, for those who do, they’ll really love this DSLR camera. It’s also got an intuitive interface so settings are easy to control, it’s lightweight, and it’s comfortable to hold. It really is a very well-made camera.
Practical Applications: It might not be as convenient as taking your phone out of your back pocket, but it’s sure to help your graduates create high-resolution and beautiful photos just as easily.
Price: You might be able to find this on sale, but be sure it actually comes from a reputable seller.
After eating in dining halls for years or heading into town for the occasional meal out with friends, it’s time your graduate became acquainted with what a kitchen does. If they’ve already spent time cooking (and enjoy it) or you want to motivate them to start learning, this multicooker is really the best way to go.
There are a few customers who said their machine failed after a year or so, so make sure to keep that warranty just in case.
Happiness Factor: Your graduate doesn’t need to be obsessed with rice to get the most out of this. It steams, it slow cooks, it makes rice, it does bulk batches, and it comes with a great set of recipes that are easy to follow.
Practical Applications: There is a multitude of kitchen gadgets you could get them, but this one is so versatile that they won’t be able to keep themselves from trying it out… and falling in love. It’s also a really durable kitchen appliance, too, and one that your graduate can carry along with them as they move through each phase of their life.
Price: Considering how much you can do with this, talk about bang for your buck.
You know what works great to help new graduates switch off their brains after a long day of work? Netflix. Of course, they need to find a job first, but that’s alright because Netflix will be there to keep them entertained in between marathon sessions of applying to jobs and heading out on interviews.
Probably none, unless they live out in the boonies and the streaming service doesn’t work that great there.
Happiness Factor: So long as they appreciate movies and TV, they’re sure to love this gift—especially if it gets them off of your account.
Practical Applications: They might use this every day of the week or only on Sundays to catch up on their favorite binge-worthy show. Either way, it’ll get used.
Price: It depends on which plan you pick for them and how long you plan to pay the bill, but all of them are super affordable.
If your graduate loves technology and hasn’t gotten themselves an Echo yet, definitely get them one now. These things are awesome and will do a whole bunch of different things, from helping them create shopping lists to playing an inspiring soundtrack while they job hunt from their couch. It’s also super easy to use and doesn’t take up much room, so it won’t matter how big or small their post-graduation apartment or home is.
For one, it’s expensive. Secondly, Alexa can kinda be creepy and give you answers even if you didn’t ask for them. (At least that’s been our experience.)
Happiness Factor: Tech lovers will rejoice.
Practical Applications: The Echo really can be used to increase the convenience of just about anything: playing music, listening to audiobooks, hearing sports scores, getting the weather forecast, controlling different devices in the home, etc.
Price: Unless you know your grad is going to use this, you may not want to spring for this expensive of a tech gift.
Business Insider recommended this tool set a few years back, and I think it still holds water as one of the best graduation gifts, for him and for her. Why? Because it’s just so dang practical and it’s not likely to be something they’d ever think about buying for themselves.
Some customers complained about the tools staying in place when you close it up. I actually have this set and can tell you that that’s only the case if you don’t properly snap (and hear the *snap*) the tools into place.
Happiness Factor: You may get a “Gee, thanks” in response to this, but trust me, it’s a good gift idea. Everyone should have a trusty set of tools readily available in their home.
Practical Applications: What’s more practical than a tool kit that includes all the basic tools you’d need for both home emergencies, maintenance, and setup?
Price: The Stanley brand is well-known for their high-quality tools, which makes the price of this kit so awesome.
Did you know that 21% of college graduates in 2016 already had a job lined up for them after graduation? While that number is pretty impressive, that also means that 79% won’t have a job right away, which is why this gift is a particularly handy one to give.
You can give them the tools to find jobs, but you can’t give them the motivation to actually use it. (That being said, if they’re already on LinkedIn, then they probably are motivated, so you shouldn’t have any worries in giving this gift.)
Happiness Factor: Millennials are known for being frugal, so any sort of practical contribution you can make towards improving their standing in life and that doesn’t cost them anything will be well-received.
Practical Applications: This is LinkedIn Premium, which means it unlocks a whole bunch of power in your graduate’s job search.
Price: It’s a pricey service, but it’s not one you’ll likely have to pay for forever—especially since it’s meant to enhance job search results.
We at Faveable really liked that University Parent suggested glassware as a gift idea for a graduate’s first home after college. That being said, they’re still young and there’s nothing that’s going to guarantee that they’re ready to trade in Jägerbombs or rounds of shots for sophisticated nights in with wine just yet. Except maybe this beautiful and fun set of glasses that they can play music on!
This party set is expensive.
Happiness Factor: This set of musical wine glasses is sure to be a hit with your gift recipient as well as the guests they choose to entertain them with.
Practical Applications: Every new home should have a beautiful set of wine glasses, and this happens to be a unique way to get them into your graduate’s new pad.
Price: There’s no arguing that these are expensive. However, customers claim that these glasses are indeed perfectly tuned, so can you put a price on musical perfection?
There are a lot of things you could do to help your college graduate get off to a good start financially. Open a 401K. Co-sign a lease. Get them a financial advisor. CNBC also recommended giving them a book as a graduation gift; one that would give them the opportunity to educate themselves on best finance management best practices. This was one of the recommended reads—and people around the world who have read it wholeheartedly agree!
If your graduate just busted their jump for four-plus years, they might not be thrilled about having another book to read just yet.
Happiness Factor: For anyone who appreciates self-help-type books or who wants practical advice on how to live a positive life (financially as well as in general), this is a great gift idea for them.
Practical Applications: The reason why so many people love this book is because of how it’s told. Yes, it’s an inspirational book that’s meant to help guide people through life and teach them how to better manage finances, but it does so with interesting allegory and parable-type lessons that make them easy to digest and remember.
Price: The paperback and Kindle are really cheap, but you may want to spring for the nicer, more expensive hardcover since this is a graduation gift.
Whether it’s for work or for pleasure, every man (or woman, though this is advertised as a man’s bag) needs a reliable bag to bring along on their travels. The Weekender is a beautifully made bag that not only looks great but it performs well too.
Happiness Factor: Men don’t always think about the little things like finding a stylish-looking bag for their travel needs, but I’m sure that, if given as a gift, they’ll be super appreciative of this one.
Practical Applications: It doesn’t matter if they’re planning to clock a lot of mileage post-graduation or not. This bag will definitely come in handy whether it’s for a quickie trip to the beach or for a work conference.
Price: After seeing the reviews on this, we'd actually go so far as to claim that this bag is a steal.
Now that most workplaces have a BYOD policy, any new tech you can buy for your grad will get a lot more use as it will likely go from home to work with them. The Apple iPad Air 2 is a much-loved tablet that’s guaranteed to be a big hit with a recent graduate.
Some customers accidentally purchased one of the pre-owned tablets from Amazon, so be careful to check the seller before buying.
Happiness Factor: Millennials and Gen-Zers sure do love their technology. Anything that makes their lives less complex and more convenient is a huge win, and this beautifully-designed and fast tablet is sure to do that.
Practical Applications: This tablet is easy to use and has so many real world applications—like watching movies, taking photos, doing work, etc.—that it’s sure to get used on a regular basis.
Price: Well, for an Apple device, it’s not bad… But it’s still not cheap either.
When it comes to picking out jewelry that everyone will appreciate, can you go wrong with a set of beautiful pearl earrings from Tiffany & Co.? They’re timeless, classically beautiful, and can be worn wherever she goes.
Happiness Factor: One of the best things about a gift like this is that it helps graduates hold onto that memory of their college graduation.
Practical Applications: Once your graduate starts going on job interviews, these pearl earrings are sure to make a big impression as they add a touch of timeless sophistication.
Price: They’re expensive, but they’re also going to last a lifetime.
Shopping for jewelry for men can be hard, but you can never go wrong with a timelessly classy watch like the SEIKO. This one looks great, fits well, and will ensure your graduate gives off that professional vibe as he checks his stainless steel watch while waiting to be called in for that big interview.
If there are any, they’re so few and far between that they’re not worth noting here.
Happiness Factor: Although most of us are accustomed to checking the time on our phone, there is something much more grown up and sophisticated about being able to get it from a watch. If your grad is excited about this next part of life’s journey, they’ll appreciate this gift.
Practical Applications: In terms of practicality, this watch does what it’s supposed to: tell time. It also looks great (customers say it actually looks much nicer than the Amazon pictures), so it’ll help your graduate exude much more confidence and style in whatever he wears.
Price: Although the watch is expensive, it’s actually pretty reasonably priced for a SEIKO.
We're not sure how well your graduate will respond to you buying them a new suit or other professional attire, especially since workplace and interview clothing trends are changing. So, rather than go the route of the grandma buying a reindeer sweater at Christmas, just give them a Macy’s gift card so they can buy clothes that are appropriate for the job they want.
They may use it to buy a new bathing suit instead.
Happiness Factor: For anyone who’s ever seen the price tag of really nice professional wear, they’ll appreciate the freedom to buy what they want without having to stress over the high cost behind it.
Practical Applications: If you want to set your grad up for success, give them the tools (i.e. money) to dress for it.
Price: It’s up to you how much you want to spend on this gift. Maybe research a few clothing options so you can get a sense for how much you realistically think they should spend. Or just throw $1,000 at them and let them go crazy.