10 Graduation Gifts for High School and College

This is coming a little late in the season for some, but it may help those attending upcoming college and high school graduations. I still remember some of my favorite or most useful graduation gifts. If you’re trying to figure out what to get someone, here are my top five for high school and top five for college.

Top 5 High School Graduation Gifts

These five are intended for high schoolers heading off to college, but they could also work for new college graduates.

Car Maintenance Kit

Get a sturdy zippable bag and load it with a bottle of motor oil (ask the graduate’s parents what type the car needs), a gas gift card, jumper cables, an emergency blanket, an orange reflector triangle, and an emergency cell phone charger. I was given a pair of jumper cables and a screwdriver for my graduation and I still have them. I’ve used the jumper cables for myself and for friends who didn’t have them.

Where’s Mom Now that I Need Her?

I actually bought myself this book when I left for college. It’s a great guide for common tasks like laundry tips, stain removal, cleaning advice, and recipes. Although the recipes are outdated, I still use the stain removal guide all the time. Buy the binder version so it will last.


My aunt gave me a suitcase for graduation that I used for at least ten years until the wheels were about to fall off. I used it for a graduation trip as well as trips home at Christmas and spring break. Choose a good quality one that isn’t black, but don’t spend a fortune. It will take a beating!

Oh the Places You’ll Go 

It’s more inspirational than useful, but who doesn’t love a sweet story by Dr. Seuss?

Laundry Kit and Quarters

Mom won’t be around to do laundry anymore, so a laundry kit will come in very handy. Start the new graduate off with a laundry bag for toting the stuff down to the laundry room, two rolls of quarters, a big box of detergent, a stain stick or spray, and fabric softener.

Top 5 College Graduation Gifts

It seems that many students are returning home after graduation, but some will move into their first apartments, so there are gift options for both types of student.

Basic Cookbook

Something like “How to Cook Everything” or a basic Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I still have my Betty Crocker cookbook (two, in fact). Both Betty and Better Homes are fantastic for basic recipes, cook times, and basic techniques. I like the ring-bound editions with glossy paper that hold up well in the kitchen. They also have lots of pictures, which is great for a beginning cook. How to Cook Everything is more comprehensive, but heavier and a little harder to use.

Basic Cookware

My college pots and pans were wrecked by my roommates, so I needed to start over when I graduated. Your graduate may not have cookware at all, so start them off with one or all of these affordable essentials: aluminum saucepan with lid, 9 or 10-inch non-stick skillet or sauté pan, 4-quart aluminum pot with lid (for pastas, etc.), wooden or nylon spatula, wooden spoon, 8-inch chef’s knife, cutting board, mixing bowl, cookie sheet, liquid measuring cup, can opener.

Leather Folio and Pen

When I graduated, I received an engraved pen and leather folio that I used for job interviews. I still do, in fact. The folio looks professional and keeps my resume copies from getting crumpled.

Target or Bed Bath & Beyond Gift Card

You never know what else they need to set up the new apartment, so a Target or Bed Bath and Beyond gift card is a great idea. They’ll be able to stock up on towels, sheets, furniture, a lava lamp, or whatever else they might need.


Who doesn’t love cash? It’s easy to give, and always appreciated.

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