carry-on bag, college graduation gifts from parents
19 Gifts College Grads Will Love & Actually Use

Because they’re gonna need a lot of stuff when they’re starting out.

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Ready or not, your child has finished college and it’s time to celebrate their entrance into the world of adulthood. It’s an exciting and emotional time, and you might want to mark the occasion by giving your grad some of the best college graduation gifts parents can give. Whether you want to shower them with several little gifts or get them one epic present, there are a lot of options to choose from.

The transition from college to adulthood can sometimes feel like a shock. You may remember how it felt when you were suddenly expected to go from wearing your sweats all day to a closet full of business casual clothes. Or, maybe you recall that strange urge you got to toss out your mis-matching plastic dinnerware so you could upgrade to an actual set. Now, you get to watch as your kid goes through this change, and with the right graduation gift from parents, they’ll have the help they need.

Of course, any present you give your kid will be appreciated, but the best college graduation gifts from parents are the ones that will help make your new grad feel like growing up is a little less overwhelming. Consider getting them essentials for their new home, clothes or accessories to help them look a bit more professional, or something meaningful that will remind them how much you believe in them. Here are some ideas.

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Luggage for the on-the-go grad

From job interviews to weddings and so much more, your grad is going to have all kinds of reasons to travel. Perfect for items they weren’t necessarily planning to pack or souvenirs they pick up on their travels, this hardside suitcase expands to reveal an additional 2.25" of space available when fully flexed. Once everything is stowed, it’s just the right size for checked luggage.

This suitcase also features 360° spinner wheels, interior organization, and a handle, it’s one of the most convenient carry-on bags you can find.


Personalized stationary for cool correspondence

Sure, emails and texts continue to be the main form of communication these days, but there’s still something to be said about a handwritten note. While a new grad may not think they need some gold old-fashioned paper and pens, if they’re sending a “thank you” to a potential employer after an interview or to their grandma for a birthday gift, the note will look a lot more grown up if it’s on personal stationery. I particularly love the minimalist design of this large initial stationery from Paper Source, but there are so many amazing custom options available that you can certainly find something that fits your grad’s style.


A kitchen staple with a personal touch

When I transitioned into adulthood, I was shocked at how much stuff you need to do even the most basic cooking in the kitchen. Pots, pans, spatulas, baking dishes, cutlery, they’re all necessary for regular cooking and eating. Honestly, any of these items would make for a great college graduation gift from parents, but for something more sentimental, go for something like this custom recipe cutting board. Choose between several stain colors and then share your famous recipe to have it added to the board – I suggest choosing a recipe for a dish that your grad loves to gobble up any time you make it.


A beginner’s guide to investing

Look, it’s a cold hard truth, but if any of us want to retire someday, then the younger we start saving and investing, the better off we will be. Learning how to do this, however, is anything but intuitive, which is why Investing QuickStart Guide is a good graduation gift. It’s a beginners guide, so it’s not full of technical terms that the average person wouldn’t know, and it’s full of tips for anyone who is new to saving and investing in the stock market. Who knows, maybe they’ll end up saving enough to retire early and build a guesthouse for you when you’re old.


High-quality backpack for carrying essentials

After years of carrying textbooks and everything else they need for class, college graduation is the best time to retire a worn-out backpack and upgrade to something a little more grown up. There are so many fantastic options available that are stylish and have enough space to carry a laptop, tablet, and whatever else they may need for work. The Lorimer Backpack from Madewell is a fantastic option with adjustable straps and plenty of pockets for storage. It’s available in either black or brown and you can even have it personalized with your grad’s initials to give it a custom look.


Personal care essentials

You’d think that as an adult, you can trust your graduate to take excellent care of themself, but when budgets are tight the last thing they will want to splurge on is boring hygiene products, so now is a good time to help them stock up. Look for multi-piece sets in their favorite brands, like the Scotch Porter Immunity Boost Beard Health Kit, that offer every step for complete care. If they like several different brands, then scoop some up to make a custom personal care gift basket. If you want to really go the extra mile, buy the products in bulk so they won’t run out of them any time soon.


School keepsake for art lovers

Framing a new grad’s diploma is always a nice gesture, but not everyone wants to have their degree hanging prominently in their tiny apartment. Instead of the traditional diploma, order a piece of custom college watercolor art and have it framed. They can hang up in their home to remind them of how much fun they had while they were in school (rather than all of the work they did). If you’re not sure what kind of art to get, look for designs that feature well-known campus landmarks or the words to the school’s fight song or a famous school cheer.


A set of stemless champagne flutes

Again, part of transitioning into adulthood means stocking up the kitchen, but if you find that idea too boring, consider stocking their bar, instead. A lot of college kids spend their days drinking out of solo cups rather than out of quality barware. Depending on what they like to drink, you can gift them with drinkware for wine, martinis, whiskey, margaritas, beer, or champagne. This set of 12 stemless champagne glasses is a great option because not only are the glasses nice, but you can also pair the gift with a bottle of bubbly to pop open for a celebratory toast in your grad’s honor.


Starter tool set for handy types

I remember when I was given my first basic tool kit, I thought it was such a boring gift. But, here I am more than a decade later and I still have it. Not only that, but I also still use it on a regular basis. If your new grad doesn’t already have a set of tools, it won’t be long before they realize they need them (especially if they’re living on their own). Look for something that has all of the basics they’d need to make minor repairs like this 68-piece tool kit that even includes a drill.


Year-Long Amazon membership

Up until now, your new grad has probably been using your Amazon Prime account for all of their two-day shipping needs, and there’s no better time to move them over to their own account (which means they’ll stop “accidentally” charging things to your card). You can gift them with either a three or 12 month Amazon Prime membership, which will give them access to Prime shipping as well as the Prime streaming platform. Plus, you’ll be able to safely order gifts through Amazon without having to worry that your kid will see them since they’ll have their own account. It’s a win-win.


Grown-up decor for their new place

There’s nothing wrong with furniture and decor from places like Ikea or Walmart, but we can all admit that there’s something extra special about the high-quality pieces in a home. Even just a few curated trinkets or accents, like this black floral lampshade, can make a space feel more grown up, which is why they make for excellent college graduation gifts from parents. When shopping for the gift, be sure to keep your grad’s personal style in mind so that they actually use the gift (instead of tucking it away in a closet).


A stylish watch to keep them on schedule

Yes, I know that everyone has smart watches, but a really nice wrist watch will forever be a wardrobe staple (as far as I’m concerned, at least). When shopping for your grad’s watch, make sure you consider what kinds of colors they tend to wear so that you can get something that complements their style. Also, look for a watch with a bit of a modern feel to it so that it doesn’t look like an antique. The MVMT Legacy Slim Leather Strap Watch is an excellent example. It’s sleek and stylish, and it looks way nicer than a lot of the clunky smart watches on the market.


Dress shoes for important occasions

Another wardrobe staple, especially for someone who is going into an office, is a pair of solid pumps like the Kahmune Becky Pump. This particular style is available in a range of brown hues, but also consider different styles in colors like classic black, beige, or gray. Of course, if this sounds a little too boring, you can always gift your grad with a pair of colorful pumps, like bright pink or red, but if you’re hoping to help them build their professional wardrobe, a more neutral tone is probably best (at least for now – but keep a colorful pair in mind when their birthday rolls around).


Crystal weighted blanket to help them calm down

After a long, stressful day at work, all anyone wants to do is go home and chill out. Weighted blankets help a lot of people do just that. They’re also known to help improve a person’s sleep quality, which is a big deal for any adult. There are tons of options out there, depending on what size and style you like. I particularly like the Snug Crystal Weighted Blanket from Sunday Citizen. Unlike most weighted blankets, which are filled with glass beads or even grainy materials, this blanket is filled with thousands of pieces of Clear Quartz, Rose Quartz and Amethyst for natural healing energy.


Office essentials with a little magic

You can expect your new grad’s employer to provide them with a computer and maybe a few pens, but that’s about it. Setting up an office, especially if it’s a home office, takes time and materials, which is why a collection of office essentials makes for such a great college graduation gift. Pick up a really nice pen, a notebook (like this Black Girl Magic notebook), a pack of envelopes and stamps, thumb tacks, post-it notes, pens and pencils, and a stapler. This little kit will help them get their new office all set up, and will help them feel like they have it together (in this aspect, at least).


A coffee maker for easy mornings

If your new grad isn’t a coffee or tea drinker already, then chances are very high that they will convert once they have to start waking up at 6 AM on a daily basis. Help them ease into the new habit with a good coffee maker that is easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of cleanup. A Keurig is a good option, especially since it doesn’t take much skill to use, but really anything that will brew up a cup of caffeine in the morning will suffice. If you want to be extra nice, include some coffee with the gift.


A timeless gadget they’ll always appreciate

Helping a new grad stock up on adulthood essentials is certainly a nice thing to do, but if you’re looking for a gift that will make them feel a little more spoiled, you can’t go wrong with a Kitchenaid stand mixer. It’s a timeless kitchen gadget that will help them prepare everything from chocolate chip cookies to mashed potatoes to homemade bread (it’s actually kind of surprising how much you can make with this thing). Is it a tool that every kitchen needs? Probably not, but that doesn’t make it any less amazing. It’s a gift that’s worth the splurge.


The best WFH accessory

Since more and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home, a good college graduation gift could be something that helps them do their job from home comfortably and efficiently. As someone who likes to move around the house throughout the day as I work, I personally love this Home Office Lap Desk because it helps me stay organized, tilts the computer screen just right, and keeps the wrists supported. If your grad is more of a “sit in one place” kind of worker, consider getting them a really nice desk chair or a lamp with a built-in phone charger.


Clothing subscription box to get their professional wardrobe started

Right now, your new grad’s wardrobe probably consists of hoodies, sweats, and graphic t-shirts and while that’s definitely comfortable it’s not always practical in the workplace (even with a casual dress code). To help them build out a more adult wardrobe, gift them with a subscription to a clothing service, such as Stitch Fix. With a clothing subscription, they’ll get a bundle of clothes delivered right to their door that they can choose to either keep or rent (depending on the service). And, even if they’re working from home, this kind of gift is still a good way to help them develop a more “mature” style.

Remember, the best college graduation gifts from parents are the ones that make adulthood seem a little less scary. Sure, you could argue that providing your child with love and support all of these years is a gift in itself, but officially entering the “real world” is a big transition and it’s worth celebrating with a present.

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