It’s that time of year again: College seniors all over the country are preparing to graduate and begin the next chapter of their lives. As a result, loved ones are thinking long and hard about the perfect way to celebrate their grad’s major milestone. Whether you have a loved one who’s ready to move out and join the workforce, or one who’s taking some time to explore before settling down, we’ve rounded up some thoughtful college graduation gifts that any recent grad would appreciate.
Our Top Picks
- Best budget pick: Bentoheaven Premium Bento Box
- Best luxury pick: Apple iPad Pro
- Best for new apartments: Beast Health Blender
- Best for travel: Baboon To the Moon Going Places Set
Best college graduation gifts in 2023
Below, we compiled our favorite gift ideas for recent grads based on our past coverage and Select staff picks.
For any college grad looking to upgrade their coffee machine as they make their foray into the real world, associate updates editor Zoe Malin recommends Nespresso’s new Vertuo Pop+. The machine can make regular coffee, espresso and iced coffee, and it can brew five different serving sizes. Plus, it comes in seven fun colors and is the perfect, compact size for a post-grad apartment. You have to buy Nespresso pods to use the machine, but at about $1 per pod, they’re typically more affordable than a latte from the coffee shop.
If the recent grad in your life plans on getting a job right after college, help them get interview-ready with this sleek leather portfolio. It’s designed to hold a legal pad and includes pockets for a pen, business cards and other documents (like resumes). For an additional fee, you can add a personalized touch to the portfolio with a custom monogram.
Going from class schedules that involve mid-day breaks and free mornings to the routine of an office job can be incredibly challenging. The Hatch Restore 2 is a helpful addition to my morning routine thanks to its gradual sunrise feature that gently wakes me up without a blaring alarm. The unique sunrise alarm clock also has nightlight settings, plus a wide array of sleep sounds and guided stories to help you drift off. You can also build your sleep routine on the accompanying Hatch app, which connects to your clock via Bluetooth.
While every parent hopes that their college grad will get into the groove of grocery shopping and home-cooked meals right away, sometimes the thought of takeout will prevail. On those lazy nights, you can help the new grad in your life explore their local restaurants with a DoorDash gift card. With options ranging from $25 to $500, you can either treat them to a handful of meals or a larger supply for the long-term.
Baboon to the Moon is my all-time favorite luggage brand due to its wide array of unique colors and bag sizes for any type of trip, and it’s perfect for a recent grad looking for a new, sleek luggage set. The Going Places Set includes two sizes of the brand’s popular Go Bag: a 32L Mini (for 1-3 days-worth of clothing) and a 40L Small for (3-5 days-worth of clothing).
Apple’s iPad Pro can help keep your favorite grad organized post-college. With endless note-taking, budgeting and general life-planning apps to choose from, the iPad removes the need for the countless notebooks and planners your grad may have carried around in school. Paired with accessories like the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard, the iPad can transform into a full-fledged portable computer that keeps every element of your life in one, compact place.
Jiggy’s picturesque designs come from designers all over the world, including Seattle, Bali, and Dublin. You can choose between 450 and 800 pieces depending on how big of a challenge your grad might enjoy. Jiggy puzzles also come with puzzle glue and a straightedge to help them turn their design into permanent artwork for their post-college abode.
One of our favorite noise canceling headphones, this option by Sony can be useful if they’re working from home or spending a lot of time on the computer. They offer up to 30 hours of battery life with quick charging, and they have built-in Amazon Alexa for hands-free voice access to music and other features. They can also automatically pause music when they detect speech, according to Sony.
If your grad is moving to a new city and looking for ways to explore its offerings, Malin suggests helping them out with a ClassPass Membership, which lets you use credits to book workout classes, spa appointments and more. After a 14-day free trial that includes 43 credits, you can choose from five different membership tiers: $19/month for 8 credits, $29/month for 13 credits, $59/month for 28 credits, $79/month for 38 credits or $159/month for 80 credits.
This tool set can be great for putting together furniture and fixing things in their first apartment. The kit includes a screwdriver, a pair of long-nose pliers, a tape measure, a cutter, a hammer and more packaged in a vegan leather storage case. The case comes in several colors, including shades of blue and pink.
The Apple Watch Series 8, the newest version of the Apple Watch, is a great gift for active grads who like to track their metrics. The Series 8 is built with durable, crack-resistant crystal and is water resistant for up to 50 meters, according to Apple. It also provides new ways for users to receive important health insights, including temperature sensing for menstrual cycle tracking and a sensor that takes on-demand readings of your blood oxygen level.
This viral pan is a favorite among Select staffers and it’s designed to replace eight common kitchen essentials: the fry pan, saute pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, non-stick pan, spatula and spoon rest. Most twenty-somethings are wanting for space in their first apartments, making this pan a great graduation gift.
Your college grad can expand their candle collection with this 14-ounce soy candle from Homesick that smells like a combination of citrus, apple, pineapple and champagne grapes. It has a burn time of up to 80 hours. Plus, if they’re moving away post-college, you can add a personalized element by choosing a candle that reminds them of home, whether that's somewhere in the states or abroad.
This black leather wallet from popular luggage brand TUMI includes eight card slots, double bill compartments and two ID windows, making it a practical and investment-worthy gift for a new graduate. The wallet boasts TUMI’s ID Lock lining, a proprietary technology that can block electronic reading devices and prevent identity theft, according to the brand.
Malin noted that an AirTag has been the perfect way to keep track of the keys to her first post-grad apartment. If you’re shopping for a forgetful grad, you can buy a 1-pack for them to attach to their keychain, or a 4-pack to help them keep tabs on other important items like their work bag or wallet. They can easily see the locations of each AirTagged item using the Find My app on their iPhone.
Any college graduate who enjoys taking selfies and making TikToks will likely enjoy this comprehensive Ring Light Kit. In addition to the light and a stand, this kit provides color filters, a universal power adapter, a smart phone holder and more. The ring light can be dimmed anywhere between 0% to 100%, so they can control the brightness level during their shoots. If they end up getting a remote job, this kit is also great for video calls.
Stationery may not seem like the most exciting graduation gift, but it’s an underrated must-have for any young adult. Whether they’re writing thank-you notes after job interviews, or they forgot to pick up a birthday card for a friend, note cards will come in handy when your grad least expects it. This set from Papier comes in an array of colors and allows for a complimentary personalized touch. You can start at the minimum with a set of 10 or opt for long-term stock with a set of 250.
A bar cart is the perfect sophisticated accessory to any new apartment. This simple, modern option is one of Malin’s favorite purchases post-graduation. “The design feels so unique,” she said. “The black legs and glass shelves match so many different styles, so I know I can use this wherever I live.”
If there’s one thing you can count on virtually every new college grad needing, it’s a diploma frame — and Church Hill Classics makes it easy to give them a customized frame suited to their school. Once you select the school they attended, you can choose from several different frame styles. Former Select writer Justin Redman framed his diploma from Virginia Tech through Church Hill Classics and recommended the service.
College grads usually equally prioritize function and aesthetics. A great example is my Beast Health Blender, which has quickly become one of my favorite household items. Not only is its minimalistic design worthy of displaying on my countertop, but its 1000-watt motor and minute-long blending cycle produces a great texture for smoothies, sauces and soups without fail.
Many college students rely on their campus gyms to stay active, so when they graduate, they need new ways to get their workouts in. Of course, most grads also don’t have an extra room in their first post-grad apartment for a full gym setup, but a compact folding treadmill can transform their living room into a gym whenever they want to get a jog in. This model from Sunny Health & Fitness was previously recommended to us by trainer Anthony Crouchelli, who said that the shock absorption is “ideal for runners working to create a low impact on [their] joints from start to finish.”
This colored glassware set from Estelle is an apartment-warming gift that will mark a clear departure from red solo cups. You can select a six-piece set of a single color (ranging from mint green to butterscotch) or a pre-selected mix and match set. or You can also pick from all of the brand’s color choices to create a custom set of six for an additional $10.
While the transition out of college is an exciting time, it’s also one that comes with a lot of complicated emotions that new grads may need help processing. A curated journal, like this option from We’re Not Really Strangers, provides 365 pages of writing space with open-ended prompts to inspire self-reflection. It also includes a bookmark and a built-in envelope for tucking away keepsakes.
Plenty of things about adult life take some getting used to (like how much time you’ll spend washing dishes, for example). One of them is how expensive work-day lunches can be. If your recent grad is gearing up for an office job, help them ease into packing their own lunches with this compact yet versatile bento box. It’s microwave- and dishwasher-safe, comes with a set of utensils and has three separate compartments for food storage.