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Every spring, college seniors all over the country get ready to graduate and start the next chapter of their lives. Graduating from college is a big milestone, and many loved ones choose to commemorate and celebrate it with a gift for the new grad.
Some presents — like a KitchenAid blender or a Montblanc pen — are more pragmatic, while others like a Vrbo rental can help them unwind and experience new things. However you want to celebrate the graduate in your life, we’ve rounded up some thoughtful college graduation gifts at various price points using our previous reporting as guidance.
Thoughtful gifts for college graduates
Select editorial director Gideon Grudo previously noted the Nespresso VertuoPlus is “easy to use, easy to clean, compact and stylish” — a good option for a recent college grad looking to upgrade their coffee machine as they make the foray into adult life. The machine can make regular coffee and Italian espressos (with froth, to boot) at the touch of a button using Nespresso’s Vertuo line capsules, according to the brand. You have to buy Nespresso pods to use the machine, but at about $1 per pod, they are more affordable than a latte from the coffee shop.
If the recent college grad in your life plans on getting a job right after college, help them get ready for the inevitable onslaught of interviews with this sleek and stylish leather portfolio. It’s designed to hold a legal pad, plus includes pockets for a pen, business cards and other documents (like resumes). When they do join the working world, they can use the portfolio to carry around important meeting notes and documents. For an additional fee, you can add a personalized touch to the portfolio with a custom monogram.
Does the college grad in your life dream of seeing the world? Hotels.com, Expedia’s lodging-specific site, offers gift cards with amounts anywhere from $10 to $2,000 — and they never expire. You can send the gift card either via email or USPS mail, and for a personalized touch, you get to choose from various designs and messages.
Away’s suitcase is one of our favorite best carry-ons and will fit in most standard-size overhead bins. The brand offers two versions of its carry-on: Standard and Battery, the latter of which features a TSA-approved removable charger for your phone. The suitcase also includes a polycarbonate hard shell — one expert previously told us the material is more durable than softside suitcases — and 360-degree spinning wheels to run across the airport. For packing, the carry-on also comes with a hidden interior laundry bag. I personally own Away’s The Carry-On, and of the five suitcases my husband and I own, I find it’s the most versatile and reliable one.
This eco-friendly reusable notebook by Rocketbook can help keep a grad organized post-college. It includes 36 specialized pages that allow any writing using a Pilot Frixion pen, highlighter or marker to be erased using water and an included microfiber cloth. With the Rocketbook app, they can scan and save their notes to cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote.
To keep a grad on time for interviews, meetings and other important appointments, this stainless steel watch from Swiss brand Tissot will be timeless for years to come. It features three-hand quartz movement and a white Roman numeral dial. If you show proof of purchase at a Macy’s store, the company offers free watch sizing as well (otherwise there’s a $15 fee for this service).
The Apple Watch Series 7, the newest version of the Apple Watch, is a great gift option for active grads who like to track their metrics. According to Apple, the Series 7 is built with durable, crack-resistant crystal and boasts an IP6X rating and a WR50 water resistance rating for up to 50 meters. The watch has the same 18-hour battery life as the Series 6, but Apple says it charges 33 percent faster with a new USB-C cord.
Jiggy’s picturesque designs come from designers all over the world, from Seattle to Bali. You can choose between 450 and 800 pieces depending on how big of a challenge your graduate might enjoy. After putting together the design, they may want to frame it to hang in their post-college abode — and they can. Jiggy puzzles come with puzzle glue and a straight edge tool to help evenly distribute it.
One of the best active noise cancelling headphones, this option by Sony can be useful if they’re working from home or spending a lot of time on the computer. According to tech expert Whitson Gordon, these headphones “cancel out more noise than most of the competition” and include up to 30 hours of battery life with quick charging. They also have built-in Amazon Alexa for hands-free voice access to music and other features, and can automatically pause music when they detect speech, according to Sony.
If your grad is looking for a more mature style upgrade after college, this personalized styling service can help them build up a brand new wardrobe. It doesn’t require a subscription — they can take a quiz that creates a style profile based on their taste, price range and fit, which connects them to a personal stylist. They’ll then get several curated clothing items sent to them, along with a list of prices. Anything that they don’t like or want can be shipped back for free.
Great for putting together furniture and fixing things in the first apartment, this tool set comes with a few essentials in a vegan leather case. The kit includes a screwdriver, a pair of long-nose pliers, a tape measure, a cutter, a hammer and more. The case comes in several colors, including several shades of blue and pink.
Select writer (and current college student) Kala Herh called the Always Pan the “best all-in-one cookware upgrade” — after she purchased hers, she said she threw out all the other pans in her kitchen. This internet-famous pan is 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 option.
Your college grad can expand their candle collection with this appropriately branded 14-ounce soy candle from Homesick Candles that smells like a combination of citrus, apple, pineapple and champagne grapes and has a burn time of up to 80 hours, according to the brand. 1-800-Flowers, a Select reader favorite retailer, bundled the candle with a pack of Dom Pérignon-infused gummies from Sugarfina, a popular candy brand we also recommended in our guide to Valentine’s Day candy gifts.
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 the brand says will help block electronic reading devices and prevent identity theft.
This bag from Lo & Sons is marketed as an overnight travel bag, but with a special laptop compartment and a side pocket for an extra pair of shoes or a change of clothes, it’s the kind of do-it-all bag that you can take to work, to the gym and beyond. According to the brand, the bag has a padded messenger strap for comfort and a water-resistant nylon exterior. If you’re looking to gift your grad a bag more specific for travel, Lo & Sons also makes one of our favorite weekender bags.
Immersed in an increasingly creative world that entertains more and more through the self-captured slices of life, a user-friendly and high-quality drone that equips both photo and video capture could help set them up for success. DJI’s Air 2S improved on its video capture and sensing abilities to help ensure smoother takes and sharper images, according to the brand. Alongside smart automations and AI-enabled video capture, this substantial gift will go a long way in helping a grad practice their creativity in the real world.
Any college graduate who enjoys taking selfies and making TikToks will likely enjoy this Ring Light Kit, which includes an LED ring light, a light stand, a white and orange color filter set, a hot shoe adapter, a universal power adapter, a smart phone holder and a carrying case. The ring light can be dimmed anywhere from 0 to 100 percent so they can control the brightness during their shoots, the brand says. If they end up getting a remote job, this Ring Light Kit is also great for Zoom calls.
Not everyone will appreciate a fountain pen as a graduation gift, to be sure, but if they take pleasure in planners, notebooks and all things stationery, then the LAMY AL-star Fountain Pen should put a smile on their face. German pen manufacturer LAMY is known for its fancy fountain pens, and the aluminum-bodied AL-star model features an ergonomic, transparent plastic grip and a fine steel nib. As a pen aficionado, I consider this one of my favorite ballpoints and a worthwhile investment.
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 gift them a customized frame suited to their school and style: Once you select the university they attended, you can choose from several different frame styles. Select writer Justin Redman framed his diploma from Virginia Tech through Church Hill Classics and recommended the service.
A countertop dishwasher might be an unusual graduation gift, but as someone who went years handwashing everything, I can say that it’s one many people would appreciate. This model from Danby comes with eight different wash settings and all you need to do to install it is hook it up to a tap in your kitchen, according to the brand.
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.”