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17 best college graduation gifts in 2021

Help the recent grad in your life celebrate this momentous occasion with these thoughtful and functional college graduation gifts.
College graduates standing together while clapping their hands on graduation day outside during the day
Whether they want to travel or are moving into their first adult apartment, this list of college graduation gifts has something for every type of grad.gradyreese / Getty Images

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Though this school year has been anything but ordinary for most students, seniors all over the country are still getting ready to graduate (either remotely or in person) and start the next chapter of their lives. Some people still might not feel comfortable throwing a party to celebrate this milestone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a gift to commemorate the momentous occasion. Some presents — like a KitchenAid blender or a Montblanc pen — are more pragmatic, while others like a Vrbo rental can help them unwind and make new memories before they might need to settle down and start working. However you want to celebrate the graduate in your life, we’ve rounded up some thoughtful college graduation gifts at various price points.

Thoughtful gifts for college graduates

Nespresso VertuoPlus

Shopping editorial director Gideon Grudo previously noted the Nespresso VertuoPlus is “easy to use, easy to clean, compact and stylish” — perfect 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. 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.

Mark & Graham Leather Portfolio

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 $12, you can add a personalized touch to the portfolio with a custom monogram.

Hotels.com Gift Card

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 The Carry-On

Away’s suitcase is one of the best carry-ons and will fit in most standard-size overhead bins. The brand offers two versions of its carry-on: Standard and Battery, 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 was 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.

Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook

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.

Tissot Women’s Swiss Classic Dream Stainless Steel Watch

To keep a grad on time for interviews, meetings and other important appointments, this stainless steel watch from well-known 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).

Apple Watch

Currently, Apple is selling three versions of the Apple Watch, with the Series 6 being the latest technology to help your college grad enhance their fitness routine by measuring their movements. Apple claims its device is water-resistant up to 50 meters or 164 feet, which is particularly appealing for new college grads who enjoy swimming, surfing and other water activities. The brand also introduced Fitness+, a premium streaming service with access to 10 types of workout classes, ranging from yoga and HITT to dance and cycling.

Jiggy Puzzle

For the college graduate who enjoys the challenge of putting together a puzzle, you may want to consider a Jiggy Puzzle. 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 the graduate might enjoy. After putting together the design, they may want to frame it to hang their post-college abode — and they can. Jiggy puzzles come with puzzle glue and a straight edge tool to help evenly distribute it.

Sony XM4 ANC Headphones

One of the best active noise cancelling headphones, this option by Sony can be a useful tool if a grad is working from home or spends 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.

Stitch Fix

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.

Pottery Barn Mini Travel Tool Set

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. You can choose between four colors for the case: Red, Fuchsia, Orange and Pink.

Our Place Always Pan

Shopping contributor (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. And most twenty-somethings are wanting for space in their first apartments, making this pan a great graduation gift option.

Let’s Toast Homesick Candle With Sugarfina Gummies

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 Shopping reader favorite retailer, bundled the candle with a pack of Dom Pérignon-infused gummies from Sugarfina, a popular candy brand.

TUMI Delta Global ID Lock Shielded Removable Passcase ID Wallet

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 claims will help block electronic reading devices and prevent identity theft.

Dagne Dover Signature Tote

As the world returns to normal, the graduate in your life will increasingly move about locally and otherwise. A function-first and high form tote like Dagne Dover’s will allow for a stylish and tech-aligned bag for their wares. Designed to fit most 13-inch laptops — and sporting a magnetic closure for them — the adjustable bag can be used as a crossbody, too. Various internal compartments and a high quality set of materials will help keep it in shape through the years.

DJI Air 2S

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 recent launch of the Air 2S improved on its video capture and sensing abilities to help ensure smoother takes and sharper images. 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.

Neewer Ring Light Kit

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. If they end up getting a remote job, this Ring Light Kit is also great for Zoom calls.

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