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Ideas for the Grads in Your Life

It’s that time of the year….no, not wedding season. Or vacation planning season (well, it’s always vacation planning season, right?). It’s graduation party season.

Something I’ve come to learn over the last few years as my own kids grow older and befriend many a high school grad: we get invited to an amazing amount of grad parties.

And even if I don’t know the grad very well? I probably have met them a few times (and love them all). I want to do something for everyone. At the same time, I’m hoping to lay a foundation in my own kids that it’s kind of proper to bring something to any party instead of showing up to eat their *free* food and leave without a thought. (*author’s note: I’ve been told that “plenty of kids show up to grad parties empty-handed” and maybe I’m old school, but I just think you gotta come with something.)


Whether you know one grad or fifteen, this grad gift guide can help you meaningfully bless your grads without emptying your wallet.


1. Show Me The Money

First you have the high school graduates that you know well. Nieces, nephews, your own kids, their very close friends. You have a good idea what they like, and you can cater your gift to them based on those interests. You feel comfortable splurging a little bit maybe with a gift card, cash, or check (yes, some people do still write checks).

A fun tip on amount from one mom friend: write the check in the amount of the graduation year. For example, this year 2018, the check would be for $20.18.


2. Lights, Camera, Action – Say Cheese!

Still thinking of those grads you know, choose your favorite photo from your phone and have it printed. Pop that picture in a frame and include that as part of your gift. Something for them to take with them and place in their dorm room.

Think of other things that they might need to decorate their room. I spent the last 20 years as an alumnae advisor for a sorority at the college a few blocks from my house. Today’s collegiate loves strings of lights to decorate their room, and cute photo collage areas for their walls. Or go practical with a mini fan, a book light, or a shower caddy with fun scented soaps and shampoos.


3. You’ve Got Mail

This idea is one of my favorites, and it comes from one of my best friends. I’m not sure if there’s an official name for it, so I call it the College Snail Mail Promise.

In your card to the graduate, include a questionnaire that they either fill out and return to you before they leave for college in the fall or email back to you. Answers to questions about their hobbies, interests, favorite snack foods, dietary restrictions, etc.

Then a week or so after the graduate-turned-college-freshman (or new hire if they opted for jumping into the work force) is settled, they receive a package from the gift-giver, maybe with baked goods specified in the questionnaire, items related to their interests. Something to remind them that someone other than Mom or Dad are thinking of them while they make their transition from high school to college or the working world.


4. How Sweet (and sweet and sweet) It Is!

One of the creative gifts I’ve seen at a grad party was a poster board that held a special oversized letter for the graduate, using the grad’s favorite candy bars as some of the words in the letter. You just tape the candy bars right onto the giant letter. You can have fun creating your own letter, or you can use something like this from Pinterest:

5. Java Jolt

For those grads who you don’t know as well, but you still want to give them something: What I’ve settled on is a cute grad card with a coffee gift card inside for $5.00. Something small yet still….something. Most coffee places have a variety of not just coffee but tea and juice drinks. And snacks. I figure everyone can find something there to get them through a power-study session.


6. Write A Letter

Want to make sure you hear from your grad from time to time? Make sure they have all the supplies necessary to make it happen. Maybe a letter-sized box filled with fun stationery, envelopes, stickers, pens, and stamps. Sure we all love texting and email these days, but who doesn’t love to receive – and send – an old fashioned letter?


If you try any of these ideas or have any of your own, I’d love to hear about it! At last count, we have about 13 invites to grad parties this year and I could always use new ideas! Email me at and happy grad party season to you and yours!

The River

Author The River

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