57 Best Graduation Gift Ideas for Friends (2024)


Meaningful gift ideas are right up our alley, so this list of graduation gifts ideas for friends includes ideas from sentimental all the way to super useful.

We teach at a university. This means we hear about the very best and worst gift ideas for both high school and college graduates. We hope this helps you find the perfect graduation gift for a special friend. Check out our list of graduation gifts for guys or 8th grad graduation gifts if you don’t find what you’re looking for below.

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Gift Cards

Both high school and college grads typically need money as they transition to the next phase of life. These gift card ideas make for a thoughtful gift and help young adults who often don’t have a major income stream. We also have a list of 50 great gift card ideas for teens if you need other ideas.

I stole this idea from a family member who called me wanting to know the name of a popular local coffee shop or restaurant in my hometown. She was tracking down gift cards to local favorites in the towns where her daughter’s best friends were heading to college. This might become my go-to idea. It’s personalized and super useful.

Facebook group with gift ideas for tween and teen boys and good deals on gifts

Music-streaming service Spotify gives college students an amazing deal at $4.99 a month for both Spotify and partner Hulu. They can stream music and shows from anywhere on all kinds of devices. With a gift card, students can also upgrade to a premium plan to ditch ads or add HBO so they can keep up on Game of Thrones.

Some grads may stay on their parents’ Netflix plan, but you run out of devices quickly with the whole family sharing. With their own Netflix plan, grads can get their own five devices and switch between phones/tablets/laptops. They can even share with a roommate to start the year off on friendly terms. You can buy gifts cards online for email delivery or as physical gift cards.

You can just give an Amazon gift card, or you could give a gift card as a way to give an Amazon Prime subscription. I mean, you’re officially an adult when you have your own Amazon Prime account. Plus, it’s kind of hard to get mom’s birthday present delivered to campus when she can track all of your purchases. Many college campuses have locations where students can pick up packages to ensure they get it safely.

Plus Amazon has some really solid original content that teens love on its streaming service.

TIP: Amazon gives students a free 6-month trial through Prime Student with a .edu email address and then discounts membership after the first 6 months. So give an Amazon gift card with a note about Prime and let students set it up on their own to maximize the freebies.

It might be time to add a nice suit jacket or quality dress pants to the wardrobe for internships and jobs.

Dorm Room Gifts

High school graduates who are heading off to college need (and might want) a few things to make their dorm rooms feel like home. The small space is tricky, but these gifts will definitely help your grad settle in to their new digs.

For coffee, tea or hot chocolate drinkers, a small Keurig is a fun addition to a dorm room.

If they’re always cold – or happen to get placed in a dorm that’s freezing – this blanket will be a lifesaver.

College women love to decorate with tapestries and prints, and lots of them turn to Etsy to find the perfect thing. Grab an Etsy gift card and tell the grad you’d love for them to use it to pick out some dorm room wall décor.

Give a new grad a nice new set of towels as they set out to live on their own for the first time. You can also grab and extra 12-pack of washcloths!

I teach on a college campus, and I see students carrying these everywhere I go. The Stanley Quencher (40 oz) is crazy popular right now. It comes in 30 colors and liquid stays cold for up to 11 hours.

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)

My teen has these and loves them - they're a little smaller than the original AirPods but less expensive than AirPods Pro.

Sweat and water resistant, up to 30 hours of battery life.

Buy from Amazon.com

Most teens have headphones, but it might be time for an upgrade or a replacement if it’s been a few years of solid use. Airpods (3rd generation) are ideal for wireless headphones because they have a feature that allows some background noise for safety as students walk across campus. They also have “noise cancelling” mode for study time. They’re also waterproof which is great for working out or rainy days.

We fully acknowledge the sticker shock of the Airpods Max – the price point is higher than other over-ear headphones for sure. BUT the students in our college classes if they’re worth it because so many of them have these headphones, and their answer is a resounding “YES.” The ear pad covers magnetize to the headphones, so they take them off and throw them in with a load of laundry to remove makeup and sweat. The sound quality and noise canceling features are top quality. And they sync seamlessly with Apple iPhones, iPads and laptops. This would be a “wow” gift from parents or grandparents to a grad. It’s also a great group gift if you have multiple family members or friends chipping in (some friends and I did this and the grad was beside herself).

Our FAVORITE portable speaker! The sound is incredible and it’s waterproof. You can’t go wrong with JBL. These small but powerful speakers are perfect for streaming music in the dorm room and then taking with for a study session on the college green. The newest feature allows you to connect to other speakers.

No need to worry about dry skin with this cool mist humidifier. The extra moisture in the air – especially when they’re sleeping – will be a welcome comfort.

Nothing makes a room feel more cozy than a truly amazing blanket. Saranoni is my very favorite blanket company when you’re looking to spend a bit more on a quality blanket.

We gave this Beddy’s zipper-bedding set to a niece for her high school graduation and she reported back that everyone in her dorm wanted one. This is a pricey gift reserved for a special grad, but these are pretty amazing. Bonus if a student has a lofted bed. 

Check out the Beddy’s college student page for fabric options and videos on how the bedding works. Their twin sets fit regular and XL twin beds, so it’s a great investment even for kids who aren’t quite ready for college yet.

Sentimental Gifts

If you’re on the hunt for a special graduation gift to show a friend how much you care, a sentimental gift might be a good idea.

A photo album with favorite photos is a gift grads will cherish. Mixbook makes it easy to organize and print memories into a beautifully bound book.

Buy the graduation cap and a mason jar and fill with dollar bills or a gift card or an encouraging note. Note that the jar does NOT come with this Etsy purchase

Maybe the best sentimental graduation gift is a special frame with a favorite photo or a quote that reminds the grad of a favorite inside joke.

Blankets made from old T-shirts are a favorite graduation gift in our area. I’ve been saving my kids’ sports, school and camp shirts for years with the plan to have someone help me create a T-shirt memory quilt when they graduate. Find someone local, or use an Etsy retailer.

A nice or more personalized piece of jewelry, like a birthstone necklace from Kendra Scott, makes a great graduation gift.

Consider gifting a designer purse from a favorite brand to a friend heading into the professional world.

Etsy has some really amazing personalized cards. You can choose hair style, colors and more.

Alma Mater Gifts

For high school grads heading to college, gifts that help them embrace and celebrate their new school are really fun. Certain alma mater gifts like diploma frames or wall art can also make great gifts for college grads heading toward a job.

This is easy for grads who went to a big school, but it’s very possible for smaller schools as well. Check college bookstores or do some research on local shops and artists near the college town.

Gear from hundreds of NCAA schools - big and small!
Buy from Fanatics.com

Grads need to start stocking up on apparel and other gear to support their new school. This also applies to grads entering the military.

Finding apparel for larger schools shouldn’t be an issue, but even smaller schools usually sell items online if you hunt down their bookstore. Fanatics is our go-to shop for college gear – smaller schools included! The list of options is insanely large.

I’m using a mug with my college logo on it right now, and I graduated more than 20 years ago. I think that qualifies as a great gift.

I gave a close family friend a carryon suitcase with a luggage tag from his university as a high school graduation gift. I ordered the tag from the college bookstore website.

I ordered laptop stickers for a family member heading to Elon University and included them with a gift card to personalize her high school graduation gift. Redbubble is our go-to for stickers, and it supports independent artists.

New Apartment Gifts

Even though this might not be their first apartment, it’s their first apartment as a “real” adult. Time to upgrade from college living.

A nice new pair of sheets means fewer visits to the laundry facility and a better night’s sleep now that grads are likely working full-time.

This apartment might be home for more than a few months, so you can add a few more helpful items to the kitchen.

These Etsy prints are super cool, and a great way to celebrate the city where a new grad is starting their new life.

Order this “Pairs Well With a New Apartment” label on Etsy and stick it on a decent bottle of wine for a fun and personal housewarming/graduation gift.

The Nutribullet is perfect for shakes and smoothies. Whip something up on the way to work or for a pick-me-up after a trip to the gym.

Self Care Gifts

Graduates face an exciting but stressful life transition. Gifts that help them lower stress and build confidence come at just the right time.

One of our athletes has this exact massage gun and loves it! The battery life is impressive and the massage gun leaves her feeling a lot less sore after hard lifts or workouts.

Headspace App

We love the daily mindfulness activities to reduce stress and remind our boys to relax. Headspace also has features to help them get better sleep.

Try Headspace For Free
KindNotes Jar

A glass keepsake jar filled with positive thoughts.

Buy from Amazon.com

Ulta is full of spa products, but I have a lot of friends who feel a little better just by walking in to look around so a gift card could have multiple benefits.

Useful Gifts

I’m a sucker for a practical gift, and new grads often have a whole host of new “needs.”

Laptop Backpack

This comes in several different colors as well.

Buy from Amazon.com

Looking for a really cute and trendy backpack for a girl who’s headed off to college? I asked my students for help on this list of college backpacks for girls.

Luggage is a favorite useful graduation gift because it’s useful for years. We asked a travel planning friend to review the best luggage for teens, and her top luggage picks are now our go-to gifts.

Apple Pencil (2nd Generation)

For students who truly use their iPad for homework and other tasks, the Apple pencil will make their work quicker and easier and unlock a whole lot of new potential on the iPad. I can't believe the things I've seen my students do in my college classrooms with an iPad and an Apple pen.

Buy from Amazon.com

For students who truly use their iPad for homework and other tasks, the Apple pencil will make their work quicker and easier and unlock a whole lot of new potential on the iPad. I can’t believe the things I’ve seen my students do in my college classrooms with an iPad and an Apple pen.

Yep – digital cameras are very popular right now.

One of our favorite teens owns this charger and loves it. It’s a great size and it charges fast.

For grads who care about the environment and sustainable products, a Pela phone case card holder is the perfect gift. Check out the company for tons of great designs on phone products.

Laptop Sleeve

This sleeve comes in 34 different colors and different sizes to fit different laptops.

Buy from Amazon.com
Canva Pro

Canva Pro is a fantastic resource for school assignments like presentations, infographics and videos. 

Try Canva Pro For Free

There’s not a super way to gift Canva Pro, and you should understand that Canva Pro requires a recurring charge. So you could give money with a certificate (created in the free version of Canva if you like) that notes you would like to pay for several months of Canva Pro. The grad can then decide whether the extra fee for Pro is worth it. Many of our students and recent grads would tell you it is.

It may not feel like the most exciting gift ever, but it will be a lifesaver. This Apollo Tools 135-piece Tool Kit donates to breast cancer research (I still have – and use – the pink tool set I got for graduation).

If your grad won’t go for pink, try this Vastar 102-piece Tool Kit.

Facebook group with gift ideas for tween and teen girls

We’re pretty sure college students will never stop bringing laundry home–it’s free!–so laundry bags are always a practical gift idea. We saw these at Cute as a Button and were surprised by how large they were. Monogram them in school colors for a more personal gift! You can shop local at this boutique gift store in Powell, Ohio, and save on shipping. You can also order online from Mainstreet Collection.

Fun Graduation Gift Ideas

Graduation is a time for celebration. These gifts add to the festivities.

We’re all about experience gifts, and a trip tops that list if timing and finances make it possible. Starting college or a new post-grad job means time will be limited, so sneak in either a quick or an epic trip before they move on to their next chapter.

We also have lots of other great experience gift ideas that aren’t quite as pricey as a trip.

Laptop/Water Bottle Stickers

If you know their favorite…well, anything, you’re guaranteed to find it on a sticker from Redbubble. Seriously. Everything from sports and music to anime and pop culture.

Buy from Redbubble.com

We stand at the front of our classrooms staring at a sea of laptops covered in stickers that tell us who our students are and want to be. Quotes from favorite shows, logos of favorite companies, funny quips or motivating mantras.

We already mentioned Redbubble as a place to get college gear, but it pulls designs from independent artists, so it’s our students’ favorite place to browse for unique laptop stickers. Adding the perfect laptop sticker to your gift shows you really know your grad. Etsy also has a great selection, including personalized stickers.

Grads can host dorm room and apartment game nights to start building friendships and laugh away some of the stress of their new responsibilities. Here are a couple ideas, or you can scan our larger list of the Best Board Games for Teens.

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