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The best college graduation gifts of 2019

The best college graduation gifts of 2019


The best college graduation gifts of 2019


— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY’s newsroom and any business incentives.

Every May, college seniors prepare to say goodbye to school and hello to adulthood. Even if grads have something planned, their life for the first time is a blank slate. It can be exciting, sad, happy, scary, and bittersweet.

If you know someone graduating in the class of 2018, help them adjust to the real world with a gift they’ll actually use. Of course, you can always give grads money, but one of these gifts would make a thoughtful addition to a check or a great replacement to a wad of cash all together. Whether you give a grad a book to help them with their finances, clothes to help them build their professional wardrobe, or a laptop to help them leave their used college devices behind, all will be appreciated.

Here are 16 gift ideas for the new college graduate in your life.

1. A nice watch

Watches for some reason symbolize adulthood. This might be because time isn’t really a thing until you graduate from college and life starts going by really quickly and you realize you need to make the most of every second. That’s why you should get your grad a watch, to remind them of this sad-but-true fact of life. MVMT watches are popular right now and a great price. If you’re not looking to splurge, but don’t want to be cheap, these watches are a great option for both young women and men.

For men:
Buy the MVMT Leather Strap Watch for $120 from Nordstrom

For women:
Buy the MVMT Boulevard Leather Strap Watch for $115 from Nordstrom

2. A new laptop

After four years of school, a laptop has gone through a lot. With the amount of wear and tear put on a computer during college, it might be time for a new computer when you graduate. Help your grad out with a new laptop. Our laptop editor suggests the Google Pixelbook for recent grads. While Chromebooks are great for college, they are great for life after college too—and the Pixelbook is the best Chromebook we’ve ever seen.

Buy the Google Pixelbook for $1,539.99 on Amazon

3. An upgrade from the red solo cup

Once you graduate from college, you have to say goodbye to the red solo cup. Okay, I’m half kidding. I grew up with three brothers and my mom definitely bought the 250-pack of red solo cups regularly so she wouldn’t have to do dishes more often than 24-7. But when it comes to drinking alcohol in the real world, you need to class it up. Not ready to bid farewell to your beloved cup? Try a copper version. Known as “The Party Cup,” you can use it to continue the party into the real world with a touch of class. 

Buy Fred The Copper Party Cup for $16 on Amazon

4. A professional wardrobe

Depending on where you work, it’s likely you can’t wear yoga pants and sweatshirts in the office every day. Wardrobes certainly need upgrading when you go from being a college student to a working professional–and spicing up your closet can get pricey. Help your grad transition their wardrobe. You can always take them shopping or give them a gift card, but for the ladies, you could give them the gift of an unlimited designer wardrobe. Rent the Runway’s unlimited subscription lets you rent three designer pieces at a time with free shipping, dry cleaning, and insurance. You can cancel it any time. I have been using Unlimited for over a year and I love it. Read my review of the service here.

Get the first month of Rent the Runway Unlimited for $99 (after it is $159/month)

5. Nice weekend bag

Whether your grad is moving back home or moving to a new place, they’re most likely going to be on-the-go. Whether it’s a weekend away to visit college friends, a work trip, or a night away from the ‘rents, an overnight bag is necessary. Of course you can splurge on fancy suitcases and leather luggage, but here are two great, affordable options for both men and women.

For women:
Buy the Sole Society’s ‘Cassidy’ Faux Leather Duffel Bag for $69.95 at Nordstrom

For men:
Buy the Herschel Supply Co. Novel Duffle Bag for $70 on Amazon

6. Business card holder

Whether you have your own business cards or you’re collecting business cards from others (or both!), you need somewhere to store them. That’s where a business card holder comes in handy. There are lots of cheap options out there, but this cute Kate Spade holder is perfect for the trendy grad ready to take on the working world.

Buy the Kate Spade “Let’s Do Lunch” Business Card Holder for $20 on Amazon

7. The Amazon Echo

Recent grads are likely to become someone else’s assistant, so give them the gift of their own (digital) assistant. They can ask Alexa, the voice inside the device, anything from what the weather forecast is to how old Ariana Grande is. Bonus: it plays music when asked. But that’s not all the smart device does. Read our list of EVERYTHING that works with Echo and Alexa to see what else it’s capable of.

Buy the Amazon Echo for $84.99 on Amazon

8. A coffee maker

Coffee is essential to getting through the work day, but it can get pretty expensive going to Starbucks every day (believe me, you don’t want to know how much money I’ve spent at coffee shops in the last month never mind the last seven years since I graduated). If you want to get them more than just a Keurig, give your grad the gift of an espresso machine. With the Nespresso, they can pretend they’re still studying abroad while drinking the finest and strongest of coffee. Really, it’s that great. It won our Best Overall award when we tested espresso machines this year.

Buy the Nespresso CitiZ Espresso Machine for $160.96 on Amazon

9. Camera (that’s not a smartphone)

If your grad is looking for a “serious” camera to capture their new adult life, look no further than the Panasonic Lumix LX100. This is the perfect gift for creative people who might feel trapped in their new cubicles. They can use the camera to upgrade their Instagram page or maybe even to start a career as a photographer. Who knows!

Buy the Panasonic Lumix LX100 for $597.99 on Amazon

10. A gym membership

Most college students can go to the gym for free. In other words, it’s included in tuition. But when you stop paying for college, there’s no longer a gym to go to or fitness classes to attend for free – and that stuff gets expensive. If you’re not sure what they want to do and where they want to do it, try getting your grad a ClassPass membership. With ClassPass, members can take up to 10 classes per month at different fitness studios in their area. Check the ClassPass website to see if it’s available where your grad lives.

Buy a ClassPass Membership for $40/month – $120/month on ClassPass

11. A new suitcase

If there’s one thing you need in the real world, it’s a carry-on you can trust. Whether they’re going to have to travel for work or play (or trips home to see family), a good carry-on is necessary. Away luggage is both trendy and useful. We tested their checked luggage and loved it. People seem to love their carry-on suitcases just as much.

Buy the Away suitcase for $225 on Away

12. An Instant Pot

Part of entering the real world is doing things on your own. One of those things: cooking meals instead of always relying on the dining hall or takeout. Instead of letting a recent grad buy a bunch of small kitchen appliances for their new home, give them a device that does it all. Meet: The Instant Pot. It’s a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and more. It honestly does everything. If there’s only room for one small appliance in a recent grad’s new kitchen, make it this one.

Buy the Instant Pot for $99.95 on Amazon

13. Books!

Adjusting to life after college is hard. Your grad might feel lost, confused, and unprepared. Get them a book that will make them laugh, learn, and feel less alone as they try to figure the world out. Here are some great options:

*Oh, The Sh!t You Don’t Know!: College Graduation Edition by Antonio Carter
Buy for $13.49 on Amazon

*Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
Buy for $9.19 on Amazon

*Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry
Buy for $10.40 on Amazon

*The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money by Chelsea Fagan
Buy for $12.35 on Amazon

14. A nice wallet

In the real world, you have credit cards, healthcare cards, loyalty cards, and the best one – money. A recent grad may not be used to having all of these things (especially money), so get them a place to store it all. For the guy who always carries around a wallet or should be, get him a nice one. This Ted Baker London wallet is a great option.

Buy the Ted Baker London Splitz Leather Wallet for $95 on Nordstrom

15. Jewelry

When it comes to gifts for women, jewelry can be a cliché option. But when it marks a momentous event such as college graduation, it’s totally worth it. If you don’t want to splurge on fancy pearls or a diamond necklace, this popular Kate Spade initial necklace is a great pick. The initial gives it a personal touch and it goes with anything – work outfits and weekend outfits. Remember to pick the right initial character before you add to cart!

Buy the Kate Spade New York ‘one in a million’ initial pendant necklace for $58 on Amazon

16. Money

What do adults want? Money. When do they want it? Always. Now that your grad is officially in the real world, they’re going to want money. If you don’t want to give them cash, get them a gift card. Amazon is a safe option because they have everything – including this adorable gift card box shaped as a graduation cap.

Buy the Amazon Gift Card In Graduation Cap Box on Amazon

Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.

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