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Top College Graduation Gift Ideas

By Melissa Green | Citizens Bank Staff

Congratulations! Thanks to all of your love and support, your child will soon be receiving their diploma and transitioning into the next phase of life. Whether you’re already mentally designing your new workout room or having a little more trouble letting go, you’ll want your graduate to be prepared for their next steps.

Here are a few ideas for college graduation gift ideas from parents that your grad will actually use and appreciate.

Money — with a purpose

Cash is still king, and as much as your graduate will appreciate it, it may feel impersonal to you. You could gift them money for a specific need they’ll have in their newfound adulthood. For instance, taking care of a licensing fee or helping them with housing is extremely thoughtful and practical. Here are a few more examples of how your child could spend their graduation money:

  • Exams or certifications
  • First and last month’s rent for their new apartment
  • Down payment assistance on a starter home
  • A deposit on a car

Keep in mind that millennials spend money differently than previous generations. Instead of giving  cash or a check, you may want to use Zelle® to send monetary donations1. And if your grad is moving away, you’ll want to make sure they have a way to access money safely and quickly.

Professional wardrobe

“I’d love my parents to happily repay my student loans, but since I’m a realist, some work clothes would be clutch.” Brianna, MS in Early Childhood Education

Depending on your graduate’s field, sweat pants and t-shirts might not cut it anymore. Building a professional wardrobe takes time, but it doesn’t have to take a huge amount of money. For example, you can find great deals when you shop offseason.  

Additionally, you can help your grad transition their wardrobe by gifting them a clothing subscription service. Companies like Le Tote, Inc. or Rent the Runway, Inc. allow you to rent designer clothes and purchase the items you love.  

Books that motivate

“I was underwhelmed when I got Financial Peace University as a gift, but it ended up being a really helpful book.” Antoine, BS in Computer Science

Your student may not want to look at another book for a while, but a thoughtful piece of literature can be a great gift. Although we owe Dr. Seuss so much, maybe skip Oh, The Places You’ll Go this year. Think of books that have helped or influenced your own life. If they’ll be living on their own, a budgeting and finance book would be helpful. Consider audio and ebooks as well if your student isn’t into turning pages.

An experience

“Spring break trips weren’t possible for me during college, so when I graduated my dad bought me a trip to Mexico!” Chris, BS in Criminal Justice

If your graduate is the type who values experiences over things, lean into that knowledge when choosing a gift. If gifting your child a vacation sounds out of reach, it doesn’t have to be. Check out these budget travel tips and tricks.

You can also gift experiences in other ways:

  • Concert tickets
  • Graduation party
  • Spa day
  • Tattoo

What to remember

If you ask your senior what they want as a graduation gift, 99% of the time they’ll say money, a car or a trip — but is that what they really want? Yes, probably. But it may not necessarily be what they need. Gifting your child something that will serve them into adulthood is a gift that keeps on giving.

More information

Relatives and loved ones may also want to make a congratulatory donation to your graduate. Zelle makes sending money fast, easy, and safe.

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