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The 35 best graduation gifts that are just as smart as they are

 

CNN

Being handed a diploma signifies the passage of a major life stage. And no matter which milestone it may be, and whether the graduate is 17, 22, 35 or 57, a celebration is absolutely called for. So you’ll want to pick out a unique graduation gift to help them usher in the next chapter of their lives.

From purposeful to sentimental and sparkly and under-$20 treasures, you’ll find exactly the right graduation gift for every 2022 grad you know.

Graduation gifts for high school grads

Class Year Personalized Socks

$19.99 $11.99 at Personalization Mall

The excitement of high school graduation is as much about where you’re going as where you’ve been. Show them you’re as excited about their fall destination as they are with crew socks customized with their next alma mater, class year and name. They come in 15 colors.

Mark & Graham Shower Tote

$17.99 at Mark & Graham

Mark & Graham Shower Tote

An essential that first-time dorm dwellers often forget is a shower caddy.  After all, they won’t be able to just leave all their toiletries in the bathroom anymore. All those necessities fit into this custom embroidered, snappy striped tote and its mesh pockets.

Hatch Restore

$129.99 at Amazon

Rachel Lubitz/CNN

Yes, their phone is their alarm, but consider this the gift they didn’t know they wanted. Rather than a rude awakening, Hatch escorts them gently awake with a faux sunrise. It can be set to white noise and soothing sounds as well, plus several other light options, like a just-right glow for night time studying that won’t bother roommates.

Popdarts Original Game Set

$31.99 at Amazon

Popdarts Original Game Set

Popdarts are suction darts that stick to anything smooth, and come off with a satisfying PAH-PPP. They can be played indoors or out, but either way, they don’t damage surfaces, so they won’t have issues with the RA.

Celestial Sun Light Sculpture

$34 at Urban Outfitters

Celestial Sun Light Sculpture

Move-in day dorm room snaps will be all over Instagram. Help theirs stand out with this twinkling sun. It works on batteries, so they can hang it anywhere they like, regardless of where an outlet is. Are they not really a morning person? They have a moon too.

‘Goodnight Dorm’ by Samuel Kaplan & Keith Riegert

$10.99 at Amazon

Goodnight Dorm

Touted as “all the advice I wish I got before going to college,” this fully illustrated hardcover beginner’s guide to college is as funny as it is smart.

Kodak Instamatic Instant Print Camera

$49.99 at Amazon

Kodak Instamatic Instant Print Camera

Those early days with new college friends deserve to be remembered, and what better to do that with than this easy-to-use camera. Photos of the fun appear on sticky paper super fast. They’re sure to be splashed all over their side of their room by the time you visit for family weekend.

Graduation gifts for college grads

Blue Apron Meal Delivery Plan

From $9 per serving at Blue Apron

Blue Apron Meal Delivery Plan

Dinner no longer comes by way of a card swipe. Help them avoid the pizza delivery trap with a meal kit subscription. Blue Apron stands out as the best for beginners. The recipes are healthy and appealing, yet not too time consuming or full of unfamiliar ingredients.

Away The Carry-On

$275 at Away Travel

Away The Carry on

That duffle that saw one too many spring breaks really needs to be replaced. This beauty has 360-degree spinner wheels, it charges a phone (!), and is unusually nice looking, making it a no-brainer winner for the best carry-on suitcase of the year. That’s a good thing if it doesn’t fit in the only closet in your grad’s starter apartment. It comes in nine colors.

Stone Drink Dispenser

$150 at Uncommon Goods

Stone Drink Dispenser

Saluti! If your grad is ready to set up that first apartment, this cobbled granite and stainless spirits dispenser will see plenty of use and get compliments galore. It’s handmade in Maine.

Me-est Me Journal

$26 at Urban Outfitters

Me-est Me Journal

A college diploma is no guarantee of having It All Figured Out. Many of us only started seeing what our paths should be then. Help them along the way with this 88-page, workbook-style journal. It’s divided into sections to prompt first-time reflectors along, with pages devoted to different themes.

Isabelle Grace Evil Eye Ring 

From $64 at Etsy

Isabelle Grace Evil Eye Ring

An ancient symbol of protection (and trending jewelry emblem) is the focal point of this Bohemian-style ring. It’s handmade and comes in 14k fill or sterling.

Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket

$99 at Rumpl

Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket

A blanket for a graduation gift? Yup. Well, yup this blanket. It rolls up into practically nothing and weighs just as little, ensuring it will be taken along on any and all outdoor activities in your graduate’s bright future. And unlike most blankets, it’s machine-washable. Check out our full review of Rumpl here.

Saint Laurent Fragments Floral Leather Card Case

$375 at Nordstrom

Saint Laurent Fragments Floral Leather Card Case

Painterly blossoms pop against white leather. Each time they pull out this slim, soft case, whether to offer their new business card or to pick up the check at their first work lunch, will be a chance to show off their sense of style — and remember your generosity.

Graduation gifts for nursing school grads

Figs Zamora Jogger-Style Scrubs

$58 at Amazon

Figs Zamora Jogger-Style Scrubs

Nurses need scrubs. But that doesn’t mean they have to settle for standard issue. Figs is the favorite, if the 2,700 near perfect reviews are any indication. They’re soft and stretchy, and unlike most, they’re actually flattering, available in sizes from XXS petite to XXL tall. They hold up to the constant washing too, say reviewers.

Pretty Pictures Gifts Personalized Lanyard 

$9.79 at Etsy

Pretty Pictures Gifts Personalized Lanyard

ID badges are a must-wear in medical facilities. It needs to be at the ready, but also secure. This personalized badge reel is the trifecta of gift giving: thoughtful, personal and practical.

Carrie Clover Stethoscope Tag

$15 at Amazon

Carrie Clover Stethoscope Tag

Here’s a truly on-point present: a customized stethoscope tag. You can choose up to 24 characters, including letters and symbols, as well as a birthstone. Bonus: It comes in a nice velvet pouch.

Comrad Compression Socks, 4-Pack

$109 at Comrad

Comrade Compression Socks

These are not grandma’s compression socks. True, they serve the same function — improving blood flow and soothing tired legs — but these look good. The veteran nurses we know swear by them. We like the ombre and tie-dye knee-highs, but they come in scads of colors and patterns for men and women.

Monbento Original Bentobox

$38.91 at Amazon

Monbento Original Bentobox

Nurses can barely get to the bathroom, let alone sit down for a proper lunch hour. Toting along small bites is a given. This bento box, available in plenty of other colors, is just the thing, with two divided tiers. Designed in France, it’s heat- and impact-resistant and has an airtight seal. Plus it’s dishwasher-safe. You can pick them up a matching carry bag too.

Gale’s Frontline Nurse Shoes

$89.95 at Amazon

Gale’s Frontline Nurse Shoes

A nurse’s shoes must be comfortable above all. But they also need to be tough and sturdy, and easy to clean when they get home. Gale’s checks all those boxes, and comes in an array of colors. They just might kiss you when they open these.

Rex Design Travel Mug

$52 at Nordstrom

Rex Design Travel Mug

Coffee is the nectar of the gods to nurses (two words: night shift). They probably have a basic, beat-up travel mug in their car already, but they deserve an upgrade. This ceramic and silicone specimen is handmade in the US, can be popped in the microwave in the likely event they can’t finish their java all at once and is just so pretty.

Graduation gifts for trade school grads

Obvus Solutions Minder Foldable Keyboard

$49.99 at Amazon

Obvus Solutions Minder Foldable Keyboard

Your hands-on grad will often be on the go. So what better gift than a portable (foldable!) featherweight keyboard? This slender Bluetooth-enabled model with an integrated touchpad will keep them connected with ease.

Lux-Pro 775-Lumen LED Flashlight 

$30.48 at Lowes

Lux-Pro 775-Lumen LED Flashlight

A waterproof, heavy duty flashlight is worth its weight in gold to anyone working in the trades. Enter this Lux-Pro. It has three settings: bright (incredibly so, say reviewers), strobe and dim. Batteries are already inside, so it’s good to go.

Cheryl’s Cookies Graduation Gift Tin 

$39.99 at Cheryl’s Cookies

Cheryl’s Cookies Graduation Gift Tin

Seriously, who doesn’t smile when they get cookies, let alone Cheryl’s? These classic chocolate chip, buttercream frosted, devil’s food, salty caramel and peanut butter delights are the answer if you have no idea what your giftee could use. Or they’re known for their sweet tooth.

Yeti Daytrip Lunch Bag 

$80 at Yeti

Yeti Daytrip Lunch Bag

Eating on the job is standard practice when you work in the trades. So a lunch bag will be used every single day. This toughie can handle it, with serious insulation and magnetic closures. Its leak-proof lining is food-safe, of course, plus it’s water-resistant.

Einova Wireless Charging Valet Tray

$89 at Amazon

Einova Wireless Charging Valet Tray

Extra early mornings are likely to be a way of life for your trade school grad. This sleek tray, designed in Italy, charges two phones, or a phone and Airpods, simultaneously, while it corrals their keys so they can make a fast getaway.

Thermos King Hot or Cold Beverage Bottle

$31.99 at Amazon

Thermos King Hot or Cold Beverage Bottle

Another must-have, summer or winter, is a Thermos. You’ll be doing them a real favor by gifting them the gold standard. It’ll last forever, and save them money over time.

Mini Money Tree

$49 at Bloomscape

Mini Money Tree

Is that graduate starting their own business? Then this idea is perfection: a money tree! This perky plant has a stout trunk, and is quite hardy, even if that new entrepreneur doesn’t have an especially green thumb. (It’s also pet-friendly.)

Graduation gifts for friends

Mer-Sea & Co. Maman Bouquet

$28 at Anthropologie

Mer-Sea & Co. Maman Bouquet

It’s traditional to bring a bouquet of flowers to the ceremony. But why not bestow a bouquet that can be a keepsake? We think this dried-flower bouquet is adorable. It even has a little handle that makes it much easier for them to hold than a regular bouquet.

Dauphinette Four-Leaf Clover Paperweight

$50 at Nordstrom

Dauphinette Four-Leaf Clover Paperweight

You wish that special graduate all the luck in the world. Don’t just say it; show it. This resin paperweight, whether it’s actually securing papers or just being a cool little piece of decor, is how to do it. Those are real four-leaf clovers inside.

Riedel Performance Champagne Flutes

$69 at Williams-Sonoma

Riedel Performance Champagne Flutes

The days of imbibing from a red plastic cup are gone, for better or worse. If you tend toward classic gifts, pair these flutes with a bottle of bubbly. The nonleaded crystal makes them extra sparkly. Stunning!

I Love Paper Kits Graduation Cap Charm 

From $19.95 at Etsy

I Love Paper Kits Graduation Cap Charm

Every graduate has a special someone (or three) who made all the difference in their journey. Help them honor those folks with this sweet cap charm to hold their photos. It comes in five finishes and up to three photo frames.

Amelia Rose Initial Pendant

$120 at Nordstrom 

Amelia Rose Initial Pendant

For the bubbly graduate who loves their bling, consider an initial necklace as sparkly as their personality. This 16-inch pendant is 14k plated with sapphire, pink tourmaline, amethyst, blue topaz and citrine. It comes with a two-inch extender in case they want it to sit a little lower.

Aura Carver Luxe Digital Picture Frame

$159 at Amazon

Aura Carver Luxe Digital Picture Frame

Help your friend show off all those school-day memories in this highly-rated smart frame. Using Aura’s AI tech, it can identify related photos and display them side by side. Speakers are integrated, and the art-deco-esque frame fits in with any decor.

Cheers Confections Countdown Box 

$59.99 at Harry and David

Cheers Confections Countdown Box

It’s like the graduation version of an Advent calendar!  That lucky friend will have a new treat to open up for eight straight days. Whether it’s the salted caramel popcorn, chocolate-covered blueberries, dark chocolate truffles, or another delectable, expect a streak of thank-you texts.

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