The best gifts for high school grads

The best gifts for high school grads

As you can probably tell by all the grad party invitations plastering your fridge, it’s officially high school graduation season. Shopping for a high school grad can be daunting, though: Do you go for something fun? Something practical? What do these kids even like these days?!

Don’t worry — we’ve got your back and are here to help you impress your favorite high school graduate with a great gift. 

Often, this celebratory occasion is just as much about championing their high school successes as it is about amping them up for their next big adventure, whether that’s college, a new job, moving into their first apartment, or whatever else they may have planned. That said, a great graduation gift will take their upcoming path into consideration.

If they’re planning on moving into a college dorm or to their own apartment, you know they’ll need plenty of basic, essential items. The good news is that they’re likely starting with a clean slate, so you have a ton of room to work with. You could help them stock their place with a new Instant Pot, 4K TV, or pillows. On the flip side, it can be a lot more fun to open presents that aren’t just utilitarian. Some ideas that are both exciting and still useful include instant cameras, smartwatches, and headphones.

If we’re being honest, the gift most grads really want is cold hard cash. You also can’t go wrong with a gift card — but if you’re looking to get more personal, we have lots of solid suggestions below that your high school grad is going to love.

Instax Mini camera
(opens in a new tab)

For capturing memories

The first year of college is one of the most photographable time periods ever. Students are making new friends and doing a ton of new things, and they’ll want to document it all. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 will give them an immediate physical photo to display.

Photo clip string lights
(opens in a new tab)

For easy room decor

String lights with photo clips are basically a requirement in college dorms, especially for a student who has an instant camera. They probably won’t be able to put holes in the wall for picture frames, and these are a super simple alternative — they can be hung up with Command hooks.

Rapid ramen cooker
(opens in a new tab)

For classic college meals

Do we even need to explain this one? This rapid ramen cooker makes the classic “broke college student” meal even easier than usual: It’s reusable, and the water filling line is clearly marked.

Bose noise-canceling headphones
(opens in a new tab)

For the music lover

Whether they need peace and quiet for working or just to get some sleep, a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones is a must for eliminating distractions. Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones have comfy plush ear cushions and can last almost an entire day before needing to be charged. Plus, they have Alexa built in for voice control.

A new laptop
(opens in a new tab)

For the incoming freshman

If they’ll be a college freshman in the fall, they’ll need a laptop — preferably one that can handle everything from note-taking in class to Netflixing back at the dorm. This 15.6″ laptop has all the specs they’ll need for academic success, including an Intel Celeron processor, 16GB of RAM for multitasking, and 1TB of storage space. Plus, that price? It’s good.

Amazon Prime membership
(opens in a new tab)

For everyday use

While you may not be able to predict and gift everything that they’ll need in the future, you can give the gift of free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime, which is the next best thing and super convenient. You know how annoying it is to pay for shipping, and they’ll be way more likely to order the necessities (new underwear and deodorant) instead of going without them if they know free shipping is an option.

Memory foam mattress topper
(opens in a new tab)

For staying as comfy as possible

Dorm beds are notoriously uncomfortable. Make the grad’s transition from their bed to the dorm mattress a little less jarring with this gel-infused memory foam topper. It will keep them from overheating while they sleep and will distribute their weight evenly to relieve pressure points.

Boombox custom keepsake box
(opens in a new tab)

For keepsakes

Fill this box (and their heart) with kind words, inspiration, cherished memories, photos, or whatever else you want. Boombox lets you choose the box style and offers different plans depending on how much you want to include in the gift. There’s also a collaboration feature for you to invite others to submit notes to be printed for the grad.

Lightweight 3-in-1 vacuum
(opens in a new tab)

For tidying the dorm

Small spaces can get pretty dirty, and college campuses often don’t provide cleaning tools for students. This handy vacuum acts as a full-size cleaner for bigger areas, but can also transform into a mini version of itself and a handheld for smaller, harder-to-reach areas. Because this vacuum is so compact and skinny, it won’t be a pain to store, either.

Bluetooth sleep mask
(opens in a new tab)

For some shut-eye

If their roommate happens to be a night owl, they can still get some shuteye with this sleep mask. Yes, it blocks out light. But it does way more than that. This mask has Bluetooth connectivity to play audio and block out noise, so your grad will be able to listen to music without the discomfort of lying on a pair of earbuds or headphones.

A new backpack
(opens in a new tab)

For all those books

Don’t let the graduate show up to their first day of college with a four-year-old backpack. This durable unisex bag is made of water-resistant polyester, which means it’s built to last through walks to class and late-night study sessions. It has a main compartment with double zippers, a front zipper pocket, a padded laptop pouch, four interior zipper pockets, and water bottle pockets on both sides.

Laundry hamper
(opens in a new tab)

For braving the laundry room

Another home essential an 18-year-old doesn’t want to spend their money on: a laundry hamper. Everyone needs one, though. This hamper is soft but structured enough to stand on its own, and it has aluminum handles with soft grips for easy transport.

Weighted blanket
(opens in a new tab)

For coping with stress

Leaving your parents’ home and living on your own for the first time is scary. Make the high school grad in your life feel comforted with a weighted blanket. Being wrapped up in one of these feels like getting hugged — it might even reduce stress and help them sleep.

Towel set
(opens in a new tab)

For some important basics

Let’s be real: Very few 18-year-olds want to buy themselves basic household necessities. Especially something as mundane as towels. That’s where you come in. These nice AmazonBasics towels are quick-drying, so they’re less likely to get mildewy hanging on the back of their dorm room door.

Keurig single-serve coffee maker
(opens in a new tab)

For keeping them caffeinated

This tiny coffee maker is less than five inches wide, making it ideal for small spaces. It brews cup sizes between six and 12 ounces, and the removable drip tray has room for a travel mug up to seven inches. The coffee maker also holds up to nine K-Cup pods. The only drawback is that because it is so compact, the reservoir needs to be refilled for each cup of coffee brewed. But that’s a minor complaint.

Mini fridge
(opens in a new tab)

For study snacks

Dining hall food can get old pretty quickly, so they’ll need a place to store some additional drinks and snacks. This mini fridge has two full-width adjustable glass shelves and three full-width door shelves, which can fit gallon and two-liter bottles. The fridge also has a freezer compartment, so they won’t have to venture to the dining hall just to get ice cream.

(opens in a new tab)

For fast meals

A microwave is an essential appliance for life after high school. This one is compact, cute, and trendy — and it even has a mute function so they don’t disturb their roommates with all those annoying beeping sounds. It also comes in a few different color options to suit their style.

Takeya cold brew coffee maker
(opens in a new tab)

For no-fuss coffee

Dorm rules might not allow them to have a coffee maker in their room, but this gift will keep them caffeinated without breaking any regulations. They can even keep the pitcher in a mini-fridge door, making it the perfect accessory for studying.

Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker
(opens in a new tab)

For keeping track of dorm keys

Residence halls will often charge ridiculous amounts of money when college students lose their keys. Make sure your grad never misplaces theirs with this handy system. The Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker can be placed on anything, then tracked down with an easy-to-use app.

Three-speed fan
(opens in a new tab)

For cooling down the dorm

Air conditioning is not a guarantee in a dorm room and the first two months of school can be scorchers. Help them combat the heat with this 15-inch fan from Honeywell. It’s small enough that it can be placed on a tabletop or on the floor, and it has three speeds and a 90-degree pivoting head.

A bike
(opens in a new tab)

For the campus commuter

If their campus is big enough, a bike can be a fun, practical gift. It will help them cut down on travel time, so they’ll have more time to sleep before that 8 a.m. lecture they swore wouldn’t be any harder to wake up for than high school.

College gear
(opens in a new tab)

For showing school spirit

If your grad is heading off to an NCAA school, stock them up with some shirts and dorm decor to show their school pride. Fanatics has gear for more than 500 NCAA teams, so the grad will look great for their first tailgate and sporting event (if they actually make it to the game).

A cute planner
(opens in a new tab)

For staying organized

Keeping track of assignments, group project meetings, class schedules, and social events can be overbearing without a planner to write it all down. Paper Source offers various styles and designs to meet the grad’s needs — and, yes, they are actually cute.

S’well insulated bottle
(opens in a new tab)

For the active grad

Everyone can use a reusable water bottle, especially if they’re going to be walking around campus all day. S’well bottles come in a variety of sizes and keep beverages at their desired temperature for hours. (Fun fact: The 25-ounce bottle can hold an entire bottle of wine.) S’well offers tons of styles, so you’ll totally be able to find one that fits your grad’s style.

Sleep eye mask
(opens in a new tab)

For living with a roommate

Perhaps one of the biggest adjustments in college is learning how to share a space with a stranger. For those whose roommates err on the noisier side, this thoughtful gift will make sure their sleeping habits aren’t disturbed. This mask blocks out both sound and light, so new college students can get a good night’s sleep before a big exam.

JBL Flip 4 waterproof wireless speaker
(opens in a new tab)

For parties in the quad

Obviously college isn’t all about the books. Give them a waterproof speaker and help them become the life of the party on warm days. This speaker from JBL is super durable, so it should hold up through even the wildest of parties.

Fujifilm Instax Mini Link smartphone printer
(opens in a new tab)

For documenting memories

College is all about making memories. But at a time when most memories are stored digitally, they’ll be glad for this gift that helps them preserve their best stories in photo form. The instant printer is also a great gift for anyone looking to add some flair to their walls and make a dorm room feel more like home.

Portable shower caddy
(opens in a new tab)

For keeping clean and organized

Help make dorm room life a bit easier with a portable shower caddy. This shower caddy is not only easy to transport to and from a dorm room, but also usable in the shower itself — just hang it up.

Lap desk
(opens in a new tab)

For studying in bed

A lap desk is one of the handiest gifts you can give a new college student because they’re practically guaranteed to actually use it. Whether they favor it for studying or for watching Netflix is a completely different matter.

10-foot Micro USB charging cords
(opens in a new tab)

For the limited outlet scenario

An extra-long phone charger cord is a game changer. Give them a bit of wiggle room when their phone is charging with this ten-foot cord. It’s especially handy when they have to navigate a shared outlet situation with a roommate.

3-in-1 Apple charging station
(opens in a new tab)

For keeping devices organized

College kids these days have devices. And devices need charging. And dorm rooms aren’t exactly known for their spaciousness. This nifty charger will help them keep all their most important gadgets all in one place — and fully charged. It also keeps cords tucked neatly out of the way so there’s more room on their desk to study (or whatever).

Sushi Go Party!
(opens in a new tab)

For an actually fun icebreaker

There’s nothing like a silly party game to break the ice in the dorms. Sushi Go Party! expands on the original version by opening the playing field to up to eight players. It also features a custom scoreboard and new cards like Miso Soup and Green Tea Ice Cream. With so many ways to switch it up, this is a game that won’t feel stale any time soon.

Waterproof Laptop Sleeve
(opens in a new tab)

For protecting that tech

Where the student goes, the laptop will follow. A waterproof laptop sleeve is the best way to protect this sensitive piece of technology from hard drops and unexpected spills. Look for one that comes with extra pockets, for stashing away charger cables, small pieces of paper, and any other items that cross their path.

Personalized Necklace
(opens in a new tab)

For subtle school spirit

If you’re looking for a subtle way to commemorate a college of choice, this personalized necklace is available for customization on Etsy. It comes with two charms: a larger one with the state outline and a smaller one just big enough for the college’s acronym. You can also choose between gold, rose gold, and silver.

Slide slippers
(opens in a new tab)

For the dreaded communal shower

For those heading off to the college dorms, these thick and super comfy slides will be much appreciated. They’ll keep your grad’s feet off the communal shower floors with stable, supportive cushioning, and their lightweight, shock-absorbing form will make them feel like they’re walking on a cloud. They’re also available in more than a dozen colors to suit their personal style.

Twin XL sheets
(opens in a new tab)

For cozier dorm bedding

They probably won’t be able to bring their favorite pair of bedsheets with them to the dorms, so do them a solid and treat them to this cozy, temperature-regulating set in twin XL — a perfect fit for dorm mattresses. The three-piece set includes a fitted sheet, a top sheet, and one pillowcase, all made with double-brushed microfiber for a buttery-soft feel. They’re also available in dozens of colors so you can gift them their favorite.

A bedside shelf
(opens in a new tab)

For maximizing space

Dorm rooms are notorious for lacking space, but this clever bedside shelf will help them maximize the room they do have. It clamps easily to the edge of their bed to provide extra space for late-night study sessions, streaming shows on their laptop, or keeping their trusty mug of caffeinated fuel within arm’s reach at all times.

A Kindle
(opens in a new tab)

For books on-the-go

Whether they’re headed to college or into the workforce, a Kindle reader is a great companion to have at their side. Weighing less than half a pound, it’s super easy to stash in a bag or backpack, and it’ll give them easy access to books for classes or keep them entertained during their daily commute.

Read More