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Graduation Gift Ideas

Graduation is one of the first major milestones in the lives of our children and youth. Sometimes, the first milestone is celebrated when your little pre-schooler graduates and moves on to kindergarten. Sometimes their first ceremony is when they’re graduating from High School - perhaps as the first in the family to move on to post-secondary education. And, of course, there’s the ultimate rite of passage, the commencement ceremony celebrating post-secondary graduation and the beginning of a career. Whatever stage they’re at, you’ll need some great ideas for congratulating your graduate. 

Graduation Gift Ideas

Here are a few suggestions for how to celebrate your Grad!

Graduation Surprises

My nephew graduated high school in 2020. It was at the height of the pandemic and all events, including his senior prom, had been cancelled. He was disappointed, and we were sympathetic, even though we understood the need for precautions. My sister scrambled to find unique ways to recognize his achievement while taking into account socially distanced graduation celebrations for him.

Graduation Lawn Signs 

stork-lawn-sign

Front yard celebrations were popular for celebrating milestones before the pandemic. Do you recall seeing a front yard full of beautiful pink birthday flamingos? Or a giant cut out of a stork announcing a birth?

This tradition expanded during the pandemic with more and more families choosing to surprise their graduates by decorating the yard with graduation decorations and letting passersby know how proud they are of them. In some cities, local realtors now donate lawn signs for the graduating classes indicating that “Your City High School Graduate Lives Here”, for smaller scale recognition.


Parades for Graduates

Drive-by celebrations can also be a lot of fun! Invite friends and family to dress up their vehicles with signs, balloons, etc. and drive by in a mini-parade to recognize the graduate’s accomplishments.


Graduation Picnics

outdoor-graduation-picnic

Park meet-ups and small outdoor gatherings can be a great way to have close friends and family surprise your graduate while continuing to respect any social distancing guidelines. The nice thing about most high school and college graduations is that they happen in the spring and early summer, when we can enjoy the weather. At outdoor gatherings, you can plan for separate picnic tables for each household, or wear a mask when you’re closer together.


Graduation Group Videos

Even without a pandemic impacting graduation celebrations, family and friends often live too far away to attend a graduation ceremony. Plus, schools often have to limit the number of invitees per graduate in order to stay within maximum capacity of the graduation venue. It’s always nice to celebrate in a way that can bring everyone together, no matter how near or far they may be. 


A Video Yearbook/College Reveal

Do you know what the Class of 2021 is planning after graduation? Here’s a great idea for your graduating class. Set up a Group Video and send the invitation to everyone in your class. Have them submit a short video clip having them share what their plans are after graduation. Have they been saving to do some backpacking abroad? Do they have a great job lined up? Are they moving on to college or university? Have each graduate submit a short video where they reveal what they have planned! They can get creative, sharing plans, doing a surprise reveal of what college they’ve chosen, etc. Once everyone has submitted their video, create a montage with everyone’s stories included and share it to the graduating class, play it to kick off the graduation ceremony, and download it as a treasured keepsake.


Happy Graduation Messages

Ideally, close family will attend a graduation ceremony in person. With a group video from Memento, extended family and friends can be there virtually! A graduation message from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends - especially those who may be too far away or too busy to travel - is a wonderful way to pay tribute and offer inspirational messages to the graduate. 


A Virtual Tour

When I moved away from home for the first time, the thing that cured my homesickness the most was getting to know my new neighborhood and all it had to offer!

If your high school graduate is moving on to college, or your college graduate is relocating for a job in a different city, put a call out to friends and family in the area and ask them to provide a little tour on camera. It’ll help your graduate feel at home before they even get there! When you surprise them with the group video, you can accompany it with a care package of gift-certificates to local restaurants and stores to encourage them to get out and explore. 


Practical Graduation Gifts 

Your Graduate probably needs a lot of things to start their life at college or in their new career! Often those things come at a higher cost than their student rate part-time job allows. So here are some practical graduation gifts that will help to get them on their feet.


Meal Making 

young-man-learning-to-cook

My brother survived in his first college apartment with a single pot to make spaghetti in. Most of us can’t (and shouldn’t) exist on spaghetti alone! Meanwhile, my best friend in university was eating in the food-hall every meal, every single day, until I took pity on him and started teaching him how to cook simple meals. My advice: set your graduate up for success with some decent cookware, basic knowledge of some simple favorite meals, and perhaps even a meal prep subscription for the first couple of months. There are great services that provide pre-portioned ingredients along with detailed recipes and instructions. Your graduate will be well equipped to feed themselves (and impress any guests they may have!)

Luggage

young-woman-with-suitcase

I spent my first year in residence toting a crappy canvas laundry bag back and forth between Mom’s house and school, stuffed with dirty or clean laundry - depending on which way I was headed. In hindsight, I would have absolutely loved to move away from home with a decent set of wheeled luggage and this would have made a fantastic graduation gift. If your graduate isn’t yet destined for higher education or hasn’t found their career path, perhaps they’ll take the hint that it’s time to get packing! 

A New Laptop Computer

This is obviously a larger ticket item, but an incredible graduation gift nonetheless. Your graduating student may have lugged around a beat up old laptop for the last few years and you’ll be equipping them for success over the next few years with this new valuable piece of technology. 



Your graduates have worked hard to reach this milestone and they deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments. Even if you’re limited to a virtual celebration right now, they’ll appreciate the effort that you take to communicate graduation wishes and congratulations. The best set-up for success is a strong support system, so, however you let them know you care, they’ll appreciate it as they move on to the next stage of their lives.