20 college graduation gifts that they can actually use
After years of hard work college grads are finally ready to launch and, after such a crazy and unprecedented senior year, it’s time to bask in their accomplishments. Whether your recent college grad has a job lined up, or they are still exploring all of their options, it’s definitely time to celebrate. An epic graduation party is definitely in order, as are some gifts to show you just how proud you are of all they’ve accomplished.
Before they move on to their next chapter, take a moment to show your grad how proud you are. Here are some ideas for useful and unique college graduation gifts that will help them take the leap into adulthood.
1. A coffee subscription so they get to work on time
Our reviewers tested 16 different coffee subscriptions and chose Angels’ Cup as their favorite for gifting. This subscription will not only give them a morning boost, it's best for breaking out of a coffee-comfort zone and developing a palate. If your grad was used to burnt coffee in the dining hall, this will up their coffee game.
2. A single-serve coffee maker that makes the best java
A daily coffee from their local barista is going to get pricey. A coffee maker is an essential gift for launching into the real world. This pod model makes a dense, rich, aromatic cup for a truly luxurious morning brew at a great price point. It also has a streamlined design that works well in small spaces. One Amazon reviewer notes, “The Nespresso VertuoPlus by Breville machine is like Keurig on steroids,” and our reviewers enthusiastically agree.
- Get the Breville Nespresso VertuoPlus deluxe single-serve coffee and espresso machine at Walmart for $125
- Get the stainless steel refillable VertuoPlus coffee pod at Amazon for $26.99
3. A sleek watch to help them look the part
There’s a reason why the wristwatch is the quintessential graduation gift that has, ahem, stood the test of time. They're practical and they give off an "I've got my act together" vibe. We love the well-designed watches by MVMT that look just as good on a buttoned-up job interview as they do mixing drinks behind the bar. Whatever your recent grad’s professional goals are, one of these stylish timepieces will help them look the part.
4. Or, a smartwatch that they’ve probably been pining for
Our Community Manager Madison Yerke says her Apple Watch has been an adulting necessity. “It keeps me accountable on emails, appointments, standing.” If they’re the type that wants a bit more utility in a watch, get them one that will synch up to all of their daily reminders and, ideally, keep their physical activity in check as well.
5. A city map of their old stomping grounds
They may be moving across the country or just across town; wherever they go this custom map is just what they need for when they are pining for home or their college campus. This Etsy seller can customize your gift with a visual lay-of-the land of any city in the world. Throw on a frame for a piece of art that has loads of meaning, and is a stylish upgrade from their dorm posters.
6. Custom college-themed drinkware
As they bid goodbye to their beloved alma mater, your grad will love their drinks with a splash of nostalgia with this map-themed drinkware. From pint glasses to stemless wine glasses, each is brimming with nostalgia and personality.
7. One multifunctional pan
If they are heading off to their first place, no need to buy them a bulky starter cookware set: This 8-in-1 pan does it all! It can braise, sear, steam, strain (the steamer basket doubles as a colander), sauté, and fry. The Always Pan by Our Place is hyper-versatile, blissfully non-stick, and takes up minimal space. It does many things (and does most of them quite well), and it looks Instagram-perfect the whole time. And, for a limited time, it’s on sale with the code GOODTASTE30.
8. A meal subscription to keep them well-fed
Mom’s home cooking and the dining hall are a thing of the past. A meal kit will definitely save time putting dinner on the table. That’s only half the genius, however, of gifting one of these to someone who has yet to hone their meal-making skills. A meal kit like our favorite, Home Chef, will also teach fledgling cooks cooking skills, techniques, and flavor profiles. You’ll be setting them on a path of saving money and, who knows, maybe they’ll be hosting YOU for dinner soon.
9. A set of succulents to brighten up the place
Flowers aren’t forever, and house plants can take a bit of a learning curve. Succulents are a hardy starter plant for someone who is still trying to figure out where on the green-to-black spectrum their thumbs lie. This trio comes in a modern set of matte mini containers and can either be kept as a group or placed around the house.
10. A new clothing fix
If they’ve spent the past four years in mascot-themed sweats, it’s probably time for a real-world wardrobe upgrade. Stitch Fix will gift them with a personal shopper to get them all the professional duds they need for their first job interview and—with any luck—through the work week. A $20 styling fee gets them started, but you can load up a gift card so they can cash in on a few key pieces for their first adult wardrobe.
11. A weighted blanket to de-stress under
The real world can be a little anxiety-inducing these days. Wrap them in a warm and calming hug with a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets are touted for relieving stress and for improving sleep, and our reviewers found the Gravity Blanket to be the most luxurious of all the ones they tried, praising it for its velvety feel and for even weight distribution.
12. A chic charging station
Hey, it might take them a bit to organize their life, but you can at least help them organize their electronics. This is a one-stop port for their smart phone, their smart watch, and ear pods, so they’re not constantly searching through their backpacks for their essentials.
13. An all-purpose vacuum cleaner
That broom and dustpan is only going to go so far. This well-priced stick vacuum comes with all of the attachments needed to clean up spills, crevices, carpets, and small-spaces. It also stows away discreetly, which is essential for tight living quarters. Our reviewers picked this as the best value cordless stick vac, namely for its impressive suction and for an endurance that matches the Dyson, but at a much more friendly price point.
14. A set of starter towels
Editorial assistant Aubree Brabham says a new towel set, which was gifted to her when she was setting up her first post-college apartment, is the gift that keeps on giving. She still loves them years after crossing the graduation stage.
This set from Brooklinen gets great reviews for being smooth, soft, quick-drying, and “not too fluffy.” The set comes with four bath towels, two hand towels, four washcloths, and a bath mat—for a complete and cohesive bathroom set. How grown-up!
15. An alarm clock that mimics the sunrise
This alarm clock is both a necessity and a luxury, all rolled into one. As our reviewer points out, it’s not that this alarm clock works, but how it works that's so impressive.
This clock by Philips wakes with sounds of peaceful bird chirps or seaside sounds, and cycles gently through 20 gradual brightness settings to slowly wake you with the (simulated) sunrise. A new job (or a job hunt) is stressful enough; this brings a little bit of calm to mornings while effectively getting the job of waking up done.
16. A problem-solving membership to make life easier
An Amazon Prime membership immediately makes life easier. It’s much more than free shipping. A membership gives access to free grocery delivery from Whole Foods; the Prime Now app, which gives free two-hour delivery on tens of thousands of items; Prime Video, Amazon’s video streaming service; Prime Reading, which gives free access to tens of thousands of books and magazines; Prime Music; Prime Audible Channels; unlimited photo storage; and more.
With all that a Prime membership offers, users not only can get whatever new housewares they want within a couple of days, they’ll also have plenty of access to online entertainment—for when their budget doesn't yet allow for nights out at the cineplex.
17. A great piece of luggage
Whether they are traveling home for the holidays, or on their first work trip, a great piece of luggage will take them far. Our favorite checked suitcase, the AWAY Large, is a tough, workhorse of a roller bag and it has a ton of storage. It has a durable yet flexible polycarbonate shell that protects contents from being crushed, it's resistant to scuffs and dirt, and it comes in a variety of colors for every taste.
18. A monthly jolt of inspiration
This inspirational crate from Work, Space, Spark arrives at their door each month filled with productivity and career-building tools, as well as a few pieces of cute office decor items to help them spruce up their work space.
Members also receive exclusive access to career-focused video content and online trainings to help them jump start their career. It's pretty and practical all in one.
19. An air fryer—for everything
The thing that people who don't have air fryers tend not to realize is that an air fryer is your microwave on steroids. Imagine popping frozen fish sticks, chicken fingers, baby tacos, broccoli, tater tots—you name it—into a quick cooking machine and having it come out perfect. Now imagine reheating last night's pizza or sports bar take out and somehow those day-old fries and semi-soggy burger rolls taste almost as good as the day before.
There are so many ways to use an air fryer, and as they learn to cook they'll delve into them. Until then, make their take-out and take home (from visits to Mom and Dad) taste a million times better. We tried this air fryer by Drew Barrymore and, while the Philips XL air fryer is the best we’ve tested, this air fryer from Drew Barrymore has a fun, trendy look and is a perfect starter for an air fryer novice.
20. A cocktail kit to get the party started
Things are going to be lean for a few years, and cocktails can be pricey. Get them a cocktail kit so they can bring the happy hour home. Shaker & Spoon is like a full mixology course in a box. Each month focuses on one spirit and teaches subscribers how to craft that spirit into three different cocktails. They’ll get everything they need (minus the booze) to create three original recipes. Shaker & Spoon also offers resources on their site such as how-to videos and a glossary to help them hone their skills to expert-level.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.