10 Graduation Gift Etiquette

Graduation Gift Etiquette
Graduation gifts should reflect the graduate’s achievement. Consider the recipient's interests, career goals, and needs. Personalized and practical gifts with a note of congratulations are thoughtful and appropriate. Mind your budget and give without expecting anything in return.

1. Consider Your Relationship

Before gifting a graduate, consider your relationship with them. Are you a close family member? A close friend? Do you have a professional relationship? 

If the graduate is a friend or family member, a personal gift that reflects their interests and hobbies is appropriate. If you have a professional relationship with the graduate, a great gift reflects their achievements and new opportunities. 

2. Personalize Your Gift

personalized mugs for graduation
Personalized mugs for graduation

When planning a graduation gift, consider the graduate’s future plan. Get them something that will help them with their future plans, such as a professional outfit, a travel guidebook, or a book related to their field of study.

Customize the gift by including the graduate’s name or initials. You can also get them something unique to their personality. For example, if they are a fan of a particular sports team, consider getting them a personalized jersey with their name on it.

3. Skip Cash And Gift Cards

handing over a gift card
Handing over a gift card

While cash or a generic gift card might seem easy, it can come across as impersonal and effortless. Here are some ideas for thoughtful graduation gifts:

  • Give a personalized gift such as a customized journal or planner.
  • Graduates often move on to the next stage of their lives, whether college, a job, or travel. Give a practical gift they can use in their new endeavors, such as a new laptop.
  • Consider giving the gift of an experience, such as tickets to a concert or sporting event, a cooking class, or a weekend getaway. 

Since cash is the most popular graduation gift, here are some scenarios where it might be a good option:

  • If the graduate is to start a new job and has expenses to cover.
  • If the graduate is a distant relative and you don’t know them well or are unsure of what gift they would appreciate.
  • If the graduate has expressed a specific need or desire for money, such as paying off student loans.

When giving money as a graduation gift, the amount will depend on your relationship with the graduate and your financial situation. It’s generally acceptable to give a range of $20 to $100.

4. Timing Is Key

If you can’t attend the graduation ceremony in person, send your gift before the event so the graduate can receive and enjoy it before or during the ceremony.

Alternatively, you can send the gift within a reasonable time frame after the graduation announcement. Do not send your gift too late, as this can come across as inconsiderate or disrespectful.

Never show up empty-handed.  Even if you’ve already sent a gift, bringing a small token of congratulations, such as a card or flowers, can be a thoughtful gesture.

Also read: 12 Card Signing Etiquette for Multiple Occasions

5. Team Up For A Group Gift

Coordinating with others when giving a group gift ensures that the recipient receives something meaningful and useful without burning your pocket.

Here are some tips:

  • Establish a communication channel: Start by setting up a group chat or email chain to discuss and plan the graduation gift. This will allow everyone to share their ideas and coordinate their efforts.
  • Decide on a budget: It is essential to agree on a budget for the gift to ensure everyone is on the same page and can contribute equally.
  • Assign specific gifts: Now assign specific gifts to each person to avoid duplicates. 
  • Share wish lists: Share the grad’s wish list or preferences, if available, to ensure that the gift is something that they will appreciate.
  • Avoid incompatible gifts: If someone wants to give something that may not be compatible with the recipient’s lifestyle or taste, suggest an alternative or discuss it with the group to devise a compromise.
  • Plan the presentation: Plan how you present the gift and who will deliver it to the recipient.

6. Add A Personal Touch

Including a thoughtful card or a handwritten note with your gift to a graduate is a simple yet powerful way to express your congratulations and offer words of encouragement and support. 

High school or college graduation is a significant milestone in a person’s life, and your kind words can help to boost their confidence and motivate them to pursue their dreams and aspirations. 

7. Don’t Expect A Thank-You Note

When gifting a graduate, don’t expect anything in return. Giving a gift should come from a place of kindness and generosity rather than a desire for recognition or acknowledgment.

Sometimes, the joy of giving comes from the act and the knowledge that you’ve made someone else’s day a little brighter.

8. Mind Your Budget

Choosing a gift for a graduate can be tricky, especially when it comes to budgeting. While you want to celebrate their achievements and show your appreciation for their hard work, be mindful of your own finances and avoid overspending.

One way to stay within your budget is to consider thoughtful and practical gifts within your price range. Remember that the value of a gift is not solely based on its cost. A heartfelt card or a small, thoughtful gift can often be as meaningful as a more expensive item.

If you decide to go for a more extravagant gift, you should be sensitive to the graduate’s feelings and ensure they are comfortable receiving it.

9. Practical Gifts Are A Plus

Practical gifts can be a great choice for graduates as they transition to their next life phase. Here are some practical graduation gift ideas that they can use in their future endeavors:

  • Professional Briefcase: It is an essential item for any college graduate who will be starting their career soon. Look for a high-quality briefcase made from durable materials such as leather or canvas. 
  • Kitchen Appliances: Graduates who will be living independently for the first time will appreciate kitchen appliances that can help them cook healthy meals. Consider items like a blender, a slow cooker, or a food processor. 
  • Smartwatch: This is a practical and stylish gift for graduates who are always on the go. Look for a smartwatch that can track fitness goals, monitor heart rate, and provide notifications from the graduate’s phone.
  • Portable Charger: It can be a lifesaver for high school graduates who are always on their cell phones. Look for a charger with a high capacity that can charge multiple devices at once. 

10. Support Future Plans

It’s essential to support the graduate’s future plans and celebrate their accomplishments rather than criticizing their choices or offering unsolicited advice. 

While it’s natural to have differing opinions or ideas, criticizing the graduate’s future plans can be discouraging and may hinder their growth and development. You should offer positive feedback, acknowledging their hard work and accomplishments.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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