AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill
En español | The coronavirus outbreak has turned the world upside-down for the Class of 2020. Schools abruptly closed this spring for the remainder of the academic year, and there's uncertainty whether college campuses will reopen in the fall. Graduates entering the workforce face one of the bleakest job markets in generations.
While 2020 grads will miss out on many of the traditional milestones, from crossing a stage to receive a diploma to donning gowns and tossing caps in the air, they don't need to miss out on great graduation gifts. Here are several ideas, drawn from gift-giving experts and veteran gift-givers, that run the gamut from practical to inspirational.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ($19, amazon.com): For three decades, Stephen R. Covey's book has empowered and inspired readers to be successful in attaining their goals. An adaptation, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, might be right for a high school graduate.
Siimon and Schuster
College Survival Guide: Tips, Tricks & a Little Financial Aid ($13, hallmark.com): Not only does this book by Kara Goodier and Megan Langford provide real-world advice, it has plenty of fun pockets to stash cash, gift cards, stamps and more. “I have gifted this to my nieces and nephews and they have loved it. You can also give as much or little as you want,” says gifting expert Julie Kenney.
How to Cook Everything ($33, barnesandnoble.com): If your grad will be living alone for the first time, either off-campus or in a first apartment, they will probably be cooking more out of necessity. This is one in a series of books by Mark Bittman that makes food and cooking accessible to even the greenest of kitchen novices.
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2020 ($30, barnesandnoble.com): The latest edition of the Richard N. Bolles book is a classic for job seekers of all ages. Another book in the series, this one written by Carol Christen, is aimed at younger grads: What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens.
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Stuff for college
School-branded gear. Visit the virtual bookstore of your high school grad's soon-to-be college to surprise them with a little school spirit. Think supplies like pens, pencils and water bottles, as well as attire and accessories. “This idea is great for graduating seniors who had to cut visits short, shift to virtual visits or who will miss the orientations where they'd normally snag their swag,” says Shelley Hunter, gifting expert at GiftCards.com.
Toiletries. Fill an Ikea FRAKTA Storage Bag ($4.99, ikea.com) with toiletries and personal items that your favorite grad could use in their dorm. Include everything from hand sanitizer and detergent to a DIY mani/pedi kit. The sturdy, 20-gallon FRAKTA storage bag also doubles as a laundry bag.
Stuff for the real world
Movado Museum Classic Watch (starting at $495, movado.com): A watch makes for a great grownup accessory — and reminds new grads to get to work on time. Movado's Museum Classic watches come in a variety of styles and finishes. Carl Prouty, a gift expert at Abt Electronics, favors the model with an adjustable calfskin band and black dial.
Personalized Metal Graduation Tray (starting at $79, paper-anniverary.com): Trays can be engraved with a quote or college logo. “Super cute for a first apartment. Great place to store your phone, keys, etc., while holding a special memory,” says Kenney.
Tumi Alpha Bravo Backpack ($300, abt.com): This versatile backpack comes with plenty of pockets sized for laptops, tablets and other devices. The nylon fabric is durable, and the backpack is available in two colors: black or blue.
Fitbit. The personalized fitness tracker is constantly coming up with new features and devices that should appeal to the active grad. Its Charge 4 ($150, fitbit.com) is the first tracker with built-in GPS and loaded with advanced sensors. Fitbit Premium, which provides personalized insights, wellness programs and workouts, is available for free for the first 90 days (then $10/month or $80/year).
Headphones. A nice set of headphones is an indispensable accessory for today's youth. Depending on price and brand loyalty, Google ($179, store.google.com), Apple (starting at $159, apple.com) and Bose (starting at $250, bose.com) offer quality headphones your grad will surely appreciate.
JBL Portable Speaker ($50, abt.com). This rechargeable speaker is available in different colors to suit everyone's needs. “It works great for an outdoor barbecue, indoor party or even to listen to music in your new cubicle (on low volume, of course),” says Prouty.
Destressing apps. Adulthood can be stressful. Mobile apps such as Headspace ($70/year or $13/month, headspace.com), Calm ($70/year, calm.com) and Insight Timer ($60/year, insighttimer.com) provide a variety of guided meditations and activities that promote mindfulness.
Realworld. ($50/year, realworldplaybook.com): The customized digital platform is designed to teach young adults about the nuances of adulthood. Topics of instruction include navigating health insurance, paying back student loans and starting a new job.
Streaming music. A gift card to help cover a grad's music streaming service of choice would be more than welcomed. Most likely they already subscribe to one of the major services: Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal.
Food and drink
Gift boxes (starting at $25, etsy.com): “A quick search on Etsy will help you find curated gift boxes, perfect for this year's graduates. For the grad in your life with a penchant for snacking, say ‘congratulations’ with a delivery of sweet and/or savory treats from Harry & David,” says Hunter.
Meal delivery service. If your graduate is new to the kitchen and interested in a hands-on approach to cooking, a meal delivery service provides instruction and ingredients at the same time. Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Home Chef all start around $60 and provide three meals consisting of two servings each for one week.
Nespresso Machine ($174, nespresso.com): Help your grad save money and time in the mornings by making their own coffee. The Evoluo model with milk frother favored by Pouty features two capsule sizes for coffee and espresso. It makes cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos or even tea. “Makes the perfect cup of coffee every time,” he says.
As the saying goes, “Cash is king.” Money can be perfect for a recent grad who is picky or hoping to get a head start on paying off student loans. They can spend it on whatever they like. Try and think of a fun way to present the money that will make their smile even larger.
Alternatively, if actual cash feels too impersonal, put the money on a gift card instead. “Send eGift cards that are flexible and can be used right away,” says Hunter. “Think Visa eGift cards that can be used anywhere, food delivery gift cards, gift cards for streaming services and tech retailers."