High School Graduation Gift Ideas and Dorm Room Necessities

May 6, 2019 | by ashlynn reynolds-dyk

It is that time of year where we are flying by the seat of our pants in the midst of unpredictable weather coupled with baseball practices, spring soccer games, and of course, graduations of every kind—preschool, kindergarten, eighth grade, high school, college, etc. What that also means is there is also a lot of agonizing over appropriate graduation gifts. Balloons and a trip to froyo take care of the little ones who are graduating, but often times, it is the older kids preparing for college that you wonder about—should I give them money? Something more thoughtful? Something practical that they can use? You really can’t go wrong with any of this, but since I have an “in” with college students and staff, I chatted with some of them to find out just what kinds of things make good high school graduation gift ideas.

If not money, gift cards go a long way. But which ones? Gift cards for Grub Hub, Uber Eats, and other meal delivery services are the cat’s meow according to Prince Johnson, who just finished his freshman year at Rocky Mountain College. Students get tired of eating food on campus but do not always have the time, money, or transportation needed to enjoy a meal from a restaurant. 

  • Coffee Shops - If you are looking to buy for a graduating high school student headed to college, you might look up what coffee shops are on or near the campus where they plan to attend college. 
  • Bookstore Bucks - You might get the college-bound graduate a gift card to their campus bookstore, sometimes called “bookstore bucks,” according to Shaydean Saye, Director of Housing at Rocky Mountain College. They can use these to purchase their textbooks which Saye says is “a sometimes forgotten high ticket item for a college student.” 
  • Big Box Stores - Gift cards to big box stores are helpful too, so that students can buy bulky items (e.g. refrigerators, microwaves, bedding, etc.) upon arrival to college rather than having to pack them. 
  • Generally speaking, 18-year-olds seem to take a liking to iTunes and Amazon gift cards, and a lot of times, you can get five $20 gift cards for $80 at Costco or Sam’s Club – a total win if you are buying for multiple graduates! 
  • Memberships - Speaking of Costco or Sam’s, Saye also suggests finding out if the high school grad’s college town has a Sam’s Club or a Costco; a membership to one of these stores makes a great gift because “students like to purchase snacks in bulk.” 

If gift cards or cash aren’t in line with what you’re wanting, consider purchasing some college gear/apparel for the graduate who is headed to college. Presumably, for any graduate who is headed to college and going to be living on campus, supplies for their dorm room also make good gifts. They might not be glamorous, but they are definitely necessities. 

  • This could include a comfy pillow, maybe even a decorative pillow (you know your grad’s personality better than me)
  • For the bathroom - Towels, Shower Caddy, Shaving Kit, Shower Shoes, 
  • Daily living - Storage containers, microwave-safe dishes, utensils, rugs, or lamps, etc. 
  • Be prepared – First Aid Kit. Cough drops and cold and flu meds for their first fend-for-themselves round of the crud. Thermometer, Tylenol/Aleve/ibuprofen.    
  • Note: In visiting with a number of my students, the one thing I heard repeatedly is that they need a good single bed sized memory foam mattress topper (either the student housing beds are terribly uncomfortable or my students all think they are royalty in need of top of the line bedding?). 
  • Home/Dorm entertainment – Movies. Most of their movie collection is probably their family’s movie collection. Games (Scattergories, Catch Phrase, Ping Pong paddles and balls, Cribbage Board and cards…)
  • Last but not least, I can tell you from a college writing professor’s standpoint, college kids need a STAPLER. Hands down, this gets my vote, and is the best gift they (and I) will ever receive!
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