The 20 best graduation gifts of 2021
Commemorate new beginnings with these gifts for college graduates
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Every year, a new class of college graduates say goodbye to school, classes, and homework, and say hello to adulthood with a diploma in hand. Figuring out what's next can be a daunting task for many graduates, as so much of the future is unknown. That has been especially true over the past year.
While COVID-19 vaccinations are underway, the class of 2021 is still graduating in the midst of a pandemic, meaning in-person celebrations with classmates and loved ones will likely be postponed. This does not mean the celebration of graduates should be postponed, too, though. They have still mastered the feat of graduating college—and they have still entered the real world. The show must go on.
To help them commemorate this time and adjust to life after college, consider sending a gift they will actually use (now or in the future). Here are the 20 best gift ideas for college graduates this year.
1. For the student formerly known as stressed: Gravity Blanket
After years of school, finally, new graduates can relax. Because of this, a gift that helps them do so would be a huge hit. Weighted blankets can help you relax, and our favorite—the Gravity Blanket—is loved by people for this very reason. When we tested weighted blankets, the Gravity Blanket outdid the competition. Their marketing copy claims the blanket is like wearing a hug, and as a proud owner, I can confirm this is true.
2. For the grad with an old laptop: A new laptop
A laptop goes through a lot during four years of college. With the amount of wear and tear put on a computer during college, it might be time for a new computer upon graduation. If you're looking to splurge on a graduation gift, help them out with a new laptop. Our experts suggest going with the Macbook Air or the HP Spectre 14t What you decide should be based on the recent graduate's PC or Mac preference. Be sure to find out before purchasing if you can.
- Buy the 2020 Apple Macbook Air from Amazon for $969
- Buy the HP Spectre x360 14t at HP starting at $1,169.99
3. For the sentimental one: Custom photo art from Minted
If they love their college memories, give them a gift that will help them cherish the good times as they head into the real world. These collages on Minted are perfect for grads moving into new apartments or even those still in their childhood bedrooms. Wall art is always appreciated, especially when it's customized with college memories. You can fill the collage with photos of the graduate over the years or add in a couple of pictures with friends.
- Get the Quintet Custom Photo Art from Minted starting at $38
- Get the Grad Collage I Custom Photo Art from Minted starting at $47
4. For the graduate on-the-go: Apple Watch
When you graduate from college and realize that life no longer revolves around the beginning and end of the school year, it can seem like time does not exist anymore. But if you don't watch the clock, the days, weeks, months, and years can fly by without even noticing. This is why a watch has always been a symbolic gift for new college graduates. It's a reminder to slow down and a tool to help you make the most of every minute. If you would like to get a watch for a recent graduate, consider giving a smartwatch over a regular watch. The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best one we've tested. Not only will it remind them about time, but it provides notifications, music, and texts at their fingertips, which will make life in the real world a lot easier.
5. For the one who really misses college: A scented candle to remind them of their college years
While you might not be able to find a candle specific to their college or college town, you can likely find a candle close to it. Whether the candle is scented with the sweet smell of the state or city they spent four years in, a Homesick candle would make a great gift for anyone leaving their college state or city to start a new life (again).
6. For the caffeine addict: A coffee maker
For many, coffee is an essential part of getting through the day. It can get pretty expensive going to Starbucks regularly, though. To help the graduate in your life avoid picking up the costly habit of daily coffee shop trips, introduce them to a great coffee maker. At $300, the retro-looking Moccamaster is our top coffee maker and would be a fabulous investment they could use for years to come. If you're looking to spend less, the Nespresso VertuoPlus by Breville is our best single-serve pod coffee maker and also a fantastic purchase for someone in their 20s.
- Get the Nespresso VertuoPlus from Amazon for $177.99
- Get the Moccamaster Coffee Maker at Wayfair for $299
7. For the one who lived by the dining hall: The best meal delivery service
Home Chef is our favorite meal delivery service at Reviewed, and it would make a fantastic gift for the college graduate that could use some help adjusting to life after the dining hall. With Home Chef, they'll have to cook, but with easy instructions and high-quality ingredients shipped to their door, it makes the learning process simple. There's also an option to have low or no prep meals shipped if the graduate you're shopping for would prefer that.
8. For the budding photographer: Camera
If you're looking for a splurge-worthy, useful gift for a graduate who has a talent for curating their Instagram feed, a camera is an excellent idea. The Panasonic Lumix LX100 is a great option for beginners. The camera would give the grad in your life a new hobby to take on in their newfound free time, and who knows—maybe it will end up providing them with secondary income or a full-fledged career in the future.
9. For the Apple enthusiast: AirPods Pro
Apple’s cult-favorite AirPods Pro are the best true wireless earbuds for iPhones our experts tested this year. If you’re shopping for a lover of all things Apple, they will adore a pair of these. For traveling, commuting, working out, and even listening to podcasts while loading and unloading the dishwasher, AirPods are a gift that can be used during every busy and mundane moment of adulthood.
10. For the one who should read more: Books
While we recommend Kindle Unlimited for those who love reading, we still think physical books are excellent gifts—especially for college grads. After all, adjusting to life after college is hard, and there are plenty of books out there to help them acclimate to the real world. If you suspect the graduate you're shopping for may feel lost, confused, and unprepared, get them a book that will make them laugh, learn, and feel less alone as they try to figure the world out. Here are some great options:
- Get The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter And How To Make The Most Of Them Now from Amazon for $11.89
- Get _Becoming _by Michelle Obama from Amazon for $11.89
- Get What Next?: Your Five-Year Plan for Life after College by Elana Lyn Gross from Amazon for $13.59
11. For the one who reads all the time: Kindle Unlimited Subscription
Just because there's no more required reading after school ends, doesn't mean one should stop getting lost in a good book. In fact, some may argue that adults should read more than they did while in school. Reading helps with mental stimulation and is a smart way to spend free time when you want a break from binge-watching television or scrolling through social media. The only issue is that books can get expensive, unless, of course, you have unlimited access to e-books. Kindle Unlimited gives you just that, and therefore, is a perfect graduation gift for bookworms. You don't even need an e-reader to access the books. Everything is available to read right on your smartphone.
12. For the one who loves to cook: Cast Iron Skillet
A cast iron skillet is a kitchen staple for adults. If you're shopping for a former student who cooked their way through class, give them a cookware upgrade for their new adult life: a cast iron skillet. The best one we've tested at Reviewed is the Lodge Chef Collection Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet. It's affordable, lightweight, and will last them years to come.
13. For the one with a sweet tooth: A gift box of cupcakes from Baked by Melissa
We love Baked by Melissa cupcakes at Reviewed, and chances are, the graduate you're shopping for will too. If you're not sure what they'll like, cupcakes are something you really can't go wrong with. This "Congratulations" themed box holds 25 adorable mini cupcakes that are ready to be devoured.
14. For the life of the party: An upgrade from the red solo cup
Once you graduate from college, you have to say goodbye to the red solo cup. Okay, I’m kidding. If you have a big family, it makes sense to buy the 250-pack of red solo cups in bulk to avoid doing the dishes six times a day. When it comes to drinking alcohol, though, drinking wine or vodka soda out of a plastic cup can feel a bit immature after college. To help the graduate in your life adjust to adult life, get them a copper version of the infamous red solo cup. Known as "The Party Cup," you can use it to continue the party into the real world with a touch of class. The cup has 4.5 stars on Amazon from over 600 ratings.
15. For the organized professional: A quality wallet
Adults have many cards. Credit cards, healthcare cards, loyalty cards, gift cards. As you get older, the cards keep coming, so naturally, you need a place to put all of them. Not to mention all of the newfound money one may acquire out there in real world. That needs a home too. To house all of these tiny adult mementos, get the graduate in your life a nice wallet. Sure, it's a simple gift, but it's something that will actually get used, no matter how much technology and the world changes (unless, of course, robots take over and paper money and cards no longer exist, but I feel like we are still far from this happening). This leather Fossil wallet has a 5-star rating from nearly 100 reviews and would be great for the guy who needs a place to put his stuff.
16. For the one who will eventually be commuting: A nice handbag
If you're shopping for someone who is always carrying around a bag, consider getting a handbag as a gift. Not everyone loves handbags (Nora Ephron once wrote an essay titled "I Hate My Purse"), but if they have items they'll need to carry around out there in the world, chances are they will appreciate this luxurious adulthood staple. The Madewell tote bag is a great everyday bag, weekend bag, and work bag for when they start going into the office.
17. For the trendy grad: Jewelry
When it comes to gifts for women, jewelry can be a cliché option. But when it marks a momentous event such as college graduation, it’s totally worth it. If you don’t want to splurge on fancy pearls or a diamond necklace, this popular Kate Spade initial necklace is a great pick. The initial gives it a personal touch and it goes with anything. Not to mention, initial necklaces are quite trendy right now. Just remember to pick the right initial character before you add to cart!
18. For the one moving somewhere new: Amazon Echo Show
Recent grads are likely to become someone else’s assistant, so give them the gift of their own (digital) assistant slash smart display. Not only can they ask Alexa, the voice inside the device, anything and get verbal answers, but they can also view all the information they're looking for on the screen. Great for video calls, cooking along to recipes, and more, an Amazon Echo Show would make a great gift. If you're looking to splurge, our top pick is the Amazon Echo Show 10. However, the Echo Show 5 is an excellent—and much more affordable—smart display that is perfect for those in smaller spaces, A.K.A. most recent graduates.
- Get the Amazon Echo Show 5 from Amazon for $49.99
- Get the Amazon Echo Show 10 from Amazon for $249.99
19. For the grad who loves being pampered: Foot Spa
If the graduate you're shopping for could use a spa day, consider giving them the Ivation Foot Spa so they can have a spa day whenever they want. It's the best foot spa we tested, and with over 2,500 rave reviews on Amazon, we aren't the only people who are obsessed with it. The device offers a spa-like experience at home with adjustable heating and massage features, and it was one of our top-selling gifts this past holiday season.
20. For any type of graduate: Sugarfina 'Congrats' Candy Box
Simple but sweet (literally), this adorable little box of candy is a perfect little something to send to someone who has just graduated from college. With a combo of gummies and chocolate, you get the best of both worlds. I am a huge fan of Sugarfina candy boxes and have gotten them as gifts for friends and family on multiple occasions.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.